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American Made

- July 11, 2009

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A tale told by Brian Burnsed in the June 29 issue of Business Week.

bq. Over Memorial Day weekend, J.C. Penney ran ads for a T-shirt with “American Made” printed on the front. In Dallas, Joe Allen, 78, a retired clothing manufacturer, rushed out to buy some. Allen, who says his company was forced out of the industry because of outsourcing, was thrilled to see a retailer promoting domestically produced apparel.

Okay, at this point you’re thinking “Yah, and the shirt turned out to have been made in China.” Well, not exactly. But that’s not the real punchline anyway. Keep reading.

bq. At the store, though, he learned from the tag that the shirt was made in Mexico. “I made a little bit of a scene,” he admits, then went home and contacted the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which e-mailed J.C Penney to complain that the T-shirt’s slogan was “deceptive.” The chain’s reply: “‘American Made’ refers to ‘the actual person wearing the shirt.'”

This puts a whole new light on things for me. I have shirt that says “Kraftwerk,” and now I know that when I am wearing that shirt, I am Kraftwerk. Alas, as soon as I doff the shirt, I return to my normal, synthesizer-less self, booted from the techno-pop scene by the unassailable logic of J.C. Penney.