Quest for Khakis or, an American Tragedy

As I was sorting laundry a few days ago I realized I need some new casual dress pants.  Since I’ve been writing for some time about American Traditionalism and American Nationalism, I decided this time I would put my money where my mouth is.  My new khakis needed to be not only comfortable, durable and reasonably-priced — they had to be made in America.

How hard could that be, right?

A quick search of “made in USA apparel” on Amazon gives us a modest selection of men’s military outerwear and a somewhat larger collection of men’s shirts.  While I did rather like the Schott navy peacoat, it didn’t meet my present needs and doesn’t come in my size anyway.  But American-made khakis?  I might as well have been looking for The Culture of Critique or A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

LL Bean became famous for its high quality American-made clothing and outerwear.  I’ve shopped LL Bean for years and figured nothing is more Northeastern American than LL Bean pants.  But all of the men’s pants currently available at LL Bean are imported!   Since at least 2011 most of LL Bean’s merchandise has been sourced offshore.  As an LL Bean spokesman explained at that time:

Hi Kimberly – Thank you for sharing your comments with us. We source our products from all across the globe including the US. We are one of the last US multi-channel merchants to still own and operate a manufacturing facility right here in Brunswick, Maine where we make out iconic products such as the Bean Boot, Maine Hunting Shoe, dog beds, Boat and Totes, leather belts, and more. Our goal is to provide quality products while still offering value — all with our 100% satisfaction guarantee and always shipped free.

In 1871 Levi Strauss introduced riveted denim pants to the world. Today blue jeans are an iconic American fashion.  Yet when I look for some tasteful American-made khaki or brown jeans on their site I come up empty-handed. Wrangler’s Rooted Collection offers clothing made in America with cloth woven in America from American cotton.  That certainly piques my attention and were I in need of blue jeans or T-shirts I might grab a pair.  Their retro straight leg pants might do the trick, were they not produced offshore.  Same goes for the khakis at famous American companies like Dickies, Lands End and the Vermont Country Store.

The Good Tradea “digital media and lifestyle brand covering sustainable fashion and lifestyle… built on the fundamental idea that consumers are capable of driving significant social change through their everyday purchases, consumer preferences and lifestyle choices,” offers 14 American-Made Clothing Brands You Can Wear With Pride.   While most of these focus on women’s clothing there are two whose offerings may meet my needs.

Missouri manufacturer Baldwn has clothes which are mostly more suited for the Underfed Hipster demographic.  Unfortunately, I am neither.  While their Augi pants look good and are on sale, I have no desire to be seen in public looking like a stylish blue sausage. More promising is New Jersey’s Todd Shelton, whose company statement of values says:

A Country Needs Manufacturing
It’s a statement we stand behind. We’re committed to manufacturing in the U.S. in support of American innovation. Every country must advocate for the protection of domestic manufacturing. Without local access to manufacturing infrastructure, a country jeopardizes innovation within its entrepreneurial communities.

Tom Shelton American Classic Khaki Cedar

His pants do indeed look sharp and are even made to order. Alas, at $225 ($195 if I am willing to wait 30 days), they cost a good bit more than I was looking to spend right now.  I’ve got Todd Shelton bookmarked and definitely hope to buy a pair or two soon.  But this still leaves a pants shortage that I would like to resolve now, not thirty days after I scrape up some shekels.

Ultimately I settled on a pair of casual pants from American Made Clothing.  They fit my needs and are well-reviewed.  At $55 they are not overly costly.  They are, however, between $10 and $20 more expensive than comparable (if not comparably made) imported clothing from major clothing lines.  This premium goes back into the American economy as wages, health insurance and local spending: it helps strengthen America’s beleaguered manufacturing sector and shrinks my carbon footprint.   But it is a premium nonetheless and one many Americans will be hesitant to pay.  Once upon a time buying American was a point of pride: today those who don’t see it as White Supremacy dismiss it as an unnecessary additional expense if they think of it at all.

We hear a great deal about the benefits of the free market and economies of scale.  Yet few consider the ways in which economies of scale have been weaponized against American businesses.  As American manufacturing has collapsed the Chinese have rushed to pick up the slack.  They now take advantage of worldwide distribution networks and cheap labor to undercut smaller businesses and secure retail distribution.  Today’s struggling American company with 50 employees might well be a prosperous firm with 500 were they not strangled by foreign competition — and we might not be running a $30-40k billion trade deficit with China each month.


So what can we do about this? You can start by reading the label before you buy: when you have a choice buy American even if it costs a little bit more.   When you try doing that, you’ll soon find out just how difficult it is to find American goods in American stores.  And if you think that’s a problem — and you should — you can start nagging your elected officials to do something about it.   As of this moment, I know of precisely one candidate who is talking about these problems and who is willing to do something about them.  That man is my friend Tom Kawczynski, and I urge you to check out his site and to support his 2020 primary campaign.


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