I wasn't made in America, why should I care if my clothes are?
Written by Jian DeLeon (@jiandeleon)
Please shut up about the “authenticity” of your well-crafted goods and how tapping into the heritage of your brand has given you revelations about going back to the way “things used to be”—when grandpa made stuff with his hands, had just two pairs of shoes, and dug holes in the backyard to “build character.” If we kept up with that line of thinking, we probably wouldn’t have the Internet, iPhones, or apps like Instagram where the bearded denizens of Willamsburg, Brooklyn can share photographs of their well-worn selvedge Tellason jeans (no doubt broken in while toiling away building a sustainable kiddie-pool sized terrarium in which to grow avocado squash). I don’t care about “the good old days” of America, because I wasn’t born here.
Growing up in the '90s, I wore a lot of sneakers and Polo. My default sixth-grade outfit was a Polo pocket tee (I had like five), a navy blue and white Polo golf jacket that my dad handed down to me, cargo pants and Nike Kukinis. It was classic American style, and I thought it was fresh as hell. None of it was made in America and, well, I didn't care. I was born in the Philippines, and it kind of became a running joke that any sort of imported gear I was rocking was probably made by a child that looked like me. I didn't think that was a reality though, I just kind of assumed that as with cars, there were probably racks of machines in Asia who popped out T-shirts and shoes like Tic-Tacs.
Making a hearty appeal for the 'glory days' of America will not get me to buy your pricey button-downs and Filson collaborations.
It wasn't until my clothing choices expanded beyond the parameters of my dad's wardrobe that I really began to think about clothing in a conscious way — as in, “what can I wear to make it look like my mom didn’t lay this out for me last night?” But even then it would be years until I thought about the socioeconomic ramifications of my style.
When I get nostalgic about America, I don’t think about Red Wing Boots, flannel shirts, and shuttle-loomed denim. I think about rushing my ass home from school just in time to catch TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck on The Disney Afternoon. I think about Friday nights spent with Cory Matthews, Topanga Lawrence, Shawn Hunter, and Mr. Feeney. And you know what? Things were good then too. You want to market nostalgia to me? Sell me a SNICK T-shirt. Make some Nike Air MAGs I actually have a chance of buying — and jeez, can they self-lace already?! But no, making a hearty appeal for the “glory days” of America will not get me to buy your pricey button-downs and Filson collaborations.
You know why that is? Because “Made in America” is not the end-all/be-all of quality. This is not “the last shirt I will ever buy,” because, well, I like buying new gear. The first really expensive shirt I bought was an oxford from Band of Outsiders. Within a week, the buttons started coming undone from the placket. I was pretty pissed. Good thing I recalled some rudimentary sewing skills from my middle school home economics class, because I sewed those mother-of-pearl fuckers right back on. I can say that while UNIS, one of my favorite brands, uses great fabrics and a superior silhouette that makes my ass look awesome in their $228 chinos (again, made in America), I’ve had two pairs start to rip on me at the pockets. I was told that because of the meticulous garment dying process, sometimes the threads at that area get weakened. Did I throw a hissy fit about it? No. Again, I sewed that shit back up.
Mending your own clothes gives you a better relationship with them. For all this talk about #menswear culture of guys talking about clothes with the same under-the-hood curiosity as car enthusiasts, I do believe that learning about what you wear fosters the idea of fully investing in it. Not just with money, but also time and knowledge. It’s why I don’t stick my button downs and jeans in the dryer. It’s why I use shoe trees in my hardbottoms. But the reason I like the things I like has nothing to do with where it’s made.