Makin' a List. Checkin' It Twice.
Call it a hunch. Well, a hunch based on the past two years seeking products made in the USA. Especially shoes, which are 98% imported--seems more like 99.9% to me, but apparently America still manufactures 2% of its shoes. So I'm flipping through L.L. Bean's Holiday 2012 catalogue on a frosty morning a couple of days ago when I spot Wicked Good Moccasins ($69). From the description:
Here in Maine, "wicked good" is as good as you can get. When you slip into these soft shearling slippers, you'll understand exactly how they earned their name.
The phrase "here in Maine" made me picture folks hard at work at an L.L. Bean factory in Freeport, Maine, making those furry moccasin style slippers. But further down in the description it says "Imported (fur)." In other words: Look, picky American consumer, we admit these slippers are made of imported fur, but other than that we make them right here, in Maine. And we say things like "wicked good."
I called L.L. Bean's 800 number, asked whether the moccasin-slippers on page 6 were made in the USA. I practically laughed as I asked it. The friendly rep didn't miss a beat: "They're made right here in Maine, ma'am."
Say what? No way.
"Are you sure?" I asked, not wanting to sound skeptical but sounding that way nonetheless. I'm from California. I'm wicked incredulous.
"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure. They're made right here."
I again visualized busy shoemakers (this time dressed as elves), inches from her phone, whistling as they worked. The Disney version of a factory job. I didn't have time to place an order, but promised to call back, which I did today. Different friendly sales operator (FSO), of course.
FSO: Hello, this is L.L. Bean. How can I help you?
Me: Hi, I'm interested in the slippers on page 6. They look like moccasins. But they're slippers.
FSO: Would those be the Wicked Good Slippers?
Me: They would. They be. I mean yes, can you tell me where they're made? The fur's imported, I know, but are they assembled in Maine?
FSO: I'll check...let's see. No, they're made in China. The fur's from Australia. They must send it to China. Yes, they're made in China.
Me (sighing audibly): Thanks anyway.
Like I said. A hunch. A wicked good hunch. Let's chalk it up to a teachable moment: I was going to feature L.L. Bean's Wicked Good Moccasins / Slippers on CAMJ's Twelve Days of Christmas, but they ended up on the naughty list. The lesson? Make your list, check those labels twice (make Santa proud). Then find a company that's nice, like Wooly Rascals. From the website:
Natural sheepskin products, handcrafted with pride in South San Francisco, California. Wooly Rascals is a privately owned company that has been selling the best quality sheepskin and leather products to the public since February 14, 1984. Our workshop is located in South San Francisco, California ...
We prefer to use Australian Merino lambskin for our footwear... For our hats, gloves and other accessories, we mostly choose to use Spanish lambskin...We also use domestic sheepskin from time to time.
We thrive on repeat and referred customers. In our book, one unhappy customer is too many, and we will do almost anything in our power to satisfy a reasonable customer...We believe if you listen to your customers they will steer you the right way.
In my opinion, this company sounds outstanding (which is even better than wicked good). All products are readily available online. Here's the cozy pair of slipper-moccasins I'm going to order for you-know-who (the guy in the CAMJ t-shirt):
That's it for Day Three of CAMJ's Twelve Days of Christmas, American Style! Go forth, read labels and purchase American-made slippers. Your feet (and your country) will thank you.