Investigating the rise & fall of the once promising American denim industry
By: Logan Beam
For the American denim industry, the loss of jobs has remained a common theme for the past couple decades. Today, denim giants continue to outsource production, denim mills continue to shut down, and many Americans continue to lose jobs in the American denim industry.
Outsourcing and shut downs have been going on for years in the American garment industry. Since the early 1990s this once promising industry has lost 85% of it`s labor force (Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics). So much of the American garment industry has been outsourced that only 2% of the clothing purchased in the USA is even made in America (Source: ABC World News).
Jeans were once an American icon. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, high school kids would begin wearing blue jeans as a status symbol of rebellion towards their adult parents because their parents did not wear jeans. In the 1970s, jeans started to become iconic in culture thanks to celebrities such as Neal Diamond, who sang the famous hit ‘Forever in Blue Jeans.' Blue jeans had arrived. They were a national phenomenon.
Through the 1980s, blue jeans were still in high demand throughout the United States. Many remember the cover of the famous Bruce Springsteen album ‘Born in the USA,’ which was the first compact disc to be made in America. Jeans had now been established as a major part of popular culture. El Paso was now considered the blue jeans capital of the world, where it manufactured an estimated 2 million pairs of America's favorite pants each week (Source: San Antonio Express).
Throughout the 1990s, things would begin to change. American jean giants would begin to move production elsewhere. Their buildings would become vacant, local economies became ruined, and people have been left without jobs. A denim industry that once supported over 900,000 USA jobs hardly supports 100,000 today.
Many believe that made in America jeans no longer exist. Despite this, there is a group of hard working companies making jeans and supporting jobs in the United States today. Many utilize the same resources and support the same jobs in their supply chains, making this group of made in America jean makers unique. Together, they continue to keep the denim industry alive and support thousands of USA jobs because they believe it`s the right thing to do.