What a long strange trip it has been. When I started this blog over a year ago, my original concept was that this blog would be more like a journal, documenting my misadventures as I haphazardly try to find the impossible dream: a wardrobe made up entirely of non-slave, but preferably, American labor. My first blog entries were just that, I would blindly go into stores, try to find those labels with the microscopic letters that tell you where they were made. For instance, my search for underwear, made in the USA, both in brick and mortar stores and on the internet are excellent examples of my clueless search for these difficult to find items.
But as I continued my searches for made in America clothing, I got better at it. I gained knowledge at a rapid rate. After a while, I could just look at certain clothes and knew which ones were not made here in the USA. I knew which stores carried more US clothing and which ones had almost none. And I documented them when I would visit well known stores or malls: Santana Row; Stanford Shopping Center; Downtown Santa Cruz and The Magnificent Mile in Chicago. I, also, became more adept at finding clothing made in the US on the internet. For example, with the major department stores’ website – under search, type in “made in usa”, and quite often their website will list the American made items. If there are too many items then you could further refine your search with something like “shirts made in usa”. I, initially, was looking only for clothing made in the USA at brick and mortar stores, but as I got more adept at finding clothing made in the USA on the internet, I started keeping track, see Listing of Brands of Clothing Made in the USA via Internet. And as I did these website searches, I found more Made In USA Websites and Blogs and documented them as well, see: Best Made in USA Website.
The Loss of American Manufacturing
And then I looked at why clothes were no longer being made in the United States. I, like most Americans, thought the loss of American manufacturing jobs was simply due to labor costs. But surprisingly, I found, that this is rarely the case. Labor cost only make up on 5% – 9% of the total costs of the product. And if you were really following this trend of imported clothing (and its rapid expansion since 1980), you might have noticed that over 80% of imports come from China. To the uninitiated, China?! But they are communists. They all get paid the same right? That is a definite no. Whereas the United States tries to follow a “Free Trade” Policy (except for agribusiness which is heavily subsidized and regulated and doing very well, thank you very much – in fact, other countries, like Brazil complain that our government subsidizing of food products unfairly keeps American food exports too cheap) on manufacturing. However, China, unlike most other countries, plays by different rules. Let us say that manufacturing is a game (for politicians, it is) much like soccer. However, before the match starts, different rules are handed out. The field is tilted severely downhill towards the American goal. The U.S. plays with 8 players, the Chinese with 14. And the Chinese can grab the ball and run with it – Now play ball! China has a very strong government influence and involvement in all manufacturing – heavily subsidizing many companies, offering special tax-breaks and kickbacks, as well as many customized rewards or perks directly to American executives (not legal in the U.S.), and one of the most important factors – the artificially lowering (by government intervention) the value of the Chinese Yuan – which may mean a profit of $0.40 for every $1.00 on export products. And yet, the United States has no manufacturing policy and many of the uninformed still think we should follow a Free Trade Policy with China, a country, which does NOT practice Free Trade. To top the cake, employees in China (as well as many foreign countries) are poorly treated, underpaid (or non-paid if they are prisoners including the many political prisoners unjustly incarcerated), and laboring in unsafe working conditions (plus it is destroying the US economy). It’s enough to never ever go into an H & M and buy that incredibly cheap and poorly made $12 shirt. That is what we are buying when we buy clothing that is too cheap to be true.
Over the past year, I went from a typical American who knew nothing about clothing, let alone clothing made in the USA, who thought it would be fun to tell my story about trying to find clothing made in the U.S. to somebody who has become an avid advocate of buying clothes made in the United States. The purpose of the blog has, also, been transformed. The purpose, now, is trying to convince people to buy clothing made in the U.S.A. and helping people find these precious gems.