Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Poll: 'Made in US' vs. 'Made in China' - Does it Matter to You?

When you are buying items of clothing, are you influenced by where a product is made?  For this poll: does it matter to you if a product is 'Made in US' vs. 'Made in China?"

The choices are:
  • I prefer 'Made in China' 
  • I don't care
  • I mildly prefer 'Made in US'
  • I strongly prefer 'Made in US'
*** The poll is closed.  Out of 890 votes, 63% chose "I strongly prefer 'Made in US'."





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 




92 comments:

Laurie said...

I always check to see where a product is manufactured but find it much harder to find USA products. Most you have shown are no longer made in the US. I find myself searching out new vendors such as KJP, Just Madras and Eliza B. They may cost a little more but are well worth it in the long run.

Paul Connors said...

Muffy:

For me MADE IN USA will ALWAYS COME FIRST. Unfortunately, with less and less available from the USA, if I see something at Brooks Bros. made elsewhere, I will probably buy it. A prime example: ALL of their men's Polo shirts are NOW made in China!

And those for the BB outlets made in China are of LESSER quality than those in the retail stores.

Paul Connors

Jason said...

the label matters far less than the inherent quality.

Paul Connors said...

Muffy:

I forgot to mention something that may be of interest to your readers/fans: SEARS Holdings is hsopping the Lands' End part of their business.

As I predicted when Sears purchased Lands' End, the quality of those products has dropped dramatically and Sears ruined what I thought had been a somewhat iconic brand. Iconic no more and one can only hope that if and when sold, the new owners will return it to a higher state of quality goods. If they don't, then whay not jusyt let it go?........

Marion said...

Made in USA matters. Definately my preference but if I can't get my desired piece of clothing made in USA, I feel I may have to cave. I definately choose the made in USA first, if it is available.

Garrett said...

USA all the way!

Anonymous said...

I definitely prefer made in USA, but as already said, it is very hard to find products made here. I am often reduced to buying foreign made because it's the only option.

Beth said...

USA. Always.

Susan said...

I strongly prefer "Made in USA."

I'm definitely willing to pay a bit more for quality goods that are made in the USA, which are unfortunately getting ever more difficult to find.

Rebecca Jill said...

I definitely prefer Made in the USA. However, like others have said here it is more and more difficult to find items that are, and so I have to compromise to fit within my budget, and made elsewhere is the only option. I am more apt to buying something made elsewhere that is not China, though.

I have also started buying more iconic U.S. brands that are made elsewhere at my really good area consignment shops when I find them, so I'm not supporting the corporation that backs the made elsewhere label but a local business and local citizens. That's another compromise.

Michael Rowe said...

I strongly prefer "Made in the USA," and have for thirty years or so of adult clothing purchases, even as a Canadian. It's part of why I'm so incensed with Brooks and L.L. Bean these days.

Chris from New Hampshire said...

I suspect a lot of corporate leaders have conveniently convinced themselves that outsourcing to cheap labor locations is necessary, when in fact it is, in the short term, simply easier and more profitable.

Anonymous said...

I strongly prefer 'Made in US' or from other countries that have decent labor practices. It is a question of morality as well as quality (and I do investigate the brands I buy, as there are still plenty of sweatshops in the US).

Bitsy said...

I agree with those who say they prefer US-made (or at least, made in North America -- the Canadian company, Roots, still manufactures in Canada), but quality is the final factor. This is in main because it is now so difficult to find high-quality garments made in the US. A good seamstress and tailor are often the answer.

Anonymous said...

I do prefer Made in USA, as a means of keeping manufacturing jobs in our country. But, I find that quality of US-made products is not at all always superior. You often feature what might be called "boutique" brands, and these generally are of high quality. But, not all mass-produced Made in USA items are.

And, not all items made outside the US are necessarily of poor quality, even when made in non-Western countries.

It's also important to point out that even boutique brands which piece together their products in the US do not always use US-made materials, yet the inherent quality of the products doesn't seem to go down because of it. (As an aside, can they really claim to be "Made in USA" if all elements are not? I wonder what people's opinions of that are.)

You know, it's funny. We talk about how few products are made in the United States, and that is quite true of mass-produced clothing. But, take a look at most of your household products - food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.. These are almost without exception made in the USA, although on occasion I see some made in Canada. So, manufacturing is alive and well here... just not clothing manufacturing.

Anonymous said...

Also, to add to my statements about US-made clothing not always being high-quality - I'll echo Anonymous @3:26 in pointing out that sweatships exist in the US.

I think at base clothing manufactured on a small scale, regardless of location, is almost certain to be of higher quality than mass-produced clothing.

Anonymous said...

To put it bluntly, dealing with employees is a lot of work. Outsourcing and automation are two big trends because it makes life easier for the people at the top. If you can get a big salary without the headache of a base of workers, why wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @3:33... that's a very simplistic take on the matter and disregards typical organizational hierarchy and typical job duties of top management.

binker said...

sigh...it all makes me so sad. Company heads want to take in huge profits at the expense of unemployment in the US and generally poorer quality items. They don't care about employees or consumers. I look for made in USA and will always buy made in USA (or England/Canada) if I have a choice. What can we, as consumers, do to enact change? I would rather buy fewer items of greater quality which are made in the US, than many items of a lesser quality ...manufactured in China or India or wherever.

Cranky Yankee said...

Buying U.S. isn’t always practical and there is often a premium, but it’s invariably my first choice.

Last fall, Brooks had a Made-to-Measure Event. I used my corporate discount on top of the sale price to rationalize (key word) a Harris Tweed three-button sack. It was a good way to get the cut I wanted and I’m happy to have a label that says “Made in U.S.A. of Imported Fabric”, but it still wasn’t cheap.

So, yes, my label preference is ‘Made in USA’, 'Made in UK’ (particularly shoes, sweaters and ties), ‘Made in Canada’.... Anything else makes me cranky.

P.S. Thank heaven for J. Press.

Matt said...

I agree with Jason that quality is more important than label, but the two factors are connected. Most clothes made in the USA are high quality and most made in China are low quality, for the obvious reason that companies that outsource to save money on labor are likely to use poor material and construction to save money there as well.

For me, the issue is not USA versus China, but high-quality clothes and better working conditions versus low-quality clothes and worse working conditions. So, while I avoid clothes from China, I do not necessarily favor USA garments over those made in Canada, England, France, etc.

In the case of Brooks Brothers, however, most of their clothes seem to be made in Malaysia or Sri Lanka, and I don't know much about what's going on in those places. I do know, however, that these garments are typically non-iron, so I wouldn't buy them anyway, even if they were made from organic cotton, woven at a workers' collective in Shropshire, and sewn together by hand by fifth generation tailors!

Anonymous said...

Well, here's the problem... most people who frequent this blog can afford to pay more for quality items. How many times have people made the statement that they are willing to pay more for high-quality items?

But I'm the first to admit that that is a huge luxury, and we're in the minority. Sure, there's always the reasoning that "a $600 handbag will last forever and in the end may cost less than buying a stream of $50 handbags." Very, very true. BUT, sometimes someone just needs a handbag (or whatever) ASAP. For some people, it would take MONTHS (or longer!) to save up for that $600 handbag. Maybe a handbag is not the best example, but think of other more essential clothing items. The vast majority of people don't have the luxury to pay more for quality.

To look at this from a totally different perspective, though... I tend to evaluate foreign-made items in the same way I evaluate organic produce. There are some items for which organic is always best, and safest. There are other items for which the experts say, "don't waste your money." It's the same thing with consumer goods. That TV made in Japan is extremely high-quality and top of the line. But these shoes made in El Salvador fell apart in a matter of weeks.

Some foreign-made goods are better than their US counterparts, while others are not. I love the US but I also love other countries and cultures and don't believe in American "exceptionalism," which I believe often underlies fervor with which some people talk about buying American-made products. (What's wrong with clothing made in, say, France? Italy? These are centers of fashion.) American products are not necessarily superior. So, for me, any fierce interest in buying American has to do with an interest in keeping Americans employed.

FLW said...

Made in the USA is very important to me for my decisions. Unless I am paying thrift store/church bazaar prices for something of limited use, I will seek out the American goods.

I also believe that it can illustrate a retailer's taste level and the commitment of a manufacturer to its customers. Some things, like suits, I understand why a company cannot make in the US. It puts the price over $1000 usually and outpaces their clientele. Ties, belts, etc. do not face this issue, however. Those can be made stateside and sold at reasonable prices. If a store or manufacturer sources those from China, they just are not trying hard enough.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. I always prefer made in the U.S. Lets keeps the jobs at home. Buying U.S. made is real patriotism. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit cynical about the made in the US, craft manufacturing movement. I'm all for buying US made products but at times it feels as if the premium charged has almost nothing to do with higher labor/material costs and everything to do with maximizing profits. Take a KJP bracelet (BTW, I'm a fan and have bought a number of their products), the labor and materials can't be more than $3. Now KJP has every right to charge what the market will bear but @ a retail price point of $40 that's a pretty hefty margin. Heck, it's still a great margin at his wholesale pricing to retailers (I'll assume it's in the neighborhood of $20). And let's be serious, those incremental profits are going into the pockets of the owners, not the worker making $15/hr. So sure, buying a KJP bracelet will help keep a dozen or so low wage jobs in this country but the vast majority of the economic benefit is reaped by the owners....not the workers. If it makes you feel good, go ahead and support these companies. But at times I feel that they take advantage of knee-jerk patriotism to line their own pockets.

And lastly I'd just like to thank Muffy for this blog....you do a wonderful job and i find myself looking forward to your posts each day.

Megs said...

I am always looking for the "Made in USA" label, and it influences what I buy. Especially now, that label usually means hand-crafted with some pride, and having good quality. The cost is intially more, but I have found that I would rather spend more on something that I will love/wear for years.
Someone mentioned the prohibitive cost. I have been picking up really good pieces at vintage shops and on ebay. Washing/dry cleaning the items makes it new to me!

Anonymous said...

I realize this Made in USA topic is about clothing,,,,but just out of curiosity, how many of you drive a foreign car?

I look for quality. Whoever builds the best product that is priced competively gets my dollars.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @5:10 makes a great point.

One other thing which drives me crazy is when profit-driven companies exploit the desire a certain set of consumer has to be "virtuous." I'm not sure that KJP and the like are intentionally exploiting the "Made in the USA" label in order to profit(perhaps a happy accident and now part of their marketing) but others do, just as MANY companies exploit the "green movement." Companies put a HUGE markup on things like hand-made reusable shopping bags (which are now such a trend that people have so many they're actually kind of disposable and not so green) and products made with "sustainably sourced" wood, etc.. Similarly some companies use the fact that they use local (foreign) labor at fair wages, or contribute part of their profits to charity, in order to sell items at giant profit margins. (One company was selling really basic women's shirts for about $300. Paying an American a "fair wage" wouldn't result in a shirt costing anywhere near that much to make, and the laborers were in South America, where a fair wage is much less. People reading a blog post about the company were fawning all over it, saying how incredibly wonderful it is, what a good, selfless cause, etc..)

At base, these "virtuous" companies are profit-driven capitalist companies, using the latest liberal movements as marketing ploys. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but nobody ever talks about it and it seems most people are totally taken in.

Jack said...

I strongly prefer Made in China.

cpd said...

I prefer Made in USA when it is not prohibitively expensive.

However there are many great European brands out there as well whose products I love.

If given a choice between a polo made in USA and one made in China, depending on the price and fabric it would be a tough call. If the fabric is the same does it matter whether it was stitched by a machine in Newport or Shanghai - both machine stitches, both same fabric...

Greenfield said...

For me the issue is quality. I have in the past year or two taken to buying judiciously in thrift shops and on e-Bay in order to get the vintage Real McCoy. As everyone here has said, many of our favorite iconic brands have outsourced both materials and labor--and it shows up in the product, which is differentiated from something you'd find at Old Navy or Kohl's only by the label.

"Made In America" is a bonus for me; ditto from Canada or anywhere in Europe. I've yet to see anything loomed in China that can compare to an old Dale sweater, or a Harris tweed.

Anonymous said...

I prefer made in the USA. With that said, I will also buy well British clothing I.e. Crysalis, Barbour etc. I also buy quality German wool coats and sweaters. Vintage Pendleton is also nice. What a shame that Ralph and Brooks have gone so Chinese. I love Quoddy. Jane

Anonymous said...

Of course purchasing anything "Made in the USA" is something we all want to do, but others here have made several good points.

I refer to Anonymous 5:10 p.m. who I agree with 100%. I would love to purchase items of clothing "Made in the USA," but when the price of an item is cheaper if it's "Made in China" and is of similar quality, I'll "buy China" every time.

Last year I bought a Barbour Liddesdale from a well known clothing company that I won't name. Their website advertised "Made in Great Britain." Well, the tag on the inside clearly states "Made in Indonesia." I contacted the company, and they thanked me for notifying them, but never changed the "Made in Great Britain" on their website. It's a great jacket, and I love it, but I know I paid for the name Barbour and not for what the jacket is. Sure it looks nice, but I could have got a knock-off for the same quality much less somewhere else, but I wanted the name brand.

How often is, in this case, the name brand better than the knock-off? I imagine each item is different, and there certainly are better items worth spending the money on, but how far do we go? Is it really worth spending the money when you spend it for the brand and not the quality, when most "preppy" people will rip the tag off so nobody knows who made it?

Anonymous said...

MAde in USA is something I SEARCH for

Casey said...

Ah, the good ole days when Coach was Made in the USA! I have a couple of those bags.

I mildly prefer Made in the USA, but only because it's so hard to find them. And sometimes I can't afford them.

I recently bought some work clothes from Land's End and LL Bean, and I just checked their labels. They were made in China, Jordan, and Cambodia.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer to support American made products, but on average, I do not go out of my way to seek them out. Often it comes down to cost and convenience.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Made in China because the quality is exactly the same as Madebin USA, but the price is always better. Patriotism is not the point: Either we support sweatshop workers in China or illegal immigrants in the States.

Anonymous said...

I strongly prefer made in the USA, but we don't have many choices left. I'm so grateful that I've taken good care of my beautiful clothing over the years because what I have "preserved" and stored away was made in the USA.

WRJ said...

I prefer products that are made in the US, but not "strongly." I'm thrilled that I can get a made in USA Brooks OCBD at a reasonable price, and I've been seeking out domestic products for years. But I will require some explanation as to, for just one example, why Lotuff charges over $1K for a simple briefcase. Yes, yes, it'll last a lifetime (you hope), and if I had a money tree--well, sure. But it seems to me that it can't be true that that's what it costs to build a good quality leather bag here in the US. And if it is, that's a little scary. It means quality goods are not obtainable for the vast, vast majority of Americans when produced here at home.

Additionally, I'm happy with some Asian-produced items. PRL in particular manages to consistently manufacture long-lasting, high-quality clothing in China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in Asia. I can't remember ever having had a quality issue (as I, alas, had recently with a BB US-made OCBD).

In all, I'm willing to pay more for something produced domestically and prefer US to overseas production, because I hope the quality is better and it feels good. But at some point it starts to feel like highway robbery and a trend. And as a result inauthentic.

Anonymous said...

I of course prefer usa made products. Most of the people including myself prefer usa made products, believing they are good qualities. But, I wonder if made in usa label really garantees that they are all good qualities today.

Anonymous said...

Although not so preppy, a classic trench coat is, well, classic. A few years back I purchased a classic London Fog trench coat at Macy's after trying it on, but not scrutinizing the label or workmanship. (My fault.) I was happy to get the "name brand" for about $100 - a steal for a nice lined rain coat with traditional lines.

Well... it's made in China. My mother had a very similar trench and the workmanship was superb. This trench had very obvious stitching, with far fewer stitches per inch than a quality garment should have. Threads are hanging off and coming undone rather than being back-stitched to ensure the stitching would not unravel.

I don't think London Fog has ever been a high-end brand, but it used to be a solid American brand with high-quality pieces. Apparently the company was sold in 2006, and I would guess manufacturing was outsourced earlier than that.

For me it all comes down to quality. I wouldn't care if my raincoat were made in China if the quality were still there. Unfortunately, this experience really drove home a feeling of "phoniness" - is this really any different from going to Downtown Crossing in Boston and buying a counterfeit purse, sunglasses, scarf, or whatever? The only difference seems to be that this "counterfeiting" is officially sanctioned by London Fog. It is the old product in name only.

Anonymous said...

Strongly prefer American made!!!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment regarding the photos of labels -

A lot of companies now include on their labels the general address of their headquarters, and this doesn't indicate the place of manufacture. I recently made a trip to Freeport to stock up on some L.L. Bean items, and I noted that some of the labels say, "Freeport, Maine." But elsewhere, the garment indicates it is foreign-made. So if it matters to you, be careful to look for MADE IN USA, not just a city name or "USA."

And, I'm interested in what people think of, say, Eliza B's needlepoint being made in Haiti (as she herself has said) and the articles passed off as Made in the USA. Does it matter? It seems like when it comes to clothing other than shoes, the quality often breaks down when it comes to how the pieces are sewn together. Foreign-made fabric and the like are often of perfectly good quality, turned low-quality by low-quality craftsmanship of the actual garment. (Leather is often another story.)

Anonymous said...

I prefer made in America when I can find it and when I can afford it. You know what really irks me? When a companys moves their business over seas and charge the same price! We all know that wages in China are not as high as in the U.S., so why do Nike tennis shoes cost so much (BTW, I worked at a company that did the shipping for Nike, most of their shoes are declared as being worth $2 - $5 a pair). Greedy, greedy. Hunter Wellies are now made in China, same price as when they were made in Scotland. Uggs are now made in China and cost the same as when they were made in Australia... the list goes on. That is why I do not like made in China items. It is usually the company being greedy. People may knock Walmart, but at least if I buy something made in China from them the price truly reflects how much it cost the company to make. To me that makes the evil Walmart at least a little more honest than most of the big expensive designer brands.

Kionon said...

I strongly prefer Made in USA, but I am a realist. I have price points for given countries I will not cross, and I also have a ranking. China is dead last. US and Europe are on top.

One thing to be very concerned about- Saipan is allowed to use Made in USA but has appalling conditions and low wages. Do the research to find out what part of "America" a garment was made in.

Anonymous said...

The Saipan "Made in USA" label is factually correct for garments made by certain US companies prior to 2009. In 2009, the last garment factor closed-partly due to controversy over working conditions and partly due to newly imposed minimum wage laws.

See http://www.saipanfactorygirl.com/facts/

I strongly, strongly prefer made in USA and will go out of my way to buy USA made products and pay the related premium. I just buy fewer things and have less clutter, fewer things I give away later with the tag still dangling from the "made in china" label.

I will buy some products made in the USA of imported fabric as a gesture of shameful compromise.

Samantha said...

Interesting discussion. I think Anonymous @ 3:26 yesterday said it better than I could. As well, I don't always have the financial freedom to hold out for non-sweatshop quality, but I'm trying.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, some of the essentials have origins that go back to other countries; something that immediately comes to mind is Madras.
Produced by Indian craftsmen and based on Scottish tartan, I would imagine that the most authentic Madras fabric would come from Chennai (formerly Madras)in South India.
I would say that it's the quality of the product that matters the most, instead of the label and where it is made.
Moreover, some countries just have a strong tradition of producing textiles- China and its silk, Egypt and India and their cotton. I see no shame in purchasing items made of these imported fabrics.

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier post by WRJ. It is obvious that the finishing of products made in the USA are superior. However, I believe China to be a poor contrast for a country of production.

For PRL, shirts made in China/HK are noticeably much better finishing than those made in the Philippines.

Anonymous said...

Yes. It matters, absolutely. USA or Europe always.

My primary concern is health - the health of workers, the environment, and the consumer.

For what it's worth, I used to live in China. Now I don't even buy Chinese tea, and a part of me wishes I hadn't spent such a long time there.

The rivers are polluted, the air is polluted, the soil is polluted, the cities are polluted, and foreign corporations are also part of this unfortunate state of affairs.

Ryan Lee Waldron said...

I strongly prefer made in the U.S.A., but a well made product from outside the US does not have a stigma on it in my eyes. I will admit though, I do prefer to purchase products made in places like Malaysia over products made in China.

Squeeze said...

At J. Press. Made in England, was an island of quality unto itself.

C said...

I like to buy vintage & secondhand as often as possible. Most of the new clothes I find & want are manufactured abroad, so buying secondhand makes me feel as if I'm contributing less to the demand for slave labor and to the eventual decline of the manufacturing cities/villages involved.

Plus, you can't beat mint-condition Saks 5th Ave dresses for $10 at Goodwill.

Unknown said...

Strongly prefer USA made. I know that the quality may not be better, but I'd like to think it means a little something. When I worked in the clothing business several years ago, the best shirts were made on special looms in Japan, the next tier down was US made. Now the US made is mostly gone (except for too-precious throw-back chambrays and Mercer shirts. Even the top notchJapanese shirts are gone. All others from all over, not just China.
I find it has farm more to do with paying a fair price and getting consistent sizing when buying US made. Made somewhere else seems like a rip-off and who knows when it'll be able to be replaced?

Bill Smith said...

I think it's not so much the geographic location where the product is made, it's the build quality. In this case if to pick on LL Bean for a moment decides they want to hit a certain margin while maintaining a certain retail price, they will impart this to their third party vendor.

Reality is that third party vendor even if they are in Asia, could very well make that garment the exact same quality as the made in USA counter part BUT they have to be instructed to do so.

Catherine Hathaway said...

I won't pretend I don't buy things that aren't made in the US. But I prefer them to be U.S. made and it makes a difference when choosing between products.

Gordo said...

I strongly prefer made in the USA. However, I have to agree that some items at the high-end are best made in Europe.

Craig Sevde said...

I think we all would prefer the old mills that produced so much of the items we love. However, the dynamics of the apparel industry have changed over the years.
It would near impossible to bring it all back.
However, companies like RL Polo at least go the extra mile in the materials they specify and the oversight to sustain a standard of quality. My two cents!

BlueTrain said...

I had an on-line exchange about American made versus Chinese made products the other day. I pointed out that the imported product was precisely equal in quality to the American (San Francisco) made product. However, upon examining the label, I realized the imported product was from Haiti.

It's a difficult call. It isn't entirely a case of being imported (L.L.Bean proudly lists products from Britain and a few other places (including the U.S.)--other products are merely "imported." It's hard to honestly do a label-blind test, especially if you're buying on-line or through the mail. Unfortunately, being made in the U.S. is no guarantee of fine quality. If everything were made here, some things would be cheap and shoddy, others things very fine and most things just mediocre.

I love most Filson products, wherever they're made. They're on the other side of the country and, in a sense, where I live, it is imported. In their catalog, there are photos of their workshop (hate to call it a factory). The worker shown at a sewing machine was Asian.

There are other things, too. Just because a fine product was made in the U.S., it doesn't follow that the factory is not a sweatshop no more than a farm growning organic produce is a better place for a farm worker.

Tina said...

All I can say is it is worth saving the extra pennies to purchase something made in the USA! And, I'm sorry that premium is worthy of my hard earned dollars because I'm American born, bred, and work in a uniquely American institution - public education. I make a humble income but will always prefer to put my money back in American made.

j.mosby said...

Like England when it comes to garments we have to project to the rest of the world that American made also screams QUALITY!

Anonymous said...

I just looked and found that my Burberry jacket purchased from the Burberry shop on Newbury St., Boston, is made in Turkey. The price does not reflect cheap labor.

Sartre said...

I've always preferred a classic American style, and those companies who catered to that style were mostly made-in-the-USA; so it is a subject that in the past I rarely considered. Now, of course, times have changed. I find myself on the one hand pleased to support made-in-the-USA brands but on the other hand a realist that we live in a flat world and a global economy. I am thrilled that David Mercer makes the kind of shirts I prefer; but if he shipped his manufacturing to China I would continue to support his company, because I am not making a value judgment but rather a utilitarian (and aesthetic) one.

What annoys me is the kind of comment left by "binker" on July 24 at 3:51 pm – that company heads "want to take in huge profits at the expense of unemployment," fob off "poorer quality items," and "don't care about employees or consumers." What is not explained is how these companies grow and prosper by ignoring consumers and churning out dreck. While some firms of course lose their way, most are obsessive about meeting and even anticipating customer needs. Inevitably, companies get big and turn from meeting specialist needs to serving the masses, but this gives other smaller firms the chance to jump in and serve the niches that others have left behind.

The notion that companies ship jobs overseas and skimp on materials costs in order to churn out "huge profits" is amateurish. Companies reduce costs to stay more competitive, because, despite a few here who said they would willingly pay more for made-in-the-USA, most consumers in most markets are price sensitive. While it's hard as an individual to see the impact that haggling for a lower price on a car can have on the overall industry, writ large this behavior forces prices downward and manufacturers to search for ways to reduce costs. One individual here left a comment that "I have in the past year or two taken to buying judiciously in thrift shops and on e-Bay in order to get the vintage Real McCoy." What do you think that's doing for American manufacturing?

CMDSteiner said...

I strongly prefer "Made in USA".

I try to avoid "made in China" when I can because I know that the men, women, and children making those garments are many times enslaved. This goes for many of the workers producing garments in non-developed or developing states. I lead a campus organization trying to phase sweatshop goods out of the frats, sororities, clubs, and athletics at the College of William and Mary. I know that a developed state with an intact judicial system and respected human rights laws will be a much safer bet to avoid slave made products (example, USA, UK, France, Italy). Unfortunately, the most main stream USA made brand among my age group, American Apparel, can churn out some real garbage when it comes to quality. So, to conclude...

I buy USA for moral reasons (avoid supporting slave labor, boost US manufacturing, etc) with the hope that I get quality in return.

Anonymous said...

I think some people here who think they make "humble" income do not understand real poverty. Some people CANNOT save their pennies to pay a premium. A lot of college-educated people who work in traditionally lower-paid professions such as teaching and social work think of low wage earners, but there are people who would kill to make $30,000 or $40,000 a year.

(I'm not making a political statement here or evaluating the reasons someone may be in poverty, whether it's their fault or not... simply stating the reality of many people.)

Anonymous said...

American Apparel is also known to use sweatshops in Los Angeles... in fact one of the most prominent companies known to do so.

Tina said...

Please do not think I'm beginning a word war by commenting on the "Anonymous" post regarding my statement about being a teacher who makes in the range this individual did state. However, I need to say this...I'm a single parent of two with one going to college on that low, professionally educated salary. And, that salary comes to me as the highest one I have made in the past 19 years of being within the profession. We are frugal and we don't pander to having everything at the cost of something that will last. No, I'm not poverty-stricken. However, you have no idea how close to receiving benefits from government I am for the income I receive in the area of the country where I am raising my family on that sole income. I just choose to make purchases that will last and am not repelled by the notion of buying "made in the USA" goods that are sold in resale, thrift, and Goodwill stores. Part of the reason there is so much poverty is because there aren't any factor jobs here anymore. I will not succumb to having to have substandard products that are made overseas just because it is cheaper to buy that. I will and do go without what isn't necessary all of the time to avoid buying junk made elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I own seven Diane von Furstenberg dresses made within the past decade-- four were made in USA, three were made in China. I can't actually tell the difference in quality, either in materials or in construction, and paid similarly for all of them. I think it would be silly for me to claim that the American made ones were somehow superior garments.

If you look at her clothes in a shop, items are made domestically and internationally every season. Seriously, next time you're in a good dept store, go take a look at some labels.

My point is, I think DVF must have better quality control and/or a better factory than other manufacturers do for their Chinese-made clothes.

It is of course much nicer to buy domestic for environmental and economic reasons. I have assumed DVF just cannot get enough capacity for 100% domestic production.

And before anyone criticizes this, the DVF wrap dress is an American classic! Though not exactly prep per se, it is not entirely out of bounds, is it? A girl's gotta wear something to the office!

BlueTrain said...

There is so much irony here! Not in the comments made but in the facts of life of industrial production. For instance, New Englanders should be keenly aware of jobs moving to other places. They don't have to go overseas; they just have to go elsewhere. The mills moved south from New England decades ago.

Another thing to note is that some of the products often mentioned here, including Filson, which I mention now and again, are from small companies and companies that are highly specialized. Filson's factory and store are in a building down by the railroad tracks. The building is smaller than the one I work in and it's just us here. They've outsourced some products they never previously offered and now have a greatly expanded line. Filson is not exactly widely available and I doubt they ever expect to be. It's almost a niche market.

Someone mentioned quality control. That's probably a secret of the success of a lot of products, particularly those with moving parts. It almost doesn't matter who makes them or where it's made, provided the quality control is there (if it's supposed to be a quality product). It is said that the Mercedes is a Turkish car that just happens to be made in Germany. My Volvo was made in the Netherlands but I don't know who made it. Our other two were made in Sweden, possibly by Swedes.

Sometimes there is confusion with style and fashion, which change, either inevitably or regrettably. While we may long for the classic Ivy League (as the term was in the 1950s and 1960s) or collegiate styles we wore when we started college, I wonder if there were those at the time who missed knickerbockers, detachable collars, garters to hold up your socks and---hats. Hats for everyone!

This is the season for straw hats, you know.

The Viceroy said...

Are there not a few coutries of origin missing on this list? I would in most instances prefer "Made in England", often "Made in Italy" and sometimes even "Made in France" or "Made in Spain" over your two options.

But then I am from the other side of the Atlantic...

dE

Parnassus said...

This is definitely a loaded question. There are two aspects to it--the Quality aspect and the moral/political aspect. As a rule, I prefer Made in U.S., but now it seems I am in a series of temporary situations, and often find myself opting for what is cheaper or more expedient.
--Road to Parnassus

BlueTrain said...

So far, all my situations have been temporary.

R.A. Sasayama said...

I strongly prefer Made in USA, but Made in UK, Japan, Italy, Belgium, and Germany are also acceptable, as are some exceptions, like madras garments made in India, or alpaca sweaters made in Peru.

Farrah said...

Can someone make a list of stores that carry American made quality goods? That would indeed be most helpful.

Juli said...

Sad news about Vermont Originals; I wanted to order my mate a Cornell hat (his alma mater), but sadly the site is closed. I managed to find this little snippet of information online;

Vermont Originals was founded in 1971, by Wendell Earle, a business professor from Cornell, and one of his students, Bruce Krisiak, as a case history for the Cornell Business School.??At first Vermont Originals sold ski hats only to shops in New England.

KTP said...

Dear Mrs. Aldrich,

'made in the USA - does it matter to you?'

Absolutely it matters! Many of the brand labels you featured (as images) in the closing part of this post have items made in the US (for now) and some (not all) have chosen to produce other items off shore.

When they do this the effect it has is not linear, but steeply progressive. Or regressive I suppose depending on your POV.

I go out of my way to buy soft goods from US based companies, who produce most of their products here. When that's not possible (see: Bros, Brooks e.g.) if i can find another business which has not yet off shored production I'll shift my dollars there.

I don't buy on price, at all. I shop first and foremost for quality - in design, materials and construction. And at times this has led me to buy goods produced in England, France and Germany, among others. However, if at possible I will NOT buy goods produced in '3rd world' (i.e. developing) countries.

While my #1 reason is the desire to keep jobs here in the US, the 2nd is to remove the motivation to offshore jobs (and radically boost the profit margin) by greedy companies. Ethics mater.

Regards

KTP

Anonymous said...

I prefer to buy handmade items, no matter what country they come from. I see no reason to add to corporation's bottom line. I get better quality pieces from friends all over the globe who are supporting their families and the money goes directly to them! I take offense at KJP's statement that he never buys from third world countries. It is very snobbish of him to keep his cash where only the wealthy shop!

Anonymous said...

This should also go for food-- coffee, rice, sugar-- if we're not buying from third world countries, then shouldn't we ethically give up these imported food items? We spend more money on these than we do on clothing!

Tony (College Trad) said...

Of course I prefer Made in USA (Canada, UK, France, etc.), but tbh my made in China (Thailand, Malaysia, etc) clothing has held up decently. I prefer my more expensive clothing to be made in USA while I don't care as much for my "regular" stuff

Kelly said...

Happy to see your post on this! I take pride in being 100% Made in Maine with my business, and proud to support my fellow Maine business with the creation of my products. Glad to see LOCAL is making a come back!:)

BlueTrain said...

There are some perplexing and troubling issues here. Is it more ethical to buy something from Germany than China--or Haiti? Is it better to buy an American owned but imported product than a foreign owned but domestically made product? I live in Virginia; is buying something from Maine buying locally? If I am travelling overseas, do I escape these problems and can purchase things guilt-free?

I understand more Buicks are sold in China than in the United States these days. Do you suppose that's true?

Anonymous said...

I prefer well-made secondhand clothing. Yvon Chouinard says he doesn't know why everyone doesn't buy secondhand, given the sheer number of items already available in the world. I paraphrase from his book (http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=4626), an interesting look inside the clothing industry.

Susan R said...

Does it matter? Oh, you bet it does.

Susan R said...

@ Anonymous July 24th 5:10....I'm a big fan of KJP myself, but your comment is spot on.
I feel the same way about Stephen Bonanno sandals which I absolutely love, but there is no way they are paying their labor force close to what I'm paying for a pair of their sandals.
Just sayin'.

Karen Alstadt said...

I strongly favor things made in the USA. I used to run a small stainless steel manufacturing firm and by small I mean 4 employees. I hired U.S. veterans and paid full benefits including dental. I was paid a very modest salary. We made a good quality product which is still in production. I was always amazed that people didn't pay attention to where something we made until it broke and they had to buy another one. I had people calling for parts for 40 year old products because we made them right and they lasted. BUY American! Pay a fair wage and benefits! Respect people, that work with their hands and create value.

BlueTrain said...

Here's yet another angle on the situation.

Imagine for a moment a world in which everything sold here were made here, right in the U.S. of A. Do you imagine that everything would be of high or even "good" quality?

There is a market, you know, for cheap goods, either hard, soft or second-hand. It's probably a large market, too.

Chris from New Hampshire said...

Hi BlueTrain,

I agree that the issue of global competition is a complex one. As Muffy and others have noted, the problem comes when companies with a loyal customer base (L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren) outsource to a low cost provider, while not lowering prices correspondingly, while letting quality slip significantly, while putting more money into PR and doing other activities to highlight they Americaness (or Britishness, or...) of the brand. The strategy is a terrible one for shareholders and employees and customers, but a good one for a current management team looking for a big win. Management teams talk about global competitiveness as a rationale because that gives them a pass in most people's eyes, while they are paying out bigger and bigger compensation strategies to the core team. They do it, bluntly, because they can do it. Nothing is as profitable as cashing in on a brand, wherever the cheaper production is done. The complicity of customers not demanding high quality (and in some cases, local production) enables this short-term strategy. Conversations such as this one, with customers catching on, is L.L. Bean's immediate worst nightmare. Finally, Walmart is doing really well in the cheap goods market. L.L. Bean and Ralph Lauren will soon be competing with Walmart in their race-to-the-bottom strategy, which is L.L. Bean's long term worst nightmare.

BlueTrain said...

You are probably entirely correct, Chris (from New Hampshire), in your estimation of companies' flawed, short-term strategy. Something of this sort has been going on for probably more than 20 years, too. I think an often overlooked reason for the way a lot of smaller producers and retailers have changed and lost their uniqueness is that the original founders have gone.

A lot of well-known companies such as L.L.Bean and Eddie Bauer started out making innovative products. Eddie Bauer made down filled clothing and sleeping bags. There are other companies, here I'm think mainly of the outdoor types, with similiar stories. By and by the founder passes on and the company goes through a crisis. Sometimes they evolve into a company with little connection to its origins, like Abercrombie & Fitch. I don't have any answer by any means but companies, once they go public especially, are under a lot of pressure to both grow and to return a profit. That pressure is absent in small, privately-owned companies, which is not to say there are no pressures.

That's a simplified version, of course. I left out a lot but no one had mentioned the ownership element. You know, if you call up Johnson Woolen Mills, you're very like to speak to the owner.

Erin said...

I strongly prefer things made in the USA. They are so difficult to find, however, at an affordable price. We were hit very hard by the recession, during which my Mr. lost his job and we burned through our savings. He decided to become a stay-at-home parent (rather than taking a quick, low-paying job that would have just covered day care) and fell in love with it, but that's a different story.

Anyway, through a series of promotions I earned at work, we're just now to the point that we can begin building our savings again and have room for a clothing budget. During the worst part of our crisis though, it really became a matter of compromising our principles for the $7 clearance shoes, regardless of their origin, because going barefoot wasn't an option.

On the other hand, I have no problem buying products that come from places like Canada, Europe, and Australia because they use fair labor practices. I try very hard not to support companies that use sweat shops, even if (now that our crisis has passed) it means delaying a purchase.

The real bottom line is quality. It's a waste to buy a poorly-made product of low-quality materials, regardless of the price. I have not shopped at a certain store since 2003, after having two different pairs of shoes from there fall apart the second time I wore them.

The Single Nester said...

Amen to MADE in the USA!

Kat said...

To me this question missed the point. Or at least the options provided didn't work for me. Ever since I read an article on how (oftentimes exploited) Chinese immigrants in Tuscany in the Florence area work in many shoe and clothing factories there and get far lower than minimum wage, but the product still receives "Made in Italy" and similar articles about exploitation of (often undocumented) Latino and Chinese garment workers in the US, yet the label still says "Made in USA"... what I care about are the conditions as well. Not just the location. If the label says "Made in USA" or "Made in Italy"... that doesn't tell me anything.

Anonymous said...

You're damned right it matters. But the biggest problem is that almost everything I find in stores is made in China. I tried to buy a handheld shower sprayer yesterday and although I could find about 15 different ones locally, every single one was made in China. Try buying a brake rotor for your car. Every single one that the local parts store can supply will be made in China.