Nothing Says Levi's Like Singapore

For the past couple of days it's been dark, dreary and rainy here in the San Francisco Bay Area. At one point yesterday--as Don watched basketball on TV and I made a big pot of Market Classics Bistro Style {Made in the USA} Lentil Soup--the sky turned blackish-grey, opened up and dumped hail stones in an angry barrage. March Madness indeed.

And then this morning, the madness continued. More dark clouds, more rain, and a humongous, Singapore-sponsored ad in my print edition of the Wall Street Journal. I'm not complaining about newspaper advertising per se. Nowadays, with the majority of people reading news online, paper editions are struggling. Big ads mean big revenues. If you're like me, and find an online version a poor substitute for a daily paper, you want print journalism to survive. But now that I've become a cheerleader for the Buy-USA movement, this particular ad's content wasn't anything to celebrate.

Measuring a full 7" x 14", the "Talent Capital Singapore" ad on page A10 edged out Obama's Brazilian trip and Haiti's Sunday elections. Along the top, in bold red letters against a black background it says: When it comes to business and leadership, it's all about finding the right fit. A pleasant-looking guy in a denim shirt and jeans is the ad's centerpiece. The small white print in the lower left hand corner identifies him as "Aaron Boey, Executive Vice-President, Levi Strauss & Co. President, Global Denizen brand." Mr. Boey smiles not into the camera but upward, as if to say The sky's the limit thanks to Levi Strauss & Co & the island of Singapore. I can't believe how much money LS &Co is paying me to live and work here. Just above his name, in larger white letters, the contented Mr. Boey is quoted: "Having worked in various parts of Asia Pacific, I can safely say that Singapore is one of the very few places where opportunity and efficiency complement each other so seamlessly."

I wanted to be happy for the wonders of globalization and for Mr. Boey, Levis Strauss & Co and the island nation of Singapore. But in light of our own country's current trade deficit and high unemployment problems, I instead found my neck tensing. And what the heck was a "Global Denizen brand"?

The levistrauss.com website explains that its dENiZEN brand was created by Levi Strauss & Co "as a global jeans brand for a new generation." As such, it is meant to do for "the new global citizen" what the Levi Strauss & Co once did for the pioneering American West, "supplying jeans and other essentials for the on-the-go, engaged life." I guess this means as opposed to the has-been, no longer on-the-go or engaged American way of life. Yes, Levis is exploring new frontiers. See ya, America.

The name dENiZEN, Levis explains, "means 'inhabitant': living in a place, living on earth, just being. Denim is in the name, the heart of the brand. And dENiZEN™ has another great meaning too: the idea of someone who frequents a particular place, the idea of belonging to a community of friends and family." The new brand is now available in China, Korea and Singapore.

None of the Madison Avenue-speak spouted above would bother me if Levi Strauss & Co would remain loyal to our country and manufacture here. Sure, LS & Co, go ahead and conquer other markets in China, Korea, and Singapore. Go ahead and outfit "the global citizen for a bright future." But don't forget your all-American roots. Don't forget who got you where you are in the first place. Don't forget this "community of friends and family" known as the United States of America. Don't forget to give jobs to those here in your own country who would love to work in your factories again. Ours is a country with a flag and borders and privileges. If you don't want to be a part of that, just pack up all your hoity-toity American executives and go away. Ride into the sunset, like the end of an American western. I for one am tired of the duplicity. Make it here. Sell it there. Period.

So just as I was about to write one long despairing rant, I happened to notice another ad in the same newspaper. This one's on page A-4. I missed it the first time around because it's so very small (3.5" x 1.5"). It has an aged white background. There's a photo of a single pair of rumbled-looking men's pants and the words "Bills Khakis" underneath. The company's website and phone number are in small print at the miniscule ad's bottom. Now maybe many of you are nodding your heads. Maybe you already know all about Bills Khakis. But for me, well, I love discovering yet another all-American company devoted to manufacturing here in the USA. And as I keep saying, there's always a story to those companies. When you make it here, the story stays here. When you make it over there, the story dies (or mutates into the convoluted American-but-not mess known as the dENiZEN brand witnessed above). Here's to an America alive with stories. Here's to khaki.

Coming up: Bills Khakis.