It is a sad time in the American denim industry as the iconic Cone Denim White Oak plant in Greensboro, NC will be closing effective December 31. The plant opened in 1905 and quickly became the world’s largest producer of selvedge denim producing 1.6 million square feet in its prime. As Michael Williams of men’s wear site A Continuous Lean states, “it’s a national tragedy. The mill represents tradition, pride and the expertise that gets woven into some of the world’s most revered fabrics. History can’t be rewritten, and when the plant closes, Americans will have lost yet another piece of our national identity.”
The American denim industry isn't completely dead; we still make our jeans with USA made denim and will continue to do so as long as we can, but the path the industry is on is scary.
Since the early 90’s when NAFTA and the WTO came into existence, the apparel industry has been one of the hardest hit losing about 85% of the jobs to foreign competition. At one time we had hundreds of mills producing materials here in the USA, now we are down to just TWO denim plants, and 98% of the apparel purchased in the USA is made in a foreign country.
Denim and jeans have been an American icon for well over a hundred years and we are simply giving up on it, giving up on a part of our heritage and identity. As a New York Times article states “America may have invented blue jeans, but Japan turned them into a religion.” Whether it be apparel, cars, computers, etc... it seems we as a country have very little pride or passion in the things we produce and are quick to let other countries become the leaders in things that WE invented.
It’s not that we can’t compete with other countries; when it comes to quality and productivity I would put any American product, worker and factory up against those found in foreign countries. What we are competing against is cheap slave labor (sweatshops) and poor environmental regulations of other countries. We are competing against countries that just dump their waste into water supplies that people drink from, we are competing against countries like Bangladesh that have a $68/MONTH minimum wage, while most people in the USA make that in less than a day. OF COURSE USA MADE IS GOING TO COST MORE!
In America we pay people a living wage, give them a safe place to work and take care of the environment… why? Because we believe it’s the right thing to do; people should be able to go to work, provide food for their families, put a roof over their heads and be able to do so without fear for their safety. Yet, while Americans say we believe these things, most Americans are quick to ‘turn a blind eye’ to how the products they purchase are made and produced by slave labor in third world countries, just to save a few bucks. YES USA made is more expensive, we care about people and the environment and that does come at a cost. So as you shop, whether it be during this holiday season or any other time through the year, take a second to look at the label and think about what it means. Think about who and what you are supporting. Look for ‘Made in USA,’ not only will you be providing a great gift for a family member or friend, you may also be saving someone’s job. You can start shopping for American made clothing right now, click here >
UPDATE: Well here we are about two weeks from the original posting date of this article and things have only become more critical for the American denim industry. Last week another plant, Denim North America (DNA), announced they will be closing their denim business unit. That leaves the USA with just ONE mill producing denim here.
The All American Clothing Co. is far from giving up on the dream of producing a 100% USA made denim jean. We will continue to support the last USA mill left standing and we will continue to have our clothing cut and sewn right here in America. While some styles of jeans we are carrying may have to be retired, we will continue to innovate and bring on new styles as the market allows... in fact we already have 2 new styles in production to be released in early 2018, so keep watching!
We would like to thank you, our loyal customers, for all of your support through the years. May you and your families have a very Merry Christmas! All American Clothing Co.