Also Made In USA? Our Conflicted Emotions About Overseas Manufacturing

In the wake of the US Olympic Team’s Chinese-made uniform kerfuffle, kiplinger.com has an interesting feature showcasing some fashion brands that are still made in the USA, including familiar names like New Balance, Hickey Freeman and Pendleton.

I’m sure we all know a few more names we could add. Still, it’s a pretty short list. It’s also telling (and a bit sad) that the list is enough of a curiosity to warrant an article in the first place. The blame game plays on an endless loop. Manufacturers blame consumers for not demanding American-made goods. Consumers blame retailers for not stocking the same. In one sense, the current state of domestic manufacturing could be thought of as the ultimate First World Problem: like an upscale couple that eats out every night, we’re addicted to the ease of buying dinner at a restaurant and simply can’t deal with the “hassle” of making it ourselves.

Another wrinkle: it isn’t that so many things are made abroad these days, it’s that they’re made in China. Correct me if I’m wrong, but China is still a Communist country, right? Sworn enemy of those whose office decor leans toward bald eagle curios and stars-and-stripes draperies (some of whom make purchasing decisions for large retailers)? A government known for trampling on human rights, individual liberties, free speech and other things we Americans tend to keep in a No-Trample Zone? Well hey, its not like they’re coming over here and doing it in our own backyard, right? And if Chinese workers are willing to live in cramped workplace dormitories so Apple can keep manufacturing costs down, who are we to tell them they can’t?

True enough, but the fact is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Like the clothing lines above, many manufacturers still make their products in the USA, even if it costs more to do so. Some decide to make less profit per unit, or to charge more for their goods and let the market decide if the extra cost is worth it. In the end, it’s all about striking a balance that works for both the company and the customer. Should we really be surprised, then, that the current lack of balance in manufacturing is causing problems—fiscal, PR and otherwise?

If it’s any consolation, Americans aren’t the only ones concerned with our national pride these days. During last night’s Olympics broadcast, I noticed BMW going out of their way to root for Team USA in their commercials. Speaking of balance, I wonder what the German Olympic Team thinks about that?

About Wade Sturdivant

Creative Director/Copywriter at The Richards Group, Wade spent his formative years in Chicago (DDB, Leo Burnett) and has worked on accounts as diverse as BMW, Firestone, Bud Light, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and the U.S. Army.