published Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Behind Olympic uniforms

When Washington's political leaders rose in unison over the weekend to condemn the manufacturing, in China, of the U.S. Olympic team's ceremonial uniforms, they mainly illustrated their ignorance, or their brass, about America's ghost of a textile industry -- and related industries.

Regardless of the legendary brand names attached to such products, fully half of America's textile goods are now made in China, and most of the rest are made in other lower-wage countries. The same goes for most of our sports apparel and gear, luggage, shoes and lower-cost tools, not to mention electronics, glassware, home goods and a much longer list of consumer goods.

In fact, barely three percent of garments sold in the United States are made domestically. So the fact that congressional leaders stood to fume and pander to voters on their supposed outrage of the off-shoring of jobs once held by American workers makes the politicos look appallingly behind the curve, or simply deceitful. They're either just now learning about the immense job losses due to off-shoring, which makes them look, well, dumb. Or they're crassly pandering for votes by playing Americans for chumps, on the presumption that many voters are not informed about the of extent of off-shoring old-line manufacturing jobs -- not just from America, but from other wealthy industrial countries as well. We assume the latter.

That didn't stop the Senate's Democratic Majority leader, Harry Reid, from saying he thought the U.S. Olympic committee "should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them, and start al over again." Nor did it inhibit House Speaker John Boehner from piling on Ralph Lauren for his perceived disloyalty of having our Olympians clad in Chinese-made garments.

Yet defenders of off-shore manufacturing make some valid points for sending such jobs to China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Vietnam , Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan, for starters -- along with a raft of Latin American and Eastern European countries.

They claim cheaper manufacturing labor represents just a fraction of an industry's jobs. Many more jobs, they say, remain American and higher paying in the design, engineering, innovation, marketing, transport and retail sales for such products. They also contend that by using contractor manufacturing plants, they are more nimble and more competitive, which allows them to grow and expand their market reach, total jobs and overall profit.

The downside remains. If U.S. innovation is incorporated in overseas manufacturing plants, it may let competitors outpace domestic plants and leapfrog our engineering innovations. Off-shoring also deprives Americans who need manufacturing jobs now, and who are willing to work for lower wages to build their skills. And it deprives companies of customers who might otherwise buy their products if they had a job and income.

In any case, given high unemployment here and the downward trends of wages and wage stagnation in America as globalization expands, it now seems clear that many Americans need and must accept lower-wage factory work.

Ralph Lauren has promised to produce made-in-America uniforms for the nation's 2014 Olympic team. The larger question is, how long will the United States have a plant to fill such an order, when off-shoring of manufacturing jobs has reached such critical mass that domestic competitors are effectively priced out of the market? That's the issue Congress should be exploring.

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You can bet somebody was offered a bid from a US Company.

They took the lower offer.

July 17, 2012 at 12:24 a.m.
EaTn said...

Many of this country's advancements in technology came from the early textile and leather works machinery.

July 17, 2012 at 7:04 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Ralph Lauren, you're fired.

These "polo logo" uniforms scream your corporation's name while looking hideous and not looking particularly American. Instead of "USA" we got condom-top brand berets with the reservoir tip.

Berets have a long and proud history. Worn by elite troops, they were first brought into service when they were sold by beautiful girls in a town known for stone cutting. Masons used to wear berets as eye protection. To blend in with the locals, one commander authorized them for wear. His men, and the girls selling the hats, were grateful.

Enter Ralph Lauren. This man, apparently, has never cut a rock in his life. Having not been brought in to the hallowed traditions of beret wear in military service, he was probably unaware of their preparation.

Yes, preparation. Berets made in today's clothing mills must be shaved. You see, a true beret has its floppy nature because the beret is the only hat that can be made with just a warp and a weft. It has no weave. This means that two threads, not three, are used to make the cloth. That's also why the beret is the oldest form of cloth hat known to man. It has to be made with a crude technology to work. Since we don't have that anymore, berets made with cloth from modern looms must be shaved. Shaving the cloth eliminates the threads of the weave.

If they are not shaved, they will not flop properly.

Every paratrooper knows this. Every paratrooper with a new beret has had to shave it and shape it. Wearing a wet wool beret to dry is a normal part of getting to know one. Each ends up coming out custom fit for its wearer. They fit best on wearers with close-cropped military haircuts.

That didn't happen at the Olympics for a few reasons. One of those reasons is that world famous designer Ralph Lauren didn't know his business well enough to understand what a beret was, how to make it, and how to wear them.

Not only did he fail to make the uniforms properly, he failed to understand the parts.

Let us fire him for gross incompetence.

July 17, 2012 at 8:21 a.m.
librul said...

I have to agree with Dave Letterman, those uniforms make them look like the crew of Rmoney's yacht; or maybe the parking valets for his car elevator. The real teaching moment being ignored is that the decimation of the American textile and clothing industries by offshoring plants and jobs, a process "pioneered" by Mr. Rmoney and other corporate greedheads, and made easy by trade policies backed by many of the politicians currently expressing their dismay; has made it unlikely that there exists an American company that could create them here.

And it has been pointed out that the Olympic Committee is apparently infected with the same sort of hoity-toity globalist culture that places a higher value on the clothing of some European highbrow fashion designer than quality American products made at home.

July 18, 2012 at 1:20 a.m.
anniebelle said...

If you'll look back at the 2002 Olympics headed up by Rmoney, his 'team' had the USA uniforms made in Burma (Myanmar to those who have no sense of history).

July 18, 2012 at 6:24 a.m.

The greediest and most entitle minded man in America sits in the White House right now. Marxists are the greediest because they have one standard for themselves and another for everyone else.

July 18, 2012 at 8:45 a.m.
librul said...

Ridiculous!

July 18, 2012 at 9:09 a.m.
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