New Yorkers Strip for Made in America. ~ Sara Bruskin

Via on Apr 17, 2011
Photo: Peter Cigliano

And it doesn’t go well…

In an ABC news segment last month, David Muir challenged people in Grand Central Terminal to remove any articles of clothing that were not made in America.

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Not surprisingly, many people had trouble with the task, and could not find domestically produced clothing anywhere on their bodies.

We’ve all heard the mountains of reasons to buy American: Fair labor practices, support of relatively local businesses, reduced carbon footprint… But how realistic is it to shun the alternatives?

“Made in America” tags aren’t easy to find.

The pursuit of American clothing has never been a passionate pursuit for me. I, like many people, have been aware that I should be buying American products, and yet I never seem to put that as a priority when I need new clothes. If I manage to find an article of clothing that suits me, fits me, will look good after it’s been hemmed (always a consideration for short people), and doesn’t say “Squeeze Me” or “Princess” on it, am I really going to discard it because of the country on the label?

Photo: Annie Mole

When browsing through the racks at Marshalls, such standards can undo a whole afternoon of searching. Considering that 98% of clothing available in America comes from foreign countries, it would be nigh impossible to find anything of American make in our inexpensive go-to stores.

If we check the label as a last consideration, the search is sure to be a lost cause.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize this, but I had been going through the whole process backwards. The only real chance of finding American clothing is to seek out the brands that manufacture their goods in the States first, and search within them. That 2% chance of finding something American-made by accident cannot be relied upon if we are to be conscious consumers.

A Continuous Lean hosts a list of brands that manufacture all, or some of their products in the U.S., and it can be found here. The Made in America segment on ABC News also has an online directory of useful website for finding American-made products. Such resources can help you stay clothed the next time David Muir shows up in your city.

While they may not be our first pick, not all brands that manufacture their goods overseas are evil, unpatriotic slave-drivers.

Some companies work hard to ensure that their foreign factories are safe environments for fairly-treated employees. Patagonia, for instance, publishes information on their labor practices that shows their dedication to moral conduct in the workplace.

Such well-meaning companies still ship their wares across the world, thus increasing their carbon output, but should that stop us from supporting them? Patagonia is providing a source of fair labor in countries that desperately need it. There will always be pros and cons to any business, and we as the consumers must weigh our priorities in supporting them.

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Sara Bruskin recently graduated from the University of Colorado, and is working as an intern for Colorado Common Cause, and elephantjournal.com.

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? info elephantjournal com

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6 Responses to “New Yorkers Strip for Made in America. ~ Sara Bruskin”

  1. Emilene Rodley Emilene Rodley says:

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this issue. The garment industry is definitely in need of more humanitarian cost consciousness.

  2. Rick Romig says:

    Seems like one more good reason to be a nudist and I'm okay with that.

  3. Eric says:

    Thanks Sara. I like the truth that buying American Made and Local is ecologically sound. Why should we ship products all over the world just because they are cheaper? From this perspective maybe it would be good for fuel prices to be at $7 per gallon. The cost of shipping will increase and the local goods will be more affordable by comparison. I’m starting to think we move around too much as a species. Peace!

    • TamingAuthor says:

      At seven dollars a gallon you will be sitting home naked. I love the economics of the green movement. Some day they will make a cartoon series about the goofy thinking that overtook a nation that once had the gift of prosperity and then tossed it away as a result of seeing phantom dangers in the bushes. No one pays any attention to the gremlins issuing dire warnings scaring the kids. Shame on Al Gore, that opportunistic con man. Where are the people who can sit on the cushion and just view him, as he is?

  4. Nikki says:

    I have two schools of thought.
    Just because the garment was made in USA does NOT mean that the factory workers have a fair living wage, great conditions for living and working and healthcare. It's an indicator that this MIGHT be the case. Living on the East Coast, the item most likely was shipped from the Midwest or SouthWest anyhow. So it still travels a few hundred to a couple thousand miles to my door. And I am still driving to the store, at which employees have driven, trucks have brought merchandise and we are spending oodles to operate the retail store. Online? Yes, I may get the item direct from warehouse, but I still often am trekking back to the PO to return the item for a replacement size or colour or new item altogether.
    As for purchasing from foreign manufacturing, there IS the possibility that the garment has lower quality, poor standards for sizing and, of course, it HAS been shipped overseas/overland for some distance. But we ARE in a global economy. And if we want to produce USA-Made goods that other countries purchase, we also need to contribute to the greater global economy.
    There are, as you indicated, a number of companies who do employ fair living wages and proper standards for health and safety in their foreign factories. Despite the cost in fossil fuels to get these items to my door, until I start raising sheep, shearing and spinning the wool in my yard and then making all my own clothes, I can not really see a sincere way to buy ALL my clothing regionally, much less locally! :-)
    And I guess I just choose to select goods from companies where I can find their mission statement and find the examples of that in practice throughout their business. Words are merely words until put into action. Thanks for shining a light on the complexity of trying to live in harmony with the world around us!

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