Made In The U.S.A.

Sock Heaven, MITUSA Hell

In Adventures on January 20, 2009 at 8:53 pm

1.5.09: My mail order socks arrived today.

I placed the order post-Christmas, pre-2009-only-buying-American-made-stuff resolution. I’ve done it before, although not via mail. What I’ve done is replace every one of my myriad black socks, and every one of my myriad white socks, with a batch of brand new black or white socks from a single manufacturer. Twelve sets of each color, 48 socks in all. I’m in OCD new-sock-matching heaven.

This time, I decided to buy those socks from Gold Toe, because that’s what my dad wore when I was a kid and that means good socks.

I’m happy to report they’re comfy. A wise purchase, indeed.

Let’s see if I’m happy to report that they’re luckily-enough MITUSA too.

[Pause whilst I go online to search for the answer.]

Oh dear.

After a brief visit to Gold Toe’s site (which, by the way, if you happen to be a sock-web-site-designer, give ‘em a visit at goldtoe.com because they desperately need you) I found what certainly appeared to be promising news. The company is based in good ol’ red state USA. They’re proud of their work force and the site even includes a facilities tour here.

Then it got bad.

Google Book Search returned a book about outsourcing the sock industry to China, quoting the president of Gold Toe Brands by name. The book is China, Inc by Ted C. Fishman. In the chapter called “To Make 16 Billion Socks, First Break the Law,” my heart was slightly broken.

Jim Williams is the president and CEO of Gold Toe Brands Inc., a Burlington, North Carolina company that controls half of all department store sales of men’s dress socks in the United States. Gold Toes web site brags that “each pair of Gold Toe socks is made with pride by skilled craftsmen and carefully inspected to offer the customer the finest possible quality.” The web site makes no mention of the fact that those craftsmen are likely to be migrant farm women toiling in Zhejiang sock factories.

The chapter went on to explain about the particular Chinese province and how towns throughout the region each specialize in their own industries.

One area makes billions of buttons, another has swelled the world’s supply of freshwater pearls, still others crank out tools and cigarette lighters…One stretch of country road runs through a row of factories all devoted to making downspouts for home sinks, another to making industrial valves, and still another to clamps and fasteners.

To these factories come the world’s volume buyers looking for voluminous discounts… It is against these destination factories that factories from Tokyo to Stockholm to Sao Paolo and Cincinnati must compete.

Shit.

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