Sunday, 20 July 2014

09:51 – Every Saturday I do the laundry, and every time I’m annoyed as I read the labels on our clothing. Not the vendors’ names. They’re mostly L. L. Bean, Lands’ End, Carhartt, Hanes, Champion, and so on, what used to be good brands. No, it’s the countries of origin that annoy me.

When Barbara and I married in 1983, nearly all our clothing and bedding was made in the US. There were a few items from Canada or England, with an occasional item from Denmark, Sweden, Australia, or some other first-world country. Now, other than a few old pieces of clothing, nearly all of it is from third-world countries. Yesterday, I noticed labels from Mexico, Honduras, Malaysia, Peru, China, India, Turkey, and Jordan. My Hanes underpants were made in Vietnam! Not all that long ago, those underpants would have been made in a plant in Winston-Salem.

Sourcing this stuff from third-world countries is bad enough. The textile industry used to employ tens of thousands of workers in North Carolina, almost none of whom still have jobs in textiles. Same goes for the furniture industry, which has also nearly been wiped out by so-called free trade. But the other bad thing is that product quality is a pale shadow of what it once was. Materials are thinner, stitching is shoddy, and quality control is next to non-existent. I have a new package of Hanes underpants. Twenty years ago, these wouldn’t have been good enough to qualify as factory seconds to be sold in the outlet store. Now, they’re considered firsts.

Just out of curiosity, I visited the LL Bean website and searched for items made in the US. There were only a handful on offer, mostly small accessories. The thousands of other SKUs they carry are all imported. Not a single one of LL Bean’s jeans is made in the US. So I checked the Lands’ End website. Again, the overwhelming majority of their stuff is imported. Lands’ End does at least carry a few lines of jeans that are US made. Their imported jeans sell for around $50, with the US-made ones around $75. Apparently, US-made carries a 50% premium, at least at Lands’ End.

So I visited the All American Clothing website, and found that they sell their US-made jeans for about the same price that Lands’ End and LL Bean sell their imported stuff. I know where my next pair of jeans is coming from.