Home / Uncategorized / R.I.P. – Death of the American Denim Industry

R.I.P. – Death of the American Denim Industry

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.denim mill

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. sewing jeans

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 >


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.




42 thoughts on “R.I.P. – Death of the American Denim Industry

  1. The US government has given Billions of dollars to Viet Nam and other countries to set up textile plants to put American out of work.

    1. Buy American and that will help. No tax breaks put that into building our infrastructure!! Call to stop the raping of this country AGAIN!!

    2. All the talk about foreign trade starts at your front door. Refuse foreign products. Use the internet to find what you ant. Have it shipped to save on time and vehicle expense. Walmart the biggest buyer of foreign items.

    3. all people have to do to help is go to all american clothing and buy AMERICAN made clothes. do your part help keep the jobs in America.

      1. I absolutely agree. All we need to do to find the reason for why our factories are closed is “Follow the MONEY!”

  2. Have always supported US made products, it is harder than it was but if you search you can find great products made in USA. For instance All American products so happy I found their site. Buy American!!!

    1. When all of the people with jobs are required to say, “Do you want fries with that?” or “How about a nice hot apple pie full of chinese grown apples and plastic bits included for free.”

  3. Interesting…NAFTA comes up. Isn’t that the thing President Trump wants to fix or get rid of. People need to get their heads out of the sand if they want our country to survive.

    1. Our politics has gotten very strange. Since Bill Clinton, the Democrats and Republicans politicians at the top have funded themselves on mostly the same Wall Street money … while ordinary Americans turn on each other based on left and right. In the next year we’ll see if Trump meant what he said about NAFTA, or if he will govern the way he ran his companies (buying from poorly paid and polluting industries as described in this article) … no one but Trump knows yet, and no need for anyone to argue after the election, just watch what happens and we’ll find out.

      I think the real allies that could turn this country around are in odd places: hippy vegetarian coops were among the first places I saw that wouldn’t buy from sweatshops, now Trump is talking about it among conservatives, Democratic resistance to NAFTA etc that was defeated in the Bill Clinton years still exists in pockets on the left. The trade deals are written by corporations, with working people and environmentalists left out, which leaves the US at a huge disadvantage, and lets Wall Street screw over foreign workers and foreign environments (while un-employing Americans) instead of taking an everyone-wins approach. Less trust for politicians and corporations with large lobbying budgets, and more trust-building and talk across the rural-urban divide in the US, might be a good place for us to start.

  4. The corporate tax rate cut isn’t going to bring all these companies back.It’s the unfair trade agreements which seems to have become a moot point.

  5. Our government policies and corporate greed has run this country to the ground. Many companies don’t pay taxes at all like the NFL for instance . Why?? They say corporate tax is so high. It’s 35% but after all deductions and loopholes it’s more like 14% . Basically everything our government tells us is a lie. Or Fake News. It’s common sense to me. Support your own country first but we don’t care all we care about is money!!!

    1. Tim, You say after deductions. Companies only pay 14% in taxes. How do you know this? Where do you get your inside in formation as to what companies pay in taxes? As a tax payer, don’t you take every deduction you can to reduce your taxes and get a refund check? I sure do. Companies should to.

  6. We can complain about what’s going on or we can take action. I have been buying American made for as long as I remember(as long as I can find it). Pass the word about places like All American Clothing many have bought because of word of mouth. We have to vote that is our voice , it’s sad to see turn outs a the polls less than 50 percent. I can and we can make a difference . Happy Holidays to all !!!

    1. I agree with Joe. I would add one thing, not only should we shop for U.S. goods, but we should try to keep our dollars in the mom and pop shops by shopping locally. Corporate fat cats and over paid politicians don’t need our support, but the local florist, farmer, cafe owner and feed store does. I don’t own a small business, but I wholeheartedly support those who do.

  7. I believe that the domestic auto makers are behind many foreign imported cars. They are no different than the textile industry that shipped production offshore for cheap labor but didn’t pass it in to the consumer. If it is shirts, shoes ,appliances or autos it is all the same. Increase the bottom line for the manufacturer and don’t pass on the savings. That is why I buy from All American Clothing.

  8. Last time I checked Diamond gusset jeans were still producing 100 percent Made in America jeans. They are out of Tennessee.

  9. I buy American whenever I can, and our company manufactures our products in the USA (www.pineofalconry.com) because our raw materials and finished goods are manufactured by craftspeople who have clean working conditions, good wages, and are protected by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. No child labor either. My son and I hunt and fish, so of course we’re card carrying, tree-hugging environmentalists! Our competition buys crap from Pakistan, including cheap copies of our designs, and mark them up 400-500%. While our margins are a small fraction of these ripoff artists, we can sleep at night knowing we build quality and value into everything we sell.

    Our thread is still milled in North Carolina, and our leathers are tanned in New York State. We manufacture here in Washington State.I don’t hate our government, though it could be a lot more efficient. For the first 16 years of my life, my Dad was a Marine Corps aviator, a veteran of the Battle of Midway, 100 combat missions in Corsairs in Korea (receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross) and Vietnam. He retired in 1966. He loved nature and had the soul of a poet. I’m so glad he is not here to see the vomit in Washington DC, from the current occupant of the White House on down. Very few in DC today are worthy of the sacrifices of American men and women like my Dad and Mom. A nation giving up on milling it’s own iconic fabric, denim, is in trouble indeed. No fat-assed loud-mouthed truth-free braggart with orange hair and skin is going to save us.

      1. Not sure if any of you have ever viewed the youtube animation entitled “Mouseland?” It was based on a speech by Kiefer Sutherland’s Grandfather when he was in the Canadian Parliament. Although it’s animated, it holds true for America. Google Mouseland if you are interested. It’s worth the visit.
        As someone who is a long time patron of All American Clothing, as well as many other companies that still exist here, I want to also point you to a website called “howtobuyamerican.com”. I’ve used that site for years to connect to American Made Products.
        We vote with our ballots every two to four years. We vote with our wallets every day! Until we suck-it-up collectively and understand that WE are the answer to the import issue, then it is only going to get worse.

  10. The American textile industry made thread with no shard shorter than 1.5″. This made for strong thread with little or no unraveling. This was made into fabrics that didn’t dispense lint because of the long shards. This is not done off shore. Every piece is in the thread causing weaker threads and much lint which you find in your clothes dryer and shorter life of the article of clothing. Socks and jeans along with other cotton items are the culprits. Soooo, you get what you paid for!

  11. 50 years ago I graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and started a career in the NY garment center, first as an apparel designer and then in the knitted textile trades.
    At that time, all the fashion/textile supplies were within a few minutes walk of my studio. The textile mills, dye houses and finishing plants, and garment workshops were through out NewEngland, the MidAtlantic States and the Carolinas. There was great pride in the quality of the products each of these venues turned out. These trades made for a decent living.
    I left the field to raise a family and about 10 years ago went back to the NYC garment center to purchase garments for a retail business I was involved in. I was shocked at the change in the area, gone were the hand trucks loaded with either rolls of fabric or numerous finished garments, gone was the sound of sewing machines on the floors of 1407 and the smaller buildings on the side streets. This indistry that was a staple to NYC all but dissappeared.
    When I went looking for fabrics I once used in my apparel desinging days, they were no longer being produced in our country, to try to get the fabric, even as a sample run, invloved too much time and cost because it would need to be a full production run from a foreign source.
    The biggest complaint I now hear from my private clients is that there is little consistancy in the way garments fit. When we lost the major catalogs (Sears, JC Pennys, Wards, etc) we lost standard fit for garments. If you were a manufacturer for one of the “big boys” you were given a standard of measurements for each size and type of garment. There was at least one person in the business who matched these standards and could ‘test fit’ a style. The catalog source reserved the right to pull any garment from a production run to chech the sizing, if it didn’t measure right, you could loose the order. If you lost too many of these big orders, you were out of business.
    I hope that one day soon we can get back some of the trades and standards of fit that have dissappeared.

  12. How interesting yet sad to hear how time has changed the once magnificent textile/garment industry in NY.
    Reading your story brought tears to my eyes as I remember vividly my four favorite aunts, all designers, cutters, and pattern makers, telling me stories. Stories of someday being a famous designer seeing their visions come to life in a famous department store window.
    They ended each story with the mantra “You can do anything you believe you can do”.
    And I did.
    I am retired now but still design and wholesale on the side, and refuse to purchase any item that is not produced in the USA, by USA workers. I don’t take someone’s word for it either, I check myself.
    If I can’t find what I need I’ll find a USA manufacturer who possibly can.
    Often times companies are looking for the fastest, least expensive, most profitable….Correct?

    With age comes many mistakes, many lessons learned, and many chances to realize just which priorities are most important in running a successful business.

    Hopefully there are those of us that were once proud of our parents and grandparents, who took tremendous pride in everything they did to be the very best they could.
    We should feel very honored and blessed this is what our American Textile, Factory, Mill, Manufacturing and Garment Workers represent today.
    What are we doing not to lose this great source of pride? There is no better quality of materials produced than that by the generations of American workers.

    Everyday here in New England you turn on the news and another abandoned mill, has been a victim of arson.
    Huge mills that once sustained whole
    towns and everyone’s livelihood.
    Fabric mills, yarn, thread, wool, sweater, fleece, women’s, and leathers, gone, empty.
    Empty towns, no industry, no money.
    This is what happens when we decide we don’t want to spend that extra to keep our American workers working and purchase goods in the USA.
    That is what I see everyday I drive around New England.
    I remember the whistles signaling the end of the mills work days, the steam from the brightly colored tiled stacks that blanketed the town, and the picket lines of workers begging to save their jobs and those of their neighbors.
    Those memories never fade.

    1. How right you are Joanne. I can remember stopping into Dexter Shoe Factory Outlet Stores when I was a young guy. They made shoes up and down New England. I bought shoes there. Then one day, I was going through Shelburne, Vermont and found that the Dexter Shoe Outlet was CLOSED! A few weeks later, I found a new sign on the storefront that read “SUPER SHOES”. I stopped by and found that 95% of the shoes inside were foreign made! When I got home I did some research and found that Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet’s conglomerate) had purchased the whole line of stores, laid off the 6000 workers, and shipped the manufacturing to China!
      If Mr. Buffet wanted to HELP industry, he could have easily bought the factories and installed good business people to run them, instead of destroying the jobs that were very much needed during that time. It wasn’t like he needed the money to survive.
      There may be NAFTA, there may be CAFTA but we don’t “HAFTA” buy imported junk if we bother to look for the alternative.

    1. Thanks Stefanie! I do my best to “Buy American” every day. It is unfortunate that America is allowing our industrial manufacturers fade away. Like Roger Simmermaker says ” We vote with our ballots every two to four years, but we vote with our wallets everyday.” truer words were never spoken. I’m a long time patron of All American Clothing. Best of luck for a better and more prosperous 2021! -Monte Mason, Morrisville, Vermont

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