U.S. Olympic Uniforms Made in China? What, Your Clothes Aren’t?

5 years ago

[UPDATE 7/14/12: In response to criticism, the U.S. Olympic Committee has announced that Team USA Ralph Lauren uniforms for the 2014 Winter Games will be made in America. --Grace]

This year’s U.S. Olympic team will be wearing uniforms that are red, white, and blue -- and made in China.

An ABC News report checked labels on Ralph Lauren’s uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team and found "Made in China" labels on everything.

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Lawmakers in Congress quickly decried the outsourcing of the U.S. uniforms, with everyone from John Boener (R-Ohio) to Barbara Boxer (D-California) offering soundbites. Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Democrat Harry Reid even declared that the blazers and berets should be burned.

Credit Image: Ralph Lauren

I mean, I would never support our trade imbalance by wearing clothes that are made in China. Except -- oops! -- I do. And most likely, so do you.

The irony was not lost to folks on Twitter:

The real irony is that politicans are denouncing the foreign production of a few blazers and berets (talk about un-American!), when the reality is that an overwhelming amount of the things we buy -- from computers to apple juice -- is now produced overseas. As the bloggers at Not Made in China discovered, it’s extremely hard to meet your basic needs without buying things manufactured in China.

But this is not the first time Team USA uniforms have been made elsewhere. Even in 2002, when Mitt Romney headed up the U.S. Olympic Committee, the uniforms were made by Roots, a Canadian company which also outsourced some of its manufacturing to China. And there was a big stink over that year'sOlympic pins being made in China.

I get it. The clothes our athletes wear the Olympic Games aren’t just threads and cloth. They should be a symbol of pride in America, right? And a gesture of support for the U.S. economy during an election year when the economy -- and outsourcing -- are playing such a big role in the presidential election. You would think so.

The ABC News investigation estimates that about $1 billion could have stayed in the American economy if those uniforms had been made domestically. But how much more would they have cost? A June report from Business Week says the cost-savings of manufacturing in China is shrinking.

So perhaps the time is ripe to bring manufacturing back to the United States. But it's going to a lot of choices –- from corporate level to individual consumer buying socks and underwear. I don’t like the trade imbalance with China. But are we really willing to put our money where our mouths are?

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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