September 6, 2007

Buying American

It's a little ways distant from my eating local project, but buying American (New York Times, registration required) seems to be returning to public consciousness. The article is from the fashion section, so it's a bit wackier than usual:

"Made in the U.S.A." used to be a label flaunted primarily by consumers in the Rust Belt and rural regions. Increasingly, it is a status symbol for cosmopolitan bobos, and it is being exploited by the marketers who cater to them.

For many the label represents a heightened concern for workplace and environmental issues, consumer safety and premium quality. "It involves people wanting to have guilt-free affluence," Alex Steffen, who is the executive editor of, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues, said in an e-mail message. "So you have not only the local food craze but things like American apparel, or Canadian diamonds instead of African 'blood diamonds,' or local-crafted toys...."

American Apparel, which carries the label "Made in Downtown LA" in every T-shirt and minidress, famously brought sex appeal to clothing basics that are promoted as "sweatshop free." In the process it won the allegiance of young taste-makers.

They note Still Made in the USA, a handy reference for things made in this country.

When I spent a lot of time on woodworking discussion sites, it seemed like Made in the USA was not so good for machines, but getting ever better for hand tools. (Taiwan and then China sold American machine designs at lower prices and mixed but improving quality, while the European machines had better design, higher quality, and frightening price tags.) I've wondered for a while how much manufacturing would leave America entirely, leaving all of it much like Upstate New York, but articles like this suggest that there may be a natural limit, even just because of consumer preference.

Posted by simon at September 6, 2007 6:20 PM in
Note on photos