Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree in American-Made Jeans

This blog began on December 31, 2010, with a silly-sounding name: China Ate My Jeans. The idea for the name came from my days as an elementary school teacher. Kids would come up with the most outrageous excuses for not turning in their homework. And yes, on more than one occasion, the family dog was named as the culprit.

Prior to my Dad's passing on November 28, 2010, the fact that my favorite Levi's or Chico's or Style & Co or Caslon jeans were made thousands of miles away under dubious conditions mattered not a whit. Those were the concerns of other people. You know the type. They volunteer for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) or for the Peace Corps or advocate in some admirable way for a worthwhile cause. That wasn't me.

But when I pulled out my Dad's writing shortly after his death, his concerns struck a nerve. Add to that an odd coincidence: On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, my final conversation with my Dad was about "Import Backlash," an expression he'd coined in the early 70s. In trying to take Dad's mind off his esophageal cancer by reminiscing about the past, I found myself intrigued. "What is made here anymore?" I wondered aloud. Dad nodded, tried to focus, but really only wanted to talk about food. He was hungry. He couldn't eat. He was tired of sucking on popsicles. Three days later, he passed away.

Decades earlier, Dad--a Hollywood cinematographer who had begun to see film industry jobs go overseas--wrote a paper about his "Import Backlash" concerns. He'd feared that if American companies continued to move manufacturing jobs out of this country our middle class core, the vital engine that moves the entire economy along, would gradually vanish. Yes, the upper class would thrive (and it has) but the lower and middle classes would increasingly need more government help (and they have).

At some point, don't we have to look in the mirror? China didn't eat our jeans; we made choices. Companies made choices. They put a finger in the air and saw what we the American consumers would tolerate. They got us hooked on China (and India, Indonesia, Mexico, on and on it goes); thereafter imports became our addiction.

Can we quit? I was out shopping last night in search of a simple red sweater to wear on Christmas Eve. I'd searched online for an American-made option. Couldn't find anything I liked. You know how this story ends. We all live it everyday. I made a choice. I'm not thrilled about the imported red sweater in the Banana Republic bag, but there you have it.

That said, we can keep trying. A t-shirt here, a space heater there. I do believe these small purchases, over time, accumulate and send a powerful message. Reshoring (returning manufacturing back to the United States) is the wave of the future. When asked, the majority of American businesses say there's no place like home.

Even better news: Some companies never left in the first place. So for the final of CAMJ's Twelve Days of Christmas, let's salute the admirable makers of genuine American jeans; jeans actually manufactured here. I'm sure there are more, but here are a few. If you look for sales, especially this time of the year, you can find good deals on the pricier brands. All American Clothing continues to offer the best price point. I'm not including American Apparel (Los Angeles, CA) for reasons discussed at length in an earlier post (the situation's only deteriorated further).

Here's a thought: Imagine if we put these companies (and the retailers that carry their products) on our holiday card list, sent each CEO a note (or email) to say "Thanks for making your jeans here!" Hundreds of encouraging messages would arrive. It'd be cool.

Check out these brands' jeans:

True Religion Brand Jeans (Los Angeles, CA). Online and in stores.

NYDJ (Not Your Daughter's Jeans; Los Angeles, CA). Available in retail stores. Check the labels. NYDJ manufactures some styles in China.

Citizens of Humanity (Huntington Park, CA) jeans can be found in retail stores throughout the country. Here's a pair currently on sale at Anthropologie.

7 for All Mankind (Los Angeles, CA). Available online and in retailers.

All American Clothing (Arcanum, Ohio). Available online only.

Have a wonderful Christmas!