Shopping Experience in Santa Cruz, CA

Mainpoint: Shopping in downtown Santa Cruz, CA looking for Made in U.S.A. clothing.

Clothingmadeinusablog is always looking for good independent clothing retailers. This time we go to Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz (Spanish for St. Croix, meaning Holy Cross), is a northern coastal California city, population of 59,946, 30 minutes south of San Jose, CA. It is famous for the largest beach boardwalk in the United States. It has a University of California branch, the University of California/ Santa Cruz (UCSC). UCSC is most famous  for its quirky grading system that doesn’t use grades, and their team name are the Fighting Banana Slugs – named for the indigenous bright yellow mollusks that slime their way through the Santa Cruz woods. Like other coastal towns, the number of visitors to Santa Cruz is dependent on the weather. On a warm summer weekend, Santa Cruz can be extremely busy and overcrowded, yet the next weekend, if the fog comes in thick (like San Francisco and Monterey), which can be frigid causing Mark Twain to once remark: “the coldest winter I ever spent was the summer in San Francisco.” On those days, the number of tourists are down, and the top selling clothing items are thick long sleeve sweatshirts, preferably with a hood. The autumn is probably the best time to visit, unless you happen to visit on one of those unpredictable warm summer days. The population of Santa Cruz is younger, mean age of 29.9 years. Santa Cruz used to be over-run with hippies in the 1960’s and 70’s. They have moved on, and a newer counter culture of grunge has taken their place. An apt T-shirt is: “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”. Despite the counter culture aspect, there are no smoke shops or cannabis clubs on the “proper side” of the main drag (no pun intended). Because of the more youthful clientele, most shops are set up for the younger set.

Downtown Shopping

Santa Cruz does have some scattered outlets here and there as well as some big chain stores like Costco, Petsmart and Cost Plus World Market.  But the best shopping is downtown. Downtown has changed greatly since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, many places had to be rebuilt, some places torn down. The Downtown areas continue to evolve, businesses always moving in and out. Presently, the best shopping and restaurants are on Pacific Avenue between Cathcart St. and Water Street. There are now many restaurants with outdoor seating that it is beginning to resemble France and their many cafes (sort of, in a way). The downtown association has been fairly good at keeping out the giant chains from the downtown area – which helps the Santa Cruz downtown keep its individual identity. But there still are chains: Starbucks (of course), Verizon, O’Neils, Cold Stone Creamery, Subway, The Gap, Noah’s Bagels, Urban Outfitters, Peet’s Coffee and an actual “good chain” – American Apparel.

The Best Stores for Finding U.S. Made Clothing in Santa Cruz

Overall, the shopping in downtown Santa Cruz is better than average when it comes to finding U.S. made clothing. One of the reasons for this, most of the stores are locally owned and independently run. They are not taking their orders from the corporate offices from New York City or Hong Kong (sorry, GAP). Therefore, these small stores can purchase in small quantities from small manufacturers (often American), and can provide unique clothing not found in your chain stores.

I have listed four stores that deserve special mention: Eco Goods, Jade, Moda Bellissima, and Stripe.

Eco Goods

My favorite store is Eco Goods. This is what is called a socially conscious store. Eco Goods started in 1994. It is a general store that sells clothes to house wares based on earth friendly merits. Clothing is made from organic cotton (no nasty pesticides) and hemp. More recently, they have added clothing made of natural products such as bamboo and soy. Mugs and plates are made from recycled glass. Toys are made with natural materials and natural dyes. Plastic bottles for children are all bisphenol A free. Many products also are fair trade certified. Just think if all the stores were socially conscious, better yet, what if all consumers were socially conscious? In regards to American made clothing, Eco Goods carries about 30% US made. They carry underwear for both men and women, which are rare (US made) finds. For the ladies, they carry Blue Canoe, for the men, bdgreen and bamboosa. They carry US made T-shirts like Saving The Earth Creations, GGO Clothing Dresses, No Enemy tops for children and several brands of U.S. organic socks: Sockwell, Good Hen, and Maggie’s. Address: 1130 Pacific Avenue.


Jade is a clothing store with the highest percentage of U.S. made clothing with the exception of American Apparel which is 100%. You would think that a store named Jade would not have much American made products, but it does. Jade is a medium end store. It is a ladies clothing store. The percentage of U.S. made clothing is about 40%. Many tops and T-shirts, with American manufacturers such as Prairie Underground, Fluffco, Supermaggie and Obey. They also have Genetic Denim U.S. made jeans. The target audience is young women. Address: 1128 Pacific Avenue (next door to Eco Goods)

Moda Bellissima

Moda Bellissima is located on one of the side streets off Pacific – on Locust Street (107 Locust Street). Moda Bellissima is the only store that I would consider medium to high end and the only ladies clothing store that doesn’t cater strictly for young women, in the downtown area.  Probably 10% is U.S. made. American makers such as Karen Klein, URU and Eva Varro are for sale as well as Joseph Ribkoff of Canada, all great stuff. The place has been in business for only four months. Definitely give the place a look. – Store is closed


Stripe is a nice little surprise. It is an eclectic mix of clothing, jewelry, gifts, art and accessories. They also have some vintage leather jackets. This store is like a mixture of Santa Cruz and San Francisco. One thing I appreciate is their supporting of locally made products like Santa Cruz’s own Sally Esposito, and Thieves. About 10% is U.S. made. Give the place a look. Address: 107 Walnut Street. Target audience: younger men and women. There is also a Stripe for men as well.

Honorable Mention

Pacific Trading Company

Pacific Trading Company is one of the largest clothing stores in downtown Santa Cruz. There are numerous American made clothing labels. 15 to 20% of the clothing is U.S. made. Target audience: young women. Address: 1224 Pacific Avenue

American Apparel

American Apparel is a chain of clothing stores. All clothing is made in Los Angeles, 100% American made. So, why isn’t American Apparel on the top of the list? First, I have already featured them in my blog entry “Favorite U.S. Store #1 – American Apparel”. Second, this is the fifth American Apparel store I have visited. Why this isn’t my number one clothing store of all time? Well, it is geared for young men and women, the clothing is a little on the low end like H & M or Old Navy, and third, some of their items such as shorts, pants and some shirts are unisex, which really means they are only for women. I did find one new item on this trip: retro flannel shirts. The downtown American Apparel has been in Santa Cruz for four years. This store is great for the basics and at a reasonable price.

The Rest

Sockshop and Shoe Company is a worth a visit with its myriad of socks. They carry 12 different brands of socks made in the USA. The other half of the store is the shoe store – 0% American made shoes.

OM Rhythms – Different type of garments predominantly from Nepal. I did find two different made in U.S. labelled clothing. 1% US made.

Kaleponi – Ladies clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. 2% U.S. made.

Sway – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. 5% U.S. made.

Bubble Lounge – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. 5% U.S. made.

Kurios – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. <5% U.S. made.

Jewels on Pacific – Ladies Clothing, some fancy dresses, Target demographic: young ladies. <2% U.S. made.

Flying Lizard – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. <2% U.S. made.

The Hat Company – Hats and some ladies wear. <1% U.S. made

Legs – Stockings and Socks. 5% U.S. made.

Wallflower – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. <2% U.S. made.

Bunnys – Ladies Clothing, Target demographic: young ladies. 2% U.S. made.

Camouflage – Lingerie and costumes. 2% U.S. made.

La Playa – Clothing, Target demographic: tourists. < 1% U.S. made.

Bunny Shoes – Shoes, 0% US made.

Fetish Shoes – Shoes, 0% US made, but some from Italy and Portugal.

Old School Shoes – Shoes, (actually a disappointment, I thought there would be many different retro shoes, instead a re-tread of old keds but now made in slave labor countries) 0% US made.

GAP – clothing, multinational chain (also part of Banana Republic and Old Navy) <1% US made.

Oneill – Clothing, wetsuits, multinational chain (also a disappointment, you would think that a company started in San Francisco and Santa Cruz might be more socially aware, but no.) , < 1% US made.

Urban Outfitters – National chain,  <1% US made.


Shopping in Santa Cruz is an interesting experience, different articles from many small independent operators. Most stores are geared for the young shopper and are either low to medium end. Visit the Boardwalk, have a meal at one of the sidewalk cafes and shop downtown. Remember to buy American, if not from American, then from Italy, England, Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden or Japan, or any place where there is a fair wage for a fair job. By buying products made by slave labor, you are condoning slave labor practices.

“Women thrive on novelty and are easy meat for the commerce of fashion. Men prefer old pipes and torn jackets.” – Anthony Burgess

Updated 3/28/2015


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