made in the USA

i need a new pair of jeans.
i haven't been wearing jeans lately. my last pair was from Gap, and they wore out far too quickly and never quite felt right. plus i discovered Carhartt last year, so i've spent a lot of time in their canvas dungarees since.
but i want some dressier pants i can wear on the rare occasions i'm not on my way to work and back. and this fall i'll be in actual sit-down classes for the first time in more than a year.

in a related story, my older sister Sarah has been working for a couple years at the Fair Labor Association headquarters near Dupont Circle here in DC. the FLA is a group made up of brands, suppliers, and schools who want to do something about unfair labor conditions.

so i set out to find some tough, good-lookin', fair-labor-made jeans for less than $50. first stop: a call to Sarah. firstly, she said, it's impossible to say the conditions under which a particular garment was made when buying it retail. your best bet is to invest your clothes budget in a company that is part of a fair labor solution.

my sister wears Lucky Brand and has a pair that lasted her 5 years or so. Lucky is owned in part (85%) by Liz Claiborne, which is an FLA affiliate, although Lucky is not one of the brands mentioned on the FLA site and thus may not be as likely to be fair-labor made. Lucky is a boutique sort of brand, with price tags to match: my favorite on their site is the Vintage Straight, $101-$114 in nice dark washes, or as low as $54 on sale colors. eh.

Sarah also mentioned that Levi's, although no longer made in the US and not affiliated with the FLA, has a compliance program. their jeans look cool on the site, especially the Boot Cut 517 ($40 direct from Levi's), which comes in a classy darkish blue. the site even says their "Country of Origin" is the US. sounds like a winner...i'm headed to their Georgetown store tomorrow.

i also dug up a few companies making jeans in the US. Sarah says a US-made product isn't necessarily better than a foreign-made one; worker abuses have been recorded everywhere. but still, the idea of American-made, especially when we're talking jeans. Sarah said the best way to find out if a company uses fair labor is to ask them, or better yet to ask if they belong to any organizations like the FLA. companies don't know consumers care about such things unless consumers ask. has some real sweet designs, but none of the cool ones are available yet. they say 10 days and the website will have everything for sale. Sarah was suspicious of Texas-made jeans because of all the nearby undocumented labor and the price point ($30). please, show us what your pants look like on a real person. work jeans, made by prisoners. if they made something cut a little slimmer i'd buy it. a very cool idea, especially for biking in jeans; looks much less bulky in the critical area. again, show me a real butt in the pants. plus they cost $38, so they better look as good as Levi's. but they bonus points for doing 1" size increments as opposed to 2".

there's an index of US-made products at, although it's not totally comprehensive, and it's apparently run by some out-there right-wingers.

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