Million of Jobs Lost Due to Free Trade with China

Millions of Jobs Are Still Missing. Don’t Blame Immigration or Food Stamps

by Andrew Van Dam in The Washington Post February 22,2018

Millions of Jobs Are Still Missing, Don’t Blame Immigration or Food Stamps

Prisoners wait for breakfast at California Men’s Colony prison in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in 2013. Rising incarceration rates are one of a handful of factors that help to account for the United States’ missing jobs. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Where did all the jobs go? Well, we’re finally starting to find some satisfactory answers to the granddaddy of all economic questions.

The share of Americans with jobs dropped 4.5 percentage points from 1999 to 2016 — amounting to about 11.4 million fewer workers in 2016.

At least half of that decline probably was due to an aging population. Explaining the remainder has been the inspiration for much of the economic research published after the Great Recession.

Economists and politicians have pointed at immigration, China, video games, robots, opioids, universities, working spouses — everything up to and including the academic equivalent of shrugging their shoulders and muttering, “Kids these days.”

Until recently, there was no good system to untangle it all.

University of Maryland economists Katharine Abraham and Melissa Kearney built one. After reviewing the most robust research available and doing some rough-but-rigorous math to estimate how much job loss each phenomenon can explain, the duo discovered something surprising: pretty much all the missing jobs are accounted for.

Just as important, they pinpointed the culprits. In a draft paper released by the National Bureau for Economic Research this week, Abraham and Kearney find that trade with China and the rise of robots are to blame for millions of the missing jobs.

Other popular scapegoats, such as immigration, food stamps and Obamacare, did not even move the needle.

During this time, there were other changes in the labor force (particularly an increase in educated workers) that pushed the employment rate upward. As a result, their research needed to account for more than just the 4.5-percentage-point drop and offset those gains.

Factors that mattered

Competition from Chinese imports

The era of vanishing jobs happened alongside one of the most unusual, disruptive eras in modern economic history — China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 and its subsequent rise to the top of the global export market.

There’s a deep body of research into the manufacturing jobs that were lost to competition from cheap Chinese imports, as well as those that vanished from related industries. On the basis of that research, Abraham and Kearney estimate that this competition cost the economy about 2.65 million jobs over the period.


Automation also seems to have cost more jobs than it created. Guided by research showing that each robot takes the jobs of about 5.6 workers and that 250,475 robots had been added since 1999, the duo estimated that robots cost the economy another 1.4 million workers.

Minimum wage increases

Abraham and Kearney used previous research into how teens and adults respond to rising wages to produce a high-end estimate of the impact of minimum wages over this period. Other recent research has found either a small effect or no effect. In the end, they combined those figures to find that about 0.49 million workers were lost.

That number does not account for the benefits that the broader labor force derived from higher wages, Kearney said.

Social Security Disability Insurance

The number of people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance nearly doubled from 1999 to 2016, from 4.9 million to 8.8 million. The population has aged, but that is still 1.64 million more people than there should have been, had rates remained steady for each age group, the researchers found.

Abraham and Kearney estimated that the labor force shrank by about 0.36 million as an increasing number of workers drew disability benefits.

Veterans benefits

The economists estimated that roughly 0.15 million people were not working because of the expansion of a disability insurance program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Between 2000 and 2013, the share of veterans receiving such benefits rose from 9 percent to 18 percent.

Mass incarceration

There were about 6.5 million former prisoners in the United States between the ages of 18 and 64 in 2014, according to the best available data. Assume that 60 percent of them served time as a result of policies implemented since the 1990s, account for their ages, time served, and pre-prison earnings, and you get a conservative estimate of 0.32 million lost jobs.

What did not reduce employment


Most research indicates that immigration does not reduce native employment rates. And even if it did, it is unlikely that it would reduce overall (native and foreign-born) employment. Immigrants’ employment rates are higher than those of native-born residents.

Food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

SNAP benefits average about $4.11 per person per day. Able-bodied adults are generally cut off from benefits unless they are working. Furthermore, the program itself did not change enough over the period in question to alter people’s behavior. It grew, but that was because of fallout from the Great Recession, not because of permanent policy changes that made nutrition assistance more accessible.

The Affordable Care Act

Obamacare went into effect in 2014 and has not had a noticeable impact on jobs to date. It is safe to assume it was not a decisive factor in the 1999-2016 period.

Working spouses who allow men to stay home

While this is a popular theory, the share of men who are not in the labor force but had a working spouse actually fell slightly between 1999 and 2015, according to a 2016 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

The unknowns

Along with an aging population, the first six factors (competition from China and automation in particular) account for the majority of the jobs lost during the recession. But the U.S. labor market is colossal and complicated, and other explanations are out there, pushing and pulling the estimates in either direction.

It might be harder to change jobs now

Americans are not moving as often as they once did. It seems reasonable to assume, on the basis of recent research, that employment rates would be higher if people were more willing or able to relocate for work. But there is not yet enough evidence to state this conclusively.

Likewise, it is possible that the skills possessed by the available workers are becoming increasingly unrelated to the skills required by the available jobs. But this “skills mismatch” has not yet been proved over the long term.

Finally, there has been speculation that the rapid rise — from 5 percent in the late 1950s to about 30 percent today — in the share of workers in jobs that require a local or state government license has limited folks’ ability to switch careers and respond to labor-market requirements. We do not yet know enough to put a number on it.

Video games, opioids and changing youth culture

U.S. youth employment rates fell rapidly over the period. Economists have grabbed headlines recently by blaming the precipitous drop in young males in the workforce on a variety of factors including video game playing and prescription painkiller abuse.

But there is not yet enough evidence to prove that either phenomenon is a cause of low youth employment or a result of it. According to Kearney,  both issues could, at their root, be the result of shifting views of what is acceptable for a young man to be doing with his life.

“For whatever reason, these men seem more willing to stay home, live with their parents, live off their girlfriends,” Kearney said.

The paper’s most striking finding is not, however, speculation on idle American youths. It is that many of the topics that dominate political discourse about the labor market — such as immigration, food stamps and Obamacare — are unlikely to bring back lost jobs.

Instead, policymakers should be focusing on the forces that took those jobs in the first place: import competition, automation, incarceration and disability insurance.

“There’s not much we can do about the fact that our population is aging,” Kearney said. “But it’s pretty imperative that we figure out why younger individuals aren’t working at the rates they used to and do something to change that.”

The headline of this story has been updated.

Correction: A drop in the employment-to-population ratio of 4.5 percentage points would have been equivalent to about 11.4 million workers in 2016. An earlier version of this post put that number at 6.8 million.


Editorial Comments

It is good to get actual research numbers instead of just theories about the U.S. economy as seen in Abraham and Kearney’s article: Explaining the Decline in the U.S. Employment-to-Population Ratio: A Review of the Evidence.

This viewpoint is so much different than the Free Trade mania that is pushed by “Big Media”


Meet the Haverhill Duo Looking to Disrupt American Workwear Apparel Industry

1620 Workwear

Meet the Haverhill Duo Looking to Disrupt the American Workwear Apparel Industry

If superheroes get on about their business due to the proper-suiting by their very own Lucius Fox or Tony Stark, than the tradespeople, blue collar workers, and fans of workwear-as-fashion should get a little two-man outfit north of Boston on their radar.

Because tucked in a fourth floor corner office space, with views peering out over the neighboring faded brick industrial mill buildings and manufacturing plants dotting the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Mass., Josh Walker and Ted De Innocentis are single handedly attempting to disrupt the American workwear industry one tech and design-driven pant leg at a time at 1620 Workwear.

“In every single wearable category in the world, premium exists,” says Walker. “Technical exists. And for first time ever in U.S. culture, tradesman and blue collar workers making money are being celebrated, but for a long time workwear has been this crazy undervalued, looked-down upon shitty product category for wearables.”

1620 Founders Ted De Innocentis (l), Josh Walker (r)

The team originally launched the brand out of Walker’s family barn in Newbury in 2016, and since then have zeroed in on trends in American outsourcing both noticed after years of working separately in mainland China, managing garment and wardrobe manufacturing.

One glaring trend in existence since the railroads were built in America, is that tradespeople have been forced endure the same breed of simple, cheap work gear (essentially canvas pants and fabrics that anyone who has ever worn a pair while being active can understand their need to be faded out). When those fail (and they do with regular use) the solution later became “workarounds”, basically a hodgepodge of blue collar uniforms mixing cheap or go-to fabrics with more durable tactical gear found for hunting and outdoor gear and so on.

To solve this, 1620 partnered with Tweave, a Bay State cutting edge stretch-woven fabric manufacturer whose clients are the likes of Hollywood, the NFL, and even the U.S. Military. Their advanced proprietary technologies for spinning more durable, elastic and abrasion resistant yarn, and tech-driven spandex material was the perfect fit for the team’s vision. The gear they are crafting here at home is lighter, more natural feeling, breathable, and can take a beating when things like fatigue play (people getting tired on the job and hurting themselves) and durability are a matter of life and death.

“If you’re embedded in Afghanistan, your shit can’t fail,” says Walker. He says the fact that they are working with the most advanced material, workmanship and design elements used in military and professional sports gear, and the knowledge how to assemble all that, creates this premium product. That, and a regional proximity bonus.

“For us it just so happens that one of the best two or three fabric mills in the entire world is based in Norton,” says Walker. “We’re passionate about making stuff right here. It’s not a nationalist, flag-waving thing. It’s just a local community, local support, supporting your hyperlocal community. American manufacturing should exist here, and other countries are killing it.”

“Every single year more and more of the traditional all-American work brands [move manufacturing] offshore and none of the stuff is made here. Our customer is looking for premium, best in class, U.S.-made products,” says De Innocentis. “We’re making this for people who want this stuff.”

For now 1620 is producing all menswear, but as the company grows so will its offerings, and women are more of their key demographic than ever before, as it’s one of the fastest growing segments in the trades.

The company has also teamed up with local and national brand ambassadors to ensure that the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Think: Daniel Lanigan, owner of Lord Hobo Brewing in Woburn and Cambridge, and even an Amesbury, Mass.-based professional BMW racing team, for which 1620 created custom special pit crew suits using core-spun spandex wrapped like fishing line for high tenacity and ten times as resistant to abrasions and cuts as your average pair of Carhartts or Dickies.

“We use military spec materials, so this is basically it’s our version of tactical Special Forces pants,” says Walker with a laugh. “The fabrics we get out of our Massachusetts factories, is comparable to the best of anything I’ve seen made anywhere. It’s small batch, high end American manufacturing. And it’s badass.”

Editor’s Comment

Forget Dickies. Get your best well-made, Made in America workwear at 1620.

Thanks to Alliance of American Manufacturing for pointing out this article.



State of the US Textile and Apparel Industry

U.S. Apparel Trade

If you really want to know the nuts and bolts about the apparel industry, this is your kind of article.

State of the U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: Output and Trade (Updated March 2017)

us textile industry 1

The size of the U.S. textile and apparel industry has significantly shrunk over the past decades. However, U.S. textile manufacturing is gradually coming back. Value added of U.S. textile manufacturing reached $17.98 billion in 2015, which was the highest level since 2009.

us T&A industry 2

Nevertheless, the share of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped to only 0.16% in 2015 from 0.57% in 1998.

us T&A industry 4

us T&A industry 3

The U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing is also changing in nature. For example, textiles had accounted for nearly 70% of the total output of the U.S. textile and apparel industry as of 2015, up from 58% in 1998. Meanwhile, clothing had only accounted for 12% of the total U.S. fiber production by 2012, suggesting non-apparel textile products, such as industrial textiles and home textiles have become more important part of the industry.

us textile industry 5

us textile industry 6

us textile industry 7

Manufacturing jobs are NOT coming back to the U.S. textile and apparel industry. From January 2015 to December 2016, U.S. textile manufacturing (NAICS 313 and 314) and apparel manufacturing (NAICS 315) lost 8,300 and 9,200 jobs respectively. However, improved productivity is one important factor behind the job losses.

us textile industry 8

us textile industry 9

U.S. remains a net textile exporter and a net apparel importer. However, the U.S. trade surplus in textiles significantly dropped to only $68 million in 2016 from $347 million a year earlier. More U.S.-made textiles are now exported than a decade ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit in apparel reached $81,754 million in 2016, which was slightly smaller than $86,311 million a year earlier.

Sheng Lu

Additional readings:  The Pattern of U.S. Textile and Apparel Imports

Discussion questions:

#1 Is the state of the U.S. textile and apparel industry consistent with the stage of development theory? Please specify your answer.

#2 Based on the statistics, do you think textile and apparel “Made in the USA” have a future? Please explain.

#3 Based on the statistics, what is the impact of trade on the development of the U.S. textile and apparel industry: positive, negative, mixed or you need more information (please specify) to evaluate?

#4 Overall, do you think the U.S. textile and apparel industry is in good shape? Why or why not?

Editorial Comment

This article is part of a course about the Global Apparel Industry given by Instructor: Dr. Sheng Lu, Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies, University of Delaware

About FASH455

cover picture




Study of economic, social and political dimensions of the textile & apparel sector in a global economy; implications for production, distribution and consumption of textile & apparel products in major world markets.


•FASH455 reading packet


Textiles and Apparel in the Global Economy(3rd ed) by Kitty Dickerson, Prentice-Hall (1999);

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy (2nd ed–released in December 2014) by P. Rivoli, Wiley;

Global Sourcing in the Textile and Apparel Industry (2nd ed) by Dr. Ha-Brookshire

Sewing Success? Employment, Wages, and Poverty following the End of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (2012) by Gladys Lopez-Acevedo and Raymond Robertson;    

Going Global: The Textile and Apparel Industry (3rd ed) by Grace Kunz and Elena Karpova


Upon completion of the course, the student will be able:

  1.  To comprehend the worldwide importance of the textile and apparel industry (including production, distribution, consumption, and trade) from economic, political and social dimensions;
  2.  To understand the composition, restructuring, major development trends and competitive status of the U.S. textile and apparel sectors and to consider the domestic complex within the context of a global economy;
  3. To understand the textile complex in major regions of the world, including their stages of development, functions in the global apparel value chain and key market conditions;
  4. To analyze the unique trade policies for textiles and apparel and understand how they affect various segments of the industry (including manufacturers, retailers and consumers) at multiple levels (including multilateral, regional and bilateral);
  5. To increase awareness of major cutting edge issues facing the world today and comprehend their potentials impacts on the future landscape of the textile and apparel sector;


The textile and apparel industry is a thick textbook study far beyond fiber, yarn, fabric and clothing.  It is THE industry that triggered the first Industrial Revolution, among those sectors that embraced globalization early and still plays a critical role in the global economy with cross-cutting economic, social and political influences in the 21st century.   Some key facts about this sector today:

  • Textiles and apparel remains one of the world’s largest and economically most influential industries in the 21st century. Globally, the market value of textiles, apparel and apparel retailing totaled $2,000 billion annually. In the United States, sales of apparel and accessories contributed $255 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015.
  • The textile and apparel industry plays a unique critical role in creating jobs, promoting economic development, enhancing human development and reducing poverty. Globally, over 120 Million people remain directly employed in the textile and apparel industries today, a good proportion of whom are females living in poor rural areas. Particularly, for most developing countries, the textile and apparel sector accounts for 60%–90% of their total merchandise exports and provides one of the very few opportunities for these countries to participate in globalization.
  • The textile and apparel industry remains strong presence in the United States in the 21st century, although the industry has been critically different from the past because of globalization and advancement of technologies. Across the supply chain, the U.S. textile and apparel industry directly employs more than 4 million people, who undertake positions ranging from textile mill workers, warehousing, sourcing managers, wholesalers, retail floor associates, merchandisers, buyers, technical designers, and marketing professionals, just to name a few. According to the World Trade Organization, the United States is still the fourth largest textile exporter in the world.  The U.S. textile and apparel exports in 2015 totaled nearly $23.7 billion dollars which destined more than 50 countries around the world. U.S. branded apparel also can be found in almost every corner of the world marketplace.
  • The textile and apparel industry might be the only sector other than agriculture that is so heavily regulated by trade policies. Because of its global presence and the complicated social, economic and political factors associated with the sector, textile and apparel industry actively involves in almost all critical bilateral, regional and multilateral trade policy debates nowadays. This is the case no matter for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enforcing stricter labor & environmental standards, launching initiatives to open new overseas markets, renewing the, African Growth and Opportunity Act(AGOA), trade adjustment assistance (TAA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) or restricting imports in the protection of domestic textile manufacturing sector.

The Death of Clothing

The Death of Clothing

The Death of Clothing

in Bloomberg Magazine February 5, 2018

By Lindsey Rupp, Chloe Whiteaker, Matt Townsend and Kim Bhasin

The apparel industry has a big problem. At a time when the economy is growing, unemployment is low, wages are rebounding and consumers are eager to buy, Americans are spending less and less on clothing.

The woes of retailers are often blamed on Amazon.com Inc. and its vise grip on e-commerce shoppers. Consumers glued to their phones would rather browse online instead of venturing out to their local malls, and that’s crushed sales and hastened the bankruptcies of brick-and-mortar stalwarts from American Apparel to Wet Seal.

But that’s not the whole story. The apparel industry seems to have no solution to the dwindling dollars Americans devote to their closets. Many upstarts promising to revolutionize the industry drift away with barely a whimper. Who needs fashion these days when you can express yourself through social media? Why buy that pricey new dress when you could fund a weekend getaway instead?

Apparel has simply lost its appeal. And there doesn’t seem to be a savior in sight. As a result, more and more apparel companies—from big-name department stores to trendy online startups—are folding.

The ingredients for this demise have been brewing for decades. In 1977, clothing accounted for 6.2 percent of U.S. household spending, according to government statistics. Four decades later, it’s plummeted to half that.

Share of personal consumer expenditures

Apparel is being displaced by travel, eating out and activities—what’s routinely lumped together as “experiences”—which have grown to 18 percent of purchases. Technology alone, including data charges and media content, accounts for 3.4 percent of spending. That now tops all clothing and footwear expenditures.

Several reasons are behind this shift. Some are beyond the control of apparel companies, as societal changes drove different shopping behavior. But missteps by these companies along the way have hastened the death of clothing.

No one needs to buy a separate work wardrobe anymore.

It used to be that office workers needed suits and ties or pleated pants, long skirts and heels to get through the week. By the early 1990s, that seemed to change. The genesis is debatable, but many chalk it up to tech firms in Silicon Valley pushing a business-casual look dominated by khakis. That trickled into other industries, as casual Fridays became common. Now, office apparel is just as casual on Monday as on Friday for many workers.

Over the past five years, there has been a 10 percentage point spike in employers that permit casual dress any day of the week. The upshot of this is that Americans increasingly need just one wardrobe, because there is so little differentiation between what people wear to work and on the weekends.

Share of U.S. employers that allow casual dress every day

Allow 45%
Don’t Allow 55%

in 2017

Source: Society for Human Resource Management

Neckties are disappearing, even in industries such as finance. Sneakers can be worn to any occasion, including weddings and religious services. And about half of Americans say they can wear jeans to their professional offices, according to a survey by NPD Group.

It’s easy to see why this is bad news for apparel companies. When you cut out an entire category of attire, there’s less need to buy new clothes when fashions change. When there’s a hot new color or pattern, maybe a twentysomething buys one new blouse to stay on trend and wears it to work and out at night. Before, she might have purchased two pieces, one for each setting.

Fast-fashion companies and off-price retailers are putting pressure on prices.

There’s been general deflation in the clothing industry. Apparel has become cheaper to make in recent years, especially as more production shifts to less expensive labor markets.

Take a pair of men’s Levi’s 501 original-fit jeans. The price of this wardrobe staple used to steadily climb, but no longer. They cost $58 in 2009, then rose to $64 three years later, only to fall back down to $59.50 last year.

This downward price pressure coincides with the emergence of low-cost, fast-fashion retailers in the U.S. Walmart and Target have long conditioned Americans that they can get items they want without spending a lot. Now, retailers such as H&M can mimic runway fashions for $35, or men’s jeans for $25, and can typically beat other retailers to market with trendy designs.

For years, this seemed like a recipe for success. The chain expanded rapidly in the U.S. and generated $3.2 billion last year. Its growth coincided with the rapid expansion of fast-fashion competitors Forever 21 and Zara, too.

Number of H&M stores in the U.S.

H& M stores have grown exponentially from a few stores in 2000 to 525 stores in 2017.

But cracks and chasms are emerging in fast-fashion’s success story. While the number of U.S. H&M locations is still growing, the pace of new store openings is at a two-decade low. The retailer has struggled to clear out products that shoppers didn’t want, in part because customers are skipping messy stores in favor of a streamlined online experience.

Retailers and traditional fashion trendsetters are losing influence to social media celebrities.

The fashion industry used to have a lot of sway over how people dressed. Retailers, magazines and high-end designers were fashion kingmakers. From their lofty perches, they dictated a season’s trends, and shoppers largely abided. A decade ago, teens wore Abercrombie & Fitch from head to toe.

But in today’s consumer-driven economy, social media influencers often call the shots. These online personalities build followings with posts of their outfits, makeup routines and lifestyles. And they’re less loyal to upscale brands.

An Instagram celebrity might combine Tory Burch, T.J. Maxx finds, consignment wares and basics from Target. Consumers have discovered they can invest in certain pieces and buy runway knockoffs to put together a unique, selfie-worthy look. With smartphones, these same shoppers easily compare prices, even using apps to snap a picture and find a cheaper alternative.

A navy tee for every budget

Sources: Company websites, Farfetch, listed price on Jan. 30, 2018

Retailers are devoting more of their marketing spending to digital ads, developing a social media image, paying for promoted posts and conscripting influencers to endorse their products. The hope is that these ads seem more authentic and intimate than a television ad featuring a celebrity.

But because there are now millions of tastemakers online—with a hodgepodge of aesthetics—it’s harder for new trends to really break through. That’s made many apparel brands gun-shy and less prone to taking design risks. Designers used to spend months working on a collection of boundary-pushing styles in an attempt to make a statement for the brand. The variety came with the risk of sinking a lot of time and money into a design that flops. To cut costs and speed up products that are known to sell, many brands now buy fabrics in bulk that can be made into multiple designs and patterns, resulting in fewer, “safer” options for consumers. With fewer fashion changes, there are fewer reasons to replenish wardrobes.

Micro-trends tend to flare up and flame out quickly, leaving larger trends in place for a longer time. Take skinny jeans, which roared onto the fashion scene in 2006 and haven’t left. They’re more distressed than ever, but the silhouette remains the same.

Companies claiming to be the future of retailing have struggled.

When you consider all these varied pressures on the clothing industry, it’s not surprising that apparel store closures peaked last year. This doesn’t simply reflect a shift to online shopping. E-commerce startups were founded to take advantage of the disruption in retail. But even they have stumbled, a sign of the deeper problems plaguing apparel.

Announced apparel store closings


* Data through the third quarter of 2017
Source: International Council of Shopping Centers

Online darling NastyGal went bankrupt in 2017. Others have sold out to established retailers, rather than making it on their own. That includes Bonobos, the once-hot menswear brand that was bought by Walmart last year.

Stitch Fix Inc., an e-commerce clothing seller that was founded in 2011, has been an exception. The retailer pairs algorithms and data to select customized outfits for its subscribers, giving shoppers a feeling of personalization and an easy, at-home experience. The company had its debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market in November, and the shares have gained 34 percent. Experts have said more retailers should learn from Stitchfix’s ability to leverage technology for customization, though they face the added challenges of a store base that e-commerce companies largely avoid.

Even if retailers can thread that needle, the underlying problem of weak demand is expected to dog the apparel industry for years, meaning more store closures and more bankruptcies lie ahead—with or without Amazon.

“It’s a time of transformation, and it ain’t pretty. It never is,” said Jan Kniffen, founder of the consulting firm J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises in New York.



Time: The Voters Trump Forgot

Time: The Voters Trump Forgot

Time: The Voters Trump Forgot by Molly Ball February 26,2018

Vonie Long, president of the United Steelworkers’ local union in Coatesville, Pa.
Vonie Long, president of the United Steelworkers’ local union in Coatesville, Pa.
Jeffrey Stockbridge for TIME

By Molly Ball / Coatesville, Pa.

February 15, 2018

Donald Trump was saying everything Vonie Long wanted to hear, not that Long believed him.

The head of the United Steelworkers’ local union in Coatesville, Pa., Long was sitting in his electrical-maintenance truck in June 2016, listening on the radio to Trump give a speech on trade at an aluminum plant on the other side of the state, outside Pittsburgh. Trump had begun with a tribute to the steelworkers who built America. He blasted the politicians who pursued globalization and pledged to fight unfair trade practices that threatened U.S. jobs. Most of all, he made promises, from renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to imposing a tariff on steel.

Long, a stout man with a bristly gray mustache, was impressed. Republicans didn’t usually talk like this. “Any of us steelworkers could have given that exact speech,” he told me recently. And while Long, a Democrat, voted against Trump, after the election he hoped that Trump might actually follow through.

But it hasn’t panned out that way. A year into Trump’s term, the factories have not roared back. His accomplishments–a massive corporate tax cut, a strong stock market–have largely redounded to the benefit of the bankers and fat cats. Trump has taken few of his promised actions on trade and manufacturing. The American steel industry has suffered as the market floods with imports, forcing prices down, all while the Administration dithers and delays over tariffs.

As Long sees it, no one should feel more betrayed by the Trump presidency than the archetypical Trump supporter: the white working-class voter whom Trump dubbed the Forgotten Man. And yet, to his great frustration, many of his fellow blue collar workers don’t seem to grasp how Trump has abandoned them. As of last month, the President’s approval rating was 46 percent among white non-college-educated voters, down 7 points since he took office, according to the polling firm Morning Consult. “The most vocal supporters of him, they’re just unwavering,” Long says, shaking his head.

Coatesville was once known as “Pittsburgh East” for its steel production. Today the local steelworkers’ union has just a few hundred workers at the town’s plant
Coatesville was once known as “Pittsburgh East” for its steel production. Today the local steelworkers’ union has just a few hundred workers at the town’s plant
Jeffrey Stockbridge for TIME

The immovable loyalty of Trump’s narrow but vocal base has broad ramifications, not just for the Democratic Party but also for the nation. Unbridgeable divides make governing nearly impossible: there can be no consensus in a politics of blind tribalism. But the real tragedy of Trump’s broken promise to the working man is the missed opportunity it represents. Trump had a chance, advocates argue, to bring back American manufacturing–and spur a populist political realignment in the process. Many of the residents of Trump Country, the nation’s hollowed-out former industrial heartland, still hold out hope that he can do it. But the President seems to have forgotten them.

The blue collar man is the mascot and enigma of the Trump era: endlessly analyzed, endlessly interrogated. Reporters and researchers have returned again and again to Trump Country since 2016, asking the same question–What do you think of the President now?–and getting the same answers: It’s a witch hunt. He’s shaking things up.

Scott Paul, head of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, has given up asking; the answers are always unsatisfying. “There’s a lot of forgiveness,” Paul, a slight, fine-featured 51-year-old, tells me as he drives his battered Ford SUV down the two-lane highway out of Coatesville. “There’s kind of a list of reasons why he hasn’t done this or hasn’t done that.” But Paul keeps coming back to places like Coatesville anyway. He’s not on a mission to win votes for the Democrats. His aim is to try to get the President to keep his commitments.

A picturesque town of 13,000, Coatesville was once known as “Pittsburgh East” for its booming steel industry that employed as many as 8,000 people. The massive plant that looms over the town is the U.S.’s longest continuously operating steel mill, open since 1810. It produced the 152 nine-story fork-shaped supports that formed the base of the original World Trade Center–many of which stayed standing when the towers fell on Sept. 11. It makes nuclear-submarine parts and mine-resistant armor for military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today the plant is badly diminished. In 2003, it was acquired by an investment group led by Wilbur Ross, now Trump’s Secretary of Commerce; it was eventually bought by the Luxembourg-based industry giant ArcelorMittal, and operates at a fraction of its capacity. The steelworkers’ local that Long oversees now has just 580 members at the plant.

Like Long, Paul hails from Trump Country, having grown up in rural northwestern Indiana. A former trade lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, his association is funded by American steel unions and manufacturers. And while he didn’t vote for Trump, he understood why so many working-class white people did.

“When you see Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin all end up in the same place,” Paul tells me, “there’s a reason for it.” Trump’s opposition to globalization broke with the GOP’s elite consensus. But it tapped a wellspring of sentiment in the party’s base that politicians like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan recognized decades ago. There’s a similar fissure in the Democratic Party, where populists like Bernie Sanders opposed the Obama Administration’s push for deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s not a coincidence, Paul believes, that both Sanders and Trump drew so much support from the industrial Midwest.

To be sure, some white working-class voters were nativists who thrilled to Trump’s rants against China, Mexicans and Muslims. Paul doesn’t deny that racism and sexism played a role but says that “some of it is a sense that their manufacturing communities have been left behind.” President Obama promised to add a million manufacturing jobs in his second term; the total came to only about 360,000.

Business is booming and workers are in demand at the John Rock Inc. pallet company in Coatesville. Owner Bill MacCauley says Trump’s recently enacted tax cuts spurred him to invest in new equipment
Business is booming and workers are in demand at the John Rock Inc. pallet company in Coatesville. Owner Bill MacCauley says Trump’s recently enacted tax cuts spurred him to invest in new equipment
Jeffrey Stockbridge for TIME

Paul was willing–even eager–to work with Trump. He saw it as an encouraging sign when the just-elected President asked him to serve on a newly created advisory council on manufacturing jobs. “A year ago, I thought there was a reasonable possibility we’d get an infrastructure bill, we’ll get ‘Buy American’ laws, there’ll be a crackdown on China, he’s going to look out for the steel industry, and he’s going to renegotiate NAFTA,” Paul says. “That’s something I wanted to be a part of.”

Instead, Paul found himself cringing as Trump did things he didn’t support, from pulling out of the Paris Agreement to the ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries. In August, when Trump hesitated to denounce the deadly white-nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., Paul hit his breaking point. He was one of eight members to resign from the manufacturing initiative, which the White House then disbanded.

Since then, Paul has watched from the sidelines as Trump’s promises have been indefinitely delayed. The lack of progress on a controversial Chinese steel tariff is a case in point. An obscure provision, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, allows the U.S. to restrict imports if national security is at stake. In an April ceremony at the White House attended by steelworkers’ representatives and CEOs, Trump announced an investigation into steel imports under Section 232. But the Administration’s original June deadline has come and gone, and still no decision has been announced.

The “Buy American” order Trump signed in January didn’t actually, as he claimed, require that the Keystone XL oil pipeline be built from American steel. The trade deficit with China recently hit $375 billion, the highest level in history. Although Trump pulled out of TPP and has undertaken talks to renegotiate NAFTA, all the trade agreements the U.S. was a party to when he took office remain unchanged. It wasn’t until Feb. 12 that the White House finally unveiled its infrastructure plan, to indifference on Capitol Hill. Rather than support building new highways and bridges and airports and railways, as Trump once promised, the proposal provides seed money to encourage private companies to build things like toll roads.

The lack of action is partly the result of a battle under way within Trump’s own Administration. Trade hawks like Peter Navarro and Robert Lighthizer stoke Trump’s protectionist impulses, only to be resisted by more mainstream economic advisers, from Gary Cohn to Republicans in Congress. Meanwhile, the Chinese have wooed the President aggressively, with apparent success: so far, the only win for the protectionists has been a minor action imposing trade restrictions on solar panels and washing machines. (Recently, the President has appeared to refocus on these priorities, touting infrastructure and meeting with senators on tariffs. “Everything that President Trump has done since taking office has been directed toward making the country better for all Americans,” a White House official told me, “including the men and women who had felt forgotten by decades of bad deals and regulations that sent their factories and jobs overseas.”)

Economists differ on the potential effect of trade restrictions. But in the near term, the effect of Trump’s indecision on towns like Coatesville has been immediate. When Trump announced the Section 232 investigation, other countries began pumping out steel to ship to the U.S. before a tariff took hold. The glut of supply sent steel prices tumbling. A pipe mill outside Harrisburg has had layoffs, as has a steel mill in Conshohocken. Another in Kentucky announced it will shut down.

Paul wonders what might have been. “I’ve been around politics enough to know there’s a gap between campaign promises and what an elected official can deliver,” he says. “But imagine if, at the beginning of his Administration, Trump had said to Democrats, ‘Let’s work on trade enforcement, let’s do infrastructure,’ instead of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pushing a very partisan exercise on taxes.” He chuckles ruefully. “What a different place we could be in now.”

Trade proponents argue that the steel jobs aren’t coming back, and towns like Coatesville need to adjust to a new economy. In Coatesville, the future may have already arrived in the form of the humble pallet.

“There’s plenty of jobs,” shouts Bill MacCauley, yelling to be heard over the sound of heavy machinery as he strides through his cavernous warehouse. Just across town from the old steel mill, the John Rock Inc. pallet factory is booming. “Our biggest challenge is labor,” says MacCauley, a rangy, easygoing man in blue jeans. In his telling, the pallet, that simple slatted platform, is the unsung hero of the American economy. “Pallets are a better barometer of the economy than anything else,” he contends. “Everything in this country moves on a pallet.”

MacCauley, who grew up on a farm, was working as the plant manager in 1997 when its founder decided to retire. Since taking over the business, he has modernized and expanded it, commissioning efficient new nailing and sawing machines and doubling the warehouse’s footprint. Today MacCauley’s plant nails together 20,000 pallets a day, making it one of the top five pallet-making facilities in the country by his reckoning. The nails are from Korea–they tried American nails, but the quality didn’t pass muster.

Winters are typically busy in the pallet business as the holidays and Super Bowl spur shipping demand. But MacCauley says business has been gangbusters since Trump took office a year ago. Since the passage of corporate tax cuts in December, MacCauley has dramatically increased his capital investments: he has $2 million worth of new machinery scheduled to arrive in the next three months, purchases he says he wouldn’t have made now if not for the legislation.

With unemployment down to 4.1%, companies across the U.S. have had to scramble to find workers, driving wages up and forcing recruiters to get creative. John Rock is no exception. Pay starts at $11 per hour, with full benefits and a 401(k). MacCauley has raised wages by $1 over the past year, in part to compete with landscaping jobs. He estimates that a majority of the plant’s workers are Latino. The job market is so tight that the company has started recruiting women for what has traditionally been men’s work. “Whether you like Trump or not, the fact remains: everybody’s doing better than they were a year ago,” MacCauley says. “We’re probably going to look back at this as one of the biggest booms in our lifetime.”

It’s not quite accurate to attribute all this to the new Administration. Unemployment was plummeting before Trump was elected; in fact, jobs have grown more slowly under Trump than any other year since 2010, and wage growth slowed during his first year. The President boasted in his State of the Union on Jan. 30 about the addition of 200,000 manufacturing jobs, but there are still 1 million fewer Americans working in manufacturing than there were 10 years ago.

Still, to MacCauley, things look better than ever. Foreign trade doesn’t bother him: “When they import goods, they import ’em on a pallet,” he says. Reducing immigration would worsen MacCauley’s hiring crunch–that’s a part of Trump’s agenda he’s not so keen on–but so far Trump’s crackdown hasn’t affected him.

We walk out past MacCauley’s office, where a bikini-girl calendar hangs on one wall and the others are festooned with livestock-show ribbons for the specialty ewes he raises as a hobby. Above a receptionist’s desk is a mug reading I just want to drink coffee and listen to Rush Limbaugh. This plant, powered by global trade and immigrant workers, may not match Trump’s populist vision, and MacCauley, the man with his name on the payroll checks, was never quite forgotten in the global economy. But from where he sits, there are plenty of reasons to be happy with Trump.

The Trump base –that part of the electorate that supports him not reluctantly but ardently–is not the political mainstream: just 22% strongly approved of the President in one recent poll. But Trump’s working-class supporters continue to fascinate and flummox political experts in part because they are stubbornly, heartbreakingly hopeful that he will eventually keep his promises to them.

At Coatesville’s Little Chef Family Restaurant, 64-year-old John Gathercole sits at the lunch counter with a cup of coffee, talking about how Trump will bring back steel jobs. He spent 29 years cutting heavy steel, retiring two years before the plant closed and laid off the remaining workers. Politicians romanticize manual labor, but it was a brutal job: Gathercole believes he could have been killed if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn’t intervened to protect him from illegal emissions. Now he makes pocket money driving Amish workers to and from their factory gigs.

“I’m a big union man. I always will be,” Gathercole says. Solidly built with slicked-back gray hair, he wears a gold chain under his Under Armour shirt. A lifelong Democrat, Gathercole cast his first-ever Republican vote in 2016. “I don’t know how Trump is on unions,” he says. “I liked him because he was change.”

Sentiments are similar 30 miles up the road, in the once vibrant manufacturing hub of Reading. The city’s garment factory is now an outlet mall, and it has one of the highest urban poverty rates in the U.S.. at 39%. At an indoor farmers’ market here, between stalls selling Amish pastries and fresh poultry, locals are yelling at one another about politics.

“Trump is going to revisit NAFTA and take a hard line with China,” insists a voluble man with curly gray hair in a Snap-on tools jacket. Trade, he says, is his No. 1 issue; his wife is a United Automobile Workers union member, and his sons both work at a steel-alloy plant. “They’ve been busy as heck since Trump got in,” says the man, who won’t give his name because he’s afraid he’ll be attacked by Trump critics.

At the other end of the table, a white-mustached man in a black driving cap can’t believe what he’s hearing. Eighty-two-year-old Charlie Fisher doesn’t like the slogan “make America great again,” he says, because he always believed America was great. When Fisher demands that the other man defend the Access Hollywood tape, the Trump supporter brings up Hillary Clinton’s emails. “How about eight years of Obama, the Muslim in Chief, who never made 3% GDP growth?” he hollers. “See, I do my homework. I know what I’m talking about.”(In fact, the economy grew 3% during several quarters under Obama.)

At the next table, Todd Hiester, 61, sits quietly thinking about the past. In 1979, when he was 19, his father got him a job at the Dana auto-parts plant. Hiester apprenticed as a tool and die maker, loved the work, and did it until the company went bankrupt in 2000. The day the factory closed, two men who worked alongside Hiester were so despondent that they shot themselves, he says. Hiester had been pulling in $36 per hour but missed qualifying for a pension by three months. He tried going back to community college for a computer degree, but he never found another job that paid half of what he had once made.

Hiester says he voted for Trump for a host of reasons: because of the need for Judeo-Christian values on the Supreme Court, because he believes undocumented immigrants are living off government benefits, because he didn’t like Clinton and because of trade. He blames the system for Trump’s struggles and holds out hope that change is still coming.

“I think his intentions are good,” says Hiester, a soft-spoken man wearing a dark green fleece. “His heart is very good.” He is sure that Trump is doing his best to fight for the working man, and you have to admit, he says, that the President is not like all those other politicians.

No matter that Trump’s lawyers worry that he will perjure himself if he is interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Forget that the Washington Post has recorded more than 2,000 falsehoods in Trump’s first year alone. “At least,” Hiester says of the President he trusts, “he doesn’t lie.”

This appears in the February 26, 2018 issue of TIME.

Editor’s Comments

It is not surprising that the hard core Trump supporters would believe anything that Trump says.  But let us look at the facts, not the “alternate facts.” What was the reason for the decline of manufacturing in the Midwest and elsewhere in the United States? Greed, of course, is the answer (and who is the party of the rich people? the GOP). How did it all happen from being a manufacturing behemoth to Rust Belt City? First, in order to break up the Unions, (which Republicans hate, if you didn’t already know) CEOs moved their unions from union-rich cities to non-union cities and towns throughout the Midwest and South. Then, as these CEOs got greedier, they asked their Republican counterparts in Congress to make it easier to move their industries overseas. By what means? These are called the Free Trade Agreements. The Trade agreements (like NAFTA and WTO) drafted and written by Republicans made it extremely profitable to offshore their factories where labor is cheaper, there are no benefits for workers, no regulations and, the creme de la creme, the products being brought back into the United States would no longer have to pay an import tax. And voila, the loss of 8 million manufacturing jobs since 1980 and President Reagan. And that is where we are today.

Trump, the off-shorer in chief, has promised the world to our gullible blue collar workers. Trump was very late to the game when he switched from being the “biggest Free Trader in the World” to suddenly being against NAFTA in January 2016. Trump and his daughter still have all their clothing lines made in China. His current “Make America Great Again” hats are made in China. You would think if Trump were genuine that his clothing line and hats would be made here in the USA. It has been over a year and still no mention about moving his factories. Trump has made noise about NAFTA, but NAFTA only effects Canada and Mexico. The giant deal is with China through the WTO (World Trade Organization). Don’t you think it is puzzling that we still give import tax relief to the largest economy in the world – China?

So, if you vote Republican, you are voting for off-shoring American jobs, you are voting against American manufacturing, and you are voting for the rich to get more tax breaks. Here is the message to the manufacturing workers: Wake up. Sure you may have voted for the official worst President of all time (according to 170 Presidential scholars), but you can learn from your mistakes.



Best Way to Buy Clothing Made in the USA

Best Way To Buy Clothing Made in the USA

Clothing made in the USA represents less than 2% of all clothing made in the USA. And because there is such a small inventory, it makes them hard to find. And for some products, they are more expensive than the slave labor competitors, I will give some tips as to find clothing for less. If one is patient, one can create a very nice American wardrobe with a modest outlay.

I believe one of the best ways to find U.S. made clothing is going to websites that sell all or most of their apparel made in the U.S. One of the ways to find these websites is through my blog entry: Listing of Brands of Clothing Made in the USA – Internet. The other way is to visit department stores (or their stores websites) that have a higher percentage of US made clothing, probably the best is Nordstroms or the Nordstroms Rack. If you want to look on your own at various stores, good luck. To help in your quest, I have amassed quite a list: it is called: Listing of American Clothing Manufacturers – Retail.

The very best way to obtain to get high quality U.S. Made clothing at great prices is to set up your e-mail to receive the sales e-mails from your favorite stores or suppliers. Often you will receive the sales and clearance e-mails which is where you can score your best bargains. My favorite sites are Bills Khakis (100% made in USA), American Giant (100% Made in USA, Allen Edmonds and Guideboat. Other good sites for particular items like dress pants and suits would be Mens Wearhouse and Hickey Freeman. For this blog entry, I have limited my entries just towards mens apparel.

Men’s Apparel (starting from bottom to top)

Men’s Shoes

For Dress shoes there are two mens shoes companies that generate most of the sales: Allen Edmonds and Alden. These shoes are very high quality, lasting for years, but expensive. The best way is to find a deal is to be on the e-mail list and periodically there can be some fantastic sales (remember not all Allen Edmonds shoes are made in the USA): Allen Edmonds shoes website, Alden website.

Allen Edmonds
Lake Bluff Weave Dress

Alden BAL Oxford

For Athletic Shoes – In recent years there was only one manufacturer of American athletic shoes: New Balance. PFFlyers, another well-known brand, is now owned by New Balance as well. There are noises that Under Armour, Adidas and Reebok may start making limited amount of shoes in the U.S.For other shoe brands see my Listing of Shoes made in USA.

New Balance 990


There actually are numerous companies that make socks in the USA. Even companies that make no other apparel in the USA, sometimes make socks here like Nike, Champion, Hanes.

There some very good high quality socks made in the USA that are worth looking for such as Wigwam, Thurlo, and Smartwool. See, also, my entry: Socks Made in the USA Listing.

Thurlo Thin Cushion Experia Multi sport


For Dress pants, probably the best website would be: Mens Wearhouse– Joseph Abboud (remember to choose the Made in USA  apparel). For other dress pants, see: Best Dress Pants in USA. For casual pants, a very good site is Bills Khakis, his is also a good site for shorts and casual shirts.

Joseph Abboud Black Pleated Dress pants


Jeans are consider the original American idea and there are many companies that still make jeans here in the USA. In my list, I have 96 brands found at retailers and 31 on the Internet on Listing of American Manufacturing Companies – Retail under Jeans. One company that has been a major contributor to the Made in America movement is Bullet Blues.

Bullet Blues Nationalist Jour


Underwear is one of the more difficult objects to find made in the USA. There has been some good news, WalMart, of all people, has brought back some “made in USA” produced by some of the classic manufacturers such as Hanes and Fruit of the Loom. However, one of my favorites are from BGreen , Oliver’s Apparel,  Flint and Tinder and American Giant. These same companies also offer plenty of choices for T shirts.

B Green Boxer Brief

American Giant Premium V Neck T shirt


The United States does make a small number of dress shirts. The best dress shirts are made by Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Label. Sometimes, one can find Hamilton dress shirts in some high end stores, they are also worth the money. The American dress shirt makers in general are hard to find. And then, sometimes, there are the small bespoken shirt makers like Tuckerman and Co.

For casual shirts and polo shirts, your best best is Bills Khakis.

Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Regent Fit English Collar Frame Stripe Dress Shirt

Bills Khakis Keystone Plaid – red


Many high quality Suit tops or jackets are still made here in the USA. Hickey Freeman, Hart, Schaffner and Marx, Mens Wearhouse and Brooks Brothers. For top of the line, the best are Oxxford and Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece.

Hickey Freeman Dark Blue Checkered Traveler’s Jacket

Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Madison Fit Alternating Stripe Suit


For many years, shorts made in the USA was a rare commodity. But thanks to Bills Khakis, there is somebody that makes a bunch of different styles of very good quality and great prices when bought off-season.

Bills Khakis Southport Twill – Navy

Happy shopping!!





Buying US products supports US workers and companies, despite what the Free Traders say. Without our support, there soon will be little or no jobs in manufacturing of clothing and textiles. From the article: “State of the U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: Output, Employment and Trade (Updated March 2017, below are the statistics 

Textile Manufacturing Jobs in the USA

January, 2005                      December, 2016

404,600                                  225,000

January 2015                        December, 2016

233,300                                  225,000                    (Loss of 8,300 jobs)

Apparel Manufacturing Jobs in the USA

January, 2005                       December, 2016

264,200                                   128,900

January, 2015                       December, 2016

138,100                                    128,900                     (Loss of 9,200 jobs)


Made in USA 2018 Winter Olympic Apparel by Ralph Lauren


After 2012 Controversy, Ralph Lauren Opts for American-Made 2018 Winter Olympics Apparel

Ralph Lauren’s Team USA outfits are as patriotic as they appear.

Jeanne Carver was on her ranch in July 2012, watching her sheep graze as they began their nocturnal migration to their bedding grounds, when she received a call from what she assumed was a yarn store. Instead, Carver, owner of Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, Ore., soon learned that the call came from Ralph Lauren’s product development team in New York.

Sheep at the Imperial Stock Ranch in Oregon being herded. 
Photo by Imperial Stock Ranch

After coming under fire for outsourcing Team USA’s Summer 2012 Olympics apparel in China, Ralph Lauren contracted Carver to begin weaving together a supply chain that would outfit America’s Olympians in Made in America clothing from head to toe, starting with the sheep who provided the wool needed to knit Team USA’s sweaters for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Thus began Ralph Lauren’s mission to source and manufacture every component of its Olympic uniforms in America, a commitment the company has sustained for three Olympic games, including the 2018 Winter Olympics.

This year, Carver again supplied wool for Team’s USA clothing, initiating a supply chain that produced opening and closing ceremony outfits for more than 700 Team USA athletes and staff members at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic competitions in PyeongChang, South Korea.

American manufacturers, ranging from companies in operation for decades to those still establishing themselves in the marketplace, contributed to the production of Ralph Lauren’s collection.

“We did it because it’s not only special to our company, our employees, including the guys on the floor that developed and made this yarn, and the management team, it’s important to the United States of America and to the Olympics. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity.” Jim Chessnut, CEO of National Spinning

During the parade of nations in the opening ceremony, Team USA athletes will wear a parka in red, white and blue made by Better Team USA in Clifton, N.J.; moto-inspired jeans made by ROICOM in El Paso, Texas; a knit vintage-inspired ski sweater made by Ball of Cotton in Commerce, Calif.; a wool ski hat and base layers made by Andari in El Monte, Calif.; and shearling gauntlet gloves made by Echo in New York, N.Y.

The closing ceremony will feature a water-repellant white bomber jacket made by Better Team USA; a wool sweater and mittens made by Andari; navy double-fleece joggers made by Ferrara Manufacturing in New York, N.Y.; and a knit hat made by Ball of Cotton.

For both ceremonies, Team USA athletes will wear brown suede mountaineering boots made by Allen Edmonds in Port Washington, Wis.; a canvas belt with cowhide belt tabs made by Magna Leather in El Paso, Texas; socks made by Renfro Corporation in Cleveland, Tenn., for Hot Sox; embellishments made by Trimworld in New York, N.Y.; and a bracelet handcrafted by Scosha in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ralph Lauren’s patriotically themed outfits may evoke classic Americana, but the uniforms were manufactured using cutting-edge technology.

To combat the gusts of Siberian winds and temperatures as low as 11 degrees Fahrenheit in PyeongChang, Ralph Lauren integrated thin, lightweight heating components that will keep the athletes warm for up to 11 hours into Team USA’s jackets.

This heating technology, developed by DuPont Advanced Materials, is composed of conductive stretchable silver and carbon inks that instantly heat when powered by a battery within the jackets.

The inks were printed onto the jackets’ interiors in the shape of the American flag by family-owned high-precision membrane printer Butler Technologies in Butler, Pa.

“Ralph Lauren has effortlessly woven style and functionality into the opening ceremony uniform for the 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams,” said Lisa Baird, the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) chief marketing officer, in Ralph Lauren’s press release.

Through its Team USA collections, Ralph Lauren has championed America’s athletes and manufacturers and brought the world’s attention to the quality of American production. This support has ensured the survival and success of several of the company’s production partners.

California-based Andari made the opening ceremony hat and closing ceremony sweater and mittens, which were knit using wool from Imperial Stock Ranch in Oregon that was spun and dyed by National Spinning. | Photo by Andari

Wei Wang, who owns and operates Andari alongside his sister, Ilona Wang, came close to shuttering the business his parents founded in 1999 when the recession hit in 2008.

Rather than abandon their U.S. facility, the Wangs adapted their production model to embrace quality over quantity—a switch that caught the attention of Ralph Lauren as its production development team sought manufacturers for the 2014 Olympic games.

Through the media exposure working with Ralph Lauren garnered, the Wangs were able to find more work for their factory.

Currently, Andari employs 130 people, but the Wangs have plans for further expansion.

Carver of Imperial Stock Ranch, who has advocated for the revival of America’s textile industry since 1999, also said that “hundreds of companies and brands” expressed interest in working with Imperial Stock Ranch following her collaboration with Ralph Lauren, which continued beyond the Olympics.

In utilizing supply chains in the United States for their Olympic collections, Ralph Lauren helped form new relationships among manufacturers and reinforce long-standing ones, safeguarding a symbiotic ecosystem of manufacturers and producers.

Carver has fought to protect and cultivate this network as the only means of sustaining the productivity of her ranch’s sheep.

“Without our processing and manufacturing partners, we have nothing … I have a raw material that I can’t get rid of or that has no value anymore, but with them as partners, they can with their expertise bring it to product stage, and we’re all stronger,” Carver said. “We’re stronger as a nation by keeping these connections viable in this country.”

However, producing items for Ralph Lauren’s Team USA collection has also been a labor of love that involved late nights and last-minute revisions to accommodate stringent USOC regulations.

“We did it because it’s not only special to our company, our employees, including the guys on the floor that developed and made this yarn, and the management team, it’s important to the United States of America and to the Olympics. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity,” said Jim Chessnut, CEO of employee-owned National Spinning, which spun and dyed Imperial Stock Ranch’s wool for Ralph Lauren’s knitwear.

Several of Ralph Lauren’s Winter Olympics 2018 production partners feel personally connected to the Olympic mission and have been affiliated with the games outside of their roles as manufacturers.

“Without our processing and manufacturing partners, we have nothing … I have a raw material that I can’t get rid of or that has no value anymore, but with them as partners, they can with their expertise bring it to product stage, and we’re all stronger,” Carver said. “We’re stronger as a nation by keeping these connections viable in this country.” Jeanne Carver, Imperial Stock Ranch

Scosha Woolridge, the designer and owner of Scosha, once trained to compete in the Olympics as a 100-meter hurdler, and Carver has coached the U.S. National Team in Track and Field and served on the U.S. Olympic Development Committee.

Unfortunately, though dozens of manufacturers in America eagerly contributed to this year’s Winter Olympics, when the world watches America’s Olympians collect their medals, they will be clothed in Nike’s Medal Stand Collection, largely manufactured overseas. Similarly, the vast majority of competition uniforms are made in offshore factories.

Ralph Lauren has earned a gold medal for its contributions to the Olympics, but other companies have yet to follow.

The 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Friday at 6 a.m. ET, and the Closing Ceremony will take place on Feb. 25 at 6 a.m. ET. The events will be streamed live via NBC’s website and its app, and there will be a primetime television broadcast at 8 p.m. ET.

Polo Ralph Lauren’s Made in America Team USA collection is available for sale online. Royalties from the sales go to the United States Olympic Committee.

Editor’s Comment

One of my first well-received blog entries was six years ago when I wrote that Ralph Lauren was not making the Olympic uniforms in the USA in Ralph Lauren and the Olympic Uniform Controversy. Since that time, Ralph Lauren has been great about avoiding controversy and has made much of their Olympic (Summer or Winter) apparel in the USA. You may want to check out the Polo Ralph Lauren website for the Olympic apparel made in the USA online. They may be expensive, but they are collectors items and are going fast.

Thanks to the blog for the Alliance of American Manufacturing for writing the above article.

March 2018
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