Repost: Yea or Nay: Buy American

In our Repost Series, we re-publish classic posts from our archives. In light of our current economic turmoil, we thought this post, first published in Dec. 2007, was an interesting topic to bring back for discussion.

The personal is political and personal style is no exception.” – The Budget Fashionista

The recent recalls of products made in China has led to a resurgence of the “Buy American” mentality this holiday shopping season. While this may seem like a discussion best left for politicians on sunday morning TV shows, the push for American made goods has a direct impact on the closets of budget fashionistas world wide. Target, H&M, and most definitely Forever 21, rely on the relatively cheap labor of workers in developing nations to produce apparel and accessories for a population struggling to keep up with a myriad of financial challenges. It would be virtually impossible for Target or H&M to sell their items at such low prices, if their manufacturers were based in the US.  Even high-end designers (Michael Kors? Jones New York?), rely on cheap labor to produce their “bridge” (mid-level) lines.

On the real, few of us would be willing to give up our $20 handbags from Forever21 and our high-low pieces from Isaac Mizrahi at Target. We’ve become accustomed to accessible style and it has become as much a part of American society as, well, apple pie.

So, Is buying American realistic considering the financial and fashion pressures of living in America? Would you be willing to pay $5, $10 or more per garment if it was made in the US?  Do non-US citizens experience pressure to purchase items made in their home countries over those made in others?

Buy American: Yea or Nay?

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    Nay. Buying American is not a reality in the current and growing global economy. Even if your item was assembled in America (rare), chances are the fabric was woven or dyed elsewhere. We just had this discussion in my MBA program and while it sounds like a great idea, it doesn’t really save American jobs, some jobs are lost due to manufacturing and others are created due to ports, customs, stocking and transport of the items, so its a wash.

  2. Emily says

    The way I get around it is that I buy used—you find some great stuff, and you’re putting money into the local economy. Plus, items like designer denim—some of which, at least, is made in the US—are much cheaper that way.

  3. Maria says

    I would personally buy American if given the choice, but the reality is that fewer and fewer products are “Made in the USA” these days, so the opportunity to make that choice is rare.  And to be honest, I have found myself shying away from anything manufactured in China since the recent product recalls.  Multiple times in the past few months I have put something back on the shelf once I checked the label and saw “Made in China”.  I’d just rather not take the chance that the product is A) shoddy or B) unsafe.

  4. Allie says

    I buy US-made products as much as I can; however, I live on a disability income and am forced to consider pricing first. Unfortunately, some US-made items are higher priced. If the quality is equal, then, of course, I go for the more economical.

  5. says

    Big fat Nay. This issue crops up all the time at presidential debates, and most candidates either don’t know what they’re talking about or are trying to win the popularity contest when they wax lyrical about “bringing back jobs to America.” There’s been a surge of recalls in toys, but why should that affect our fashion purchases? Just because they happen to be manufactured in the same country?

  6. Deirdre says

    It wouldn’t affect my purchases one bit. I look at quality first, then cost; I sometimes even deliberately make purchases from overseas based on interest in a garment. Most products put out by companies have a QC process by the company whose name goes on it; the low quality is being approved by that company, not just the actual manufacturer. If we demanded higher quality from the brand/company, they would have the manufacturer comply, regardless of its point of origin.

  7. says

    I am of the general belief that American Companies should remain in the United States—meaning that their items are made in the United States by people who live in the United States. I may be a bit unknowledgable on the intricacies of it, but I believe that the more money that stays within the U.S. can only make economy stronger and put more money into the hands of U.S. consumers.

  8. says

    Why is a knee-jerk “made in USA” attitude the only alternative to sweatshop labor?

    The US economy places a premium on intellectual output and innovation. Let’s face it, the days of manufacturing driving our economy are long past.

    Instead, we should be pressuring companies and our Congresspeople to enforce fair labor practices with the companies we buy from worldwide.

    People in other countries deserve a job too; we can keep our low prices and support fair and ethical labor practices for everyone.

  9. Cathy says

    YAY.  I like the idea that the clothes, shoes, bags (etc.) that I buy are not being made by 9 year olds in a factory with a locked door. 

    I buy American when I can, ideally with a union label.  Can I find everything on my shopping list that fits this criteria?  No, but I try.

    One thing I don’t buy into is the idea that everything will be priced out of reach—profit margins will be cut, and I can live with that.

  10. says

    one fact that further complicates this issue in my mind is that there are sweatshops right here on American soil (see for example the documentary “Made in L.A.” http://www.madeinla.com/)

  11. juliette says

    I have a Toyota Camry and would never trade it in for an American car.  Same principle.  I feel the same way about clothes – quality/value trumps the whole fake “loyalty” discussion about buying American.  It’s easy to say that everything should be made here, but that’s not economically feasible or practical.

  12. stevie says

    nay-

    being a budgetfashionista, its really hard to find things MIA that can price compete with articles made overseas.  maybe if our large companies like walmart, target, kohls, etc… set up factories here and charged a little more and took a little less profit they could make it work.  we could employ all those on welfare to work in these factories and set up factory towns.  wouldn’t it be better to give them a minimum wage instead of a handout? if toyota can make camrys in kentucky, why can’t forever 21 make clothes in louisanna?

  13. says

    Did you know that 99 percent of all shoes are imported?  Much of what is still made in America is niche or military boots.
    And, did you know that we all pay an antiquated, expensive import tariff on shoes that can be as high as 67 percent?  This outdated tax was established in 1930 to protect American shoe manufacturers, and still exists today even though there are very few manufacturers left.
    The whole footwear industry is uniting to stomp out the shoe tax for all consumers.  Check it out at: http://www.EndTheShoeTax.org.  And don’t forget to tell your members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass this tax relief legislation for all.

  14. Debbie says

    I have to say that I have always been firmly in favor of buy American (as impossible as that is becoming).

    I have no use for companies that produce products overseas in what are essentially slave labor camps and then re-sell them here for a huge mark-up.  And let’s face it – yes America is moving away from a manufacturing economy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people here willing to do the work.  No everyone wants to go to college, they just want to make a decent living.

    I’d rather have fewer items of better quality (and make in the US) than a slew of cheap, crappy Target shirts made in (fill in developing nation).

    But then again I’ve felt this way since I was 5 years old.

  15. says

    The best the U.S. can do is smaller scale manufacturing, which is inevitably going to be more expensive due to labor and the amount of output, and as the first poster noted, even U.S.-made goods use parts made elsewhere.  So I’m not a protectionist.

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    In any case, whether goods are made in Mauritius, Vietnam, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Guatemala, there’s no way the U.S. now can keep up with the sheer volume necessary to keep stores stocked.  The low-cost, mass-produced stuff has made fashion more accessible to far more people today than even a generation ago.  Despite what a lot of people think, just because items are made overseas they are not necessarily being made by five year olds in sweatshops.

  16. Susan says

    I could never stand in a sweatshop and buy a item a clothing directly from some kid who just made it, so why can I do it in a big store? It’s just wrong. However, I end up doing it, because that’s all I can find. Buying American doesn’t necessarily solve the problem though, because we have sweat shops here.

    The problem runs pretty deep, but I’d be willing to pay a little more for something that I knew didn’t exploit people. What did people do before free trade and big-box stores? Clothes used to be reasonably priced and well made. Now clothes are cheap and the quality is cheap. I’m not convinced we’re any better off this way, inside or out.

  17. RebelutionaryGirl says

    Yay. I would buy American if I could find more that was made in America. Sure, it’ll probably cost a good deal more, but I’m willing to pay it if it means another teen my age ( I’m 13) doesn’t have to spend 14 hrs. chained to a bench. Of course, with no steady income, it’s difficult for me to spend money on virtually anything- there is usually no money to spend- but if I could find American, then I’d buy American. However, I would take quality into consideration. If the shoes were made in Italy and they’re better made than some made in the USA then I’m going to buy the Italian shoes. I take each item into consideration individually before I purchase it and then I walk out with a clean conscience and a good bargain.

  18. Julie says

    YAY. OMG people…whether the sweat shop is here or overseas, I would rather my money stay in the US. This is a HUGE issue that people need to be aware of. How selfish has the American public gotten? You care more about a couple of dollars than the greater good of your country?

    I have heard of a company in Los Angeles that is bringing manufacturing back to the US…LASCO shoes. They’re pretty cool mens shoes. Maybe others can follow their lead. It’s about time.

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