While writing a follow-up to last year’s walk through the athletic wear closet, I picked up on a NPR Radio series from the program Planet Money. It shed new light on my process of identifying where my clothing, particularly my athletic wear, is made.
A quote from one of the interviews went right to the heart of the matter:
“There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.”
The least percentage of cost in the t-shirt followed around the world was the labor. The Restrepo quote gives a bit of bite to my holiday shopping joy.
How this consumer (and gift recipient) fits into the picture is puzzling on two fronts. First, am I helping or hindering by not purchasing or suggesting items made by workers earning wages that barely provide food and shelter? I struggle with that. Second, I’m not a numbers cruncher, but if we must go around the world to make a cheaper t-shirt, or high-end sportswear, how is it that I can buy excellent quality running apparel from companies that manufacture in the USA at a comparable price?
With those questions unanswered but worth considering, I again provide a brief list of brands that are primarily manufactured domestically and sometimes locally and offer quality products. They are durable and nearly everything on my list is still in my closet and wearing well. Keep your running apparel away from the fabric softener and a hot dryer and it wears a long time.
I’ve added only a few items to my closet:
Keen Footwear is located in New Hampshire and manufactures a variety of footwear items. The socks I recently purchased are made of imported merino wool and manufactured in New Hampshire. Affordable, lightweight and warm for winter running. They keep my feet warm in my running shoes and my toes stayed cozy while snowshoeing earlier this month.
Handful Bra, a company that manufactures sports bras for fitness enthusiasts, is moving operations from overseas to the United States with a base in Oregon. Their move was financed in part through crowdsourcing. Their sense of humor is apparent on their home web page.
And, a rerun of my suggestions from last year’s holiday shopping list:
Darn Tough, another sock company I love is located in Vermont.
Nuu-muu makes my list again. I wear my Nuu-muu for running, but more frequently for biking. This year Nuu-muu has expanded the line to include shirts. They are based in Washington State. They run some very nice specials on their website. As a senior runner, the percentage off when you turn over a decade becomes increasingly enticing
And one I haven’t yet purchased, Aspaeris Technical Performance is a domestic manufacturing company. Their line of tights is designed to reduce muscle fatigue. If anyone has tried these, please comment with a review.
That’s my list for this year. Enjoy your gifts and the gifts of the season on your runs, walks or rides in the great outdoors.