People don’t often look at where their clothes come from. We don’t often think about who made them. Our closets are full of garments made by people making less than a dollar an hour. Don’t let the price of those Nike sneakers throw you. They weren’t expensive to make. They are expensive because you will pay. The profits do not go to better working conditions. Just ask the workers who survived the Savar garment-factory collapse in Bangladesh. The factory that manufactured clothes for Walmart, among others, killed 1,129 people and injured 2,515 when it collapsed on April 24, 2013.
I’m one of those hippy-clone-activist-types. I actually care where my clothes come from and read labels. I’m also a cheapskate and like to wear clothes that look like rags to some. Blame Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain. I didn’t invent the fashion. I must look homeless at times because people are always trying to gift me clothes. My better half is always trying to get me to throw clothes out. She is astounded that I can remember where I got each piece of clothing and how old some of them are.
My Nirvana t-shirt from back when there still was Nirvana. My backpack from when I was a kid. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife or she’ll chuck them. New clothes stress me out. Worrying about staining them. Worrying about offending the people who bought them for me… “I just bought you that sweater and you changed your oil in it?!?” My old clothes fit, unlike many that are bought for me. With an 18 ½ neck and a 38 sleeve I can forget about buying off the rack in most stores. My shoe size is 12 ½ but they stopped making those when I was a kid. It’s more profitable to make fewer sizes. So I wear 13s. Pants fit, but I hate wearing pants. Don’t we all?
So as a human being with half a conscience how does my closet break down? I wanted to know, and I’m sure OB Rag readers are clamoring to know as well. So here it is. My wardrobe is 80% third-world manufactured. Still that 20% made in the first world put me miles ahead of most people who can’t find a single ‘Made in the USA’ garment in their collection. Although that label is often meaningless as the Marshall Islands are allowed to use it. A ‘presidential republic in free association with the US’ but without the labor laws. Sigh.
My closet contains close to 150 items of clothing from 25 countries. The #1 country? Yup you guessed it, Bangladesh. Twenty two items of my wardrobe were made in Bangladesh (15%). China , Mexico and Vietnam are right up there at 14%, 12% and 9%. India, Cambodia and Indonesia at 4% each. Honduras, Haiti and Pakistan at 3%. I have two pieces each from Thailand, Hong Kong, Egypt, and El Salvador. One each from Korea, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Nepal, Malaysia, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The last one I bought while I was in Costa Rica so that doesn’t count, nor does my traditional Nepalese shirt. That was hard to find, not many XXL Nepalese I guess.
That leaves 25 garments made in the USA and Canada. The majority are clothes made by Hempy’s. Hempy’s is a local company run by a former OBeeshun. A company 15 miles from Mexico that chooses to sew their garments here. My other ‘OB clothes’ are not made in the USA. My Seedless hoodies are from Mexico. My University of Ocean Beach t-shirts are from Honduras. My shell store t-shirt is from China. I have one Made in the USA garment each from LL Bean, American Apparel and Army Surplus. The rest are items handmade from wool.
Are the US/Canadian made the cheapest? No.
Are they worth the extra price? Surprisingly yes.
I was under the impression that I was just buying piece of mind. But when I looked at the US, Canadian, and Korean items I was looking at all my best-looking longest lasting clothes. Clothes that I would have worn out and replaced once or twice already if they were Chinese or Bangladeshi made. In the long run quality really is cheaper, even in clothing. Who knew?
My last Hempy’s wallet lasted me ten years. My Canadian made custom dress shirt is 15 years old, it still fits great, and looks good enough to get me jobs when I interview in it. Show me a shirt form China that can do that. My twenty year old Canadian made wool sweater looks as good as it did when I bought it. Nobody mistakes me for a bum when I wear those. Unlike my torn Pakistani hoodies and holy Bangladeshi gitch.
Gitch – Canadian slang for underwear.