Friday, December 11, 2009

A note about my shoes!

Note that in that last pic posted in the update about my trip to Michigan...I am wearing my gummy-soled, top-seamed Clark's shoes. These are old enough that they are actually Clark's of England shoes, and not Clark's of England by way of China shoes. My Clark's are rough, and the sole leaks when you stand in a puddle, or in the snow, and I've been contemplating buying a new pair. I dropped in on the Clark's store here in town recently, and all the Clark's shoes they had were made overseas with cheap labor! AND they weren't any cheaper for me to buy! No thanks, I'll keep my old Clark's. My Dr Martin's are the same way. 20 years old, cracked and dryed out and split-of-sole. They're Brit-made Docs though, and the new Doc crap is not, and like the Clark's, they also aren't any cheaper to buy. Why is that?
This is important people. We are being screwed. Not that the Chinese can't make shoes, or shouldn't make shoes for other companies...I'm not that ethnocentric. But where we get screwed is, those Clark's shoes didn't get any cheaper when manufacturing left the UK and went abroad. Clark's still sells them for top dollar (and as "Clark's of England" no less! The audacity!), and no local manufacturing or employment benefits. You pay out the nose, Clark's management and stock holders show a bloated bottom line fat with profit from selling their made-with-cheap-labor product at full price, some poor Chinese dude loses a finger working an 18 hour shift sewing up your shoes, and your neighbor loses his job at the shoe factory. Over time, the Clark's brand degrades (see Soliman Boots, Bass, Dexter, Nunn Bush, etc for examples of great shoe companies with reputations going down the pooper) until even the name means nothing, and then whamo! Timberland Boots!!...nothing left but overpriced garbage., and another cautionary tale of brand mismanagement. Everyone loses in the end.
Remember when business models were based on staying in the black? Not running at a loss? No red ink? When did we switch over to a global perception toward the business model as being like a dishrag, where you wring it out for all its worth until there's nothing left but a mangled worthless mess? Do all companies really need to dominate the world market? Couldn't Clark's just exist to make funky comfortable shoes in reasonable numbers and turn a small profit? Who decided to take Clark's "Global"? Who''s next? Birkenstocks made in Singapore, still selling at $200 a pair?
We are being exploited here, people...and we are being cultivated to believe that these companies that choose to shutter their manufacturing operations in developed countries, will only stay in business if they can make crap overseas with cheap labor. Garbage Deal all around, I say. We need to collectively make sure that companies know that they strike these greed driven cheapo manufacturing deals at their peril. Choose with your wallets. Check your labels. Buy locally when you can, first and foremost, for the job you save, indirectly maybe, may be your own. Then look for and only consider those name brand products still produced in developed countries, where folks make a fair living wage. Finally, yeah, we need to buy some stuff from China and India and Viet Nam. We are in a global economy. I get it, I really do. Some things are ONLY made in these and other labor-cheap countries, but remember that those products should be priced accordingly. Expect that the stuff in Family Dollar will have a made in China sticker on it. That's OK. Cheap to make, means cheap to sell. I don't want it, but I understand why people do. BUT... Levi's, for 75 bucks a pair, should still be made in San Fran and not Panama. That $4k Specialized carbon fiber mountain bike? From China?! Who gets the cash for THAT little manipulation!? Spend your $4k on an American made bicycle, or one made in Spain, or Italy, or Germany or France. You have that choice and that choice has power.
If you pick up a hemp green and Cheetos orange sweater and the tag says Made in Pakistan, then the price tag needs to say $10. If it says , say...$100?...then put the sweater back and keep walking. Some fat cat at a desk somewhere is hoping you buy that bloated-price sweater, and you need to make sure he FEELS your understanding of the economics of his product, and that you won't support his rampant and calculated greed any longer. Make him feel it. Make him feel it hard.
Remember this album cover?

Well, that's the guy running my Clark's shoe company into the toilet, and he's the only one profiting from it.


Barbara said...

Munro shoes for women are made in the US. They are expensive, but no more so than comparable brands that are made in Asia.

I'm mostly choosing not to buy any new shoes, but unfortunately single individuals like me and you can't do much to fix this problem.

Steve said...

I just checked the tag on my hemp green and Cheetos orange sweater and DAMMIT, it was made in China for Joseph A. Bank! And I paid $100!

Seriously, you're totally right about all this, but until corporate culture changes there's not much that can be done. At some point c. 1980 companies decided they had ABSOLUTELY NO OBLIGATION other than to their shareholders, and they began wringing their employees out like your proverbial dishrag, enriching only stockholders, Wall streeters and CEOs. We all benefit from that a little bit, because most of us have mutual funds and the like, but it's a predatory form of super-capitalism that neglects the HUMAN side of production.

So, yeah, bravo! My approach is just to buy as little as possible overall.

Utahdog! said...

I have "Anger Spending Syndrome" That's where I decide I'd rather punch somebody in the face than give them a dime for their over-marketed import crap.

Single individuals can make a difference, it's just harder to find stuff. Keep it up, all...we can do it!

Anonymous said...

i saved a crapload of $$$ this year NOT buying stuff made in China--I did buy some Italian made shoes, but I had bucks saved to spend... it all worked out after all. I try to buy made in usa and usually find stuff... but it does take some looking.