The other day, my wife mentioned the launch of the Ralph Lauren Olympic uniforms to me, and I joked with her about the fact that they were probably made in Asia. A few days, later a number of people – including congress – seemed appalled by the fact that these uniforms were not manufactured in the US. Hence, I want to discuss this public uproar as well as the uniforms themselves.
Made in USA
I respect Ralph Lauren and what he has accomplished for menswear in the US. To many, he has become the epitome of American style, however within the last two decades, the company has certainly changed. While quite a few garments were once made in the US and sometimes England, production of the less expensive brands like Lauren and Polo has almost entirely shifted to Asia, while Black Label and Purple label items are almost exclusively made in Italy.
Many people associate high quality with a Made in Italy label, but not so much with a Made in China Label. As I pointed out before in my Made in the USA article, you can find good or bad things all over the world. Of course, the social, environmental and ethical standards are higher in some places than in others, but I have seen poor conditions in Italy and good conditions in Brazil (and vice versa). Also, I have seen blatant label fraud from big, reputable companies, in which goods made in Asia were labeled as being made in Europe to charge a higher price and provide the buyer with a feeling of moral responsibility – buyer beware.
One aspect that people often forget is where the materials come from. If the leathers or fabrics were dyed in Asia and the remains dumped in a river, the Made in the USA becomes rather hollow.
Now, I am all for local products and it is great to support the community, but for example there is no silk in this country and there are only a few American tanneries left. Other countries in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa have great craftsmen traditions in certain area. So, if they are able to produce a higher quality product under humane conditions, one should not discount it just by the fact it was made somewhere else.
The Reaction of Congress
AP reported the other day that Republicans and Democrats alike were upset about the Lauren Made in Chinagarments. Supposedly, Harry Reid even suggested burning the garments. However, unlike in many other countries, the U.S. Olympic Team is privately funded and and as such, they can choose their sponsor, who can then choose where the goods are produced. Apart from that though, it seemed to me like the general chorus was that American athletes who represent the US and its people should wear uniforms made in the US. At first, that might seem quite legitimate. However, if you take a look at America’s trade deficit, and trade relations with China, you realize that in 2011 the US exported goods worth roughly $104 billion while they imported goods worth $399 billion.
Overall, the US has had a trade deficit ever since the late 1960’s, and only about 5% of the garments sold in the US are made there. So, if the Olympic athletes represent the US and the people, then it does not seem to be too far fetched that most of the garments should be made in China.
Overall, it may be a good way to think about the thousands of vacant manufacturing jobs in the US and the huge trade deficit. Personally, I think it would be good to have more things made locally – but people have to be willing to pay a premium price, and often they are not. In the current situation, the Olympic uniforms represent the current situation in the US quite well, do they not?
As a side note, I am sure that many of the enraged politicians wore at least one garment – if not all their garments – that was made in China while they expressed their dislike regarding the Ralph Lauren uniforms.
In any case, Ralph Lauren announced that future uniforms will be made in the US again – hopefully the quality won’t suffer. What do you think about the whole discussion? I am eager to learn what you have to say!
Ralph Lauren Olympic Uniforms 2012 For Men
Some voices in press claimed that the athletes would look like yacht owners in their Ralph Lauren uniforms, while others considered them to be The 1%. In my opinion, the berets in combination with the double breasted blazer and white slacks bear a certain resemblance to military outfits. Overall, they look certainly more dapper than athletes in sweat pants, though I like that look. The color scheme is certainly US American and the white pants with white nubuck shoes and red soles is something American wore in the past. Personally, I am glad to see a collar pin in some of the outfits! The double breasted blazer with its patch pockets gives the ensemble a slightly less formal character which is appropriate for the event. In the summer, cloth belt are a nice way to make things look more relaxed and hence, I find the overall look quite agreeable. Now let’s see what the athletes will actually wear!