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Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt

Friday, December 06, 2013

What exactly goes into making a t-shirt nowadays? NPR’s Planet Money decided to find out. Planet Money co-founder and producer for This American LifeAlex Blumberg, shares what they learned.

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Alex Blumberg
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Comments [20]

Alice Twombly from Englewood, NJ

As the daughter of a clothing manufacturer, I spent a lot of my childhood in our family factory in Hoboken, NJ, in the 1950's. We manufactured children's clothing. The factory started with my grandfather making his sons learn to sew in their tenement. Then there was a small factory run by my father and his brothers. Over the years, the manufacture of our clothes went to South Jersey, Kentucky, Haiti, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and ultimately Bangladesh. Then we closed.That is one of the histories of small clothing manufacture in the US.
Robert Pinsky, the former Poet Laureate of the US, wrote a wonderful poem called " Shirt" which depicts the manufacture of and history of the shirt he is wearing. Here is a link:http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15479

Dec. 06 2013 12:02 PM

oh, snap.

Dec. 06 2013 11:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Dboy

You mean I continue to PUNCTURE your silly muckraking "points."

Dec. 06 2013 11:42 AM

…you continue to punctuate my point.

Dec. 06 2013 11:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Dboy

That Triangle disaster was due to exits being locked due to fear of stealing. That was criminal negligence. Your remarks are often so stu---ooops - I meant silly!

Dec. 06 2013 11:35 AM

The Triangle Shirtwaste Factory…THAT kind of "opportunity" for women…is that the kind of "elevating", "off-the-farm", fair work you're referring to jgaridiot???

You should really find something NOT stupid to type.

Dec. 06 2013 11:32 AM
tom from astoria

Im a big believer in bringing basic manufacturing to this country. oes the Planet Money guy see any place along the line where the American component in the line could be enhanced -- we need the jobs

Dec. 06 2013 11:29 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

This process of industrialization started with the textile industry which became the ready-to-wear clothing industry has been spreading spreading throughout the world for 200 years now, so what else is new? It was and remained the first step in the industrialization process that now reaches into the most impoverished areas on the planet and uplifts them eventually.

Dec. 06 2013 11:27 AM

Cotton? I love this topic! I love soft cotton and when it comes to shirts, wear only 100% as much as possible (synthetics give me a rash/make me overheat).

Somehow I've even developed a knack for recognizing the source of the cotton just by feeling it and not looking at the label- the softest cottons ALWAYS come from India, and then France, Japan and sometimes Peru. The worst is China, which feels processed and rougher.

Why is that? Brian, please ask your guest if it's possible those countries are using their own cottons to make into clothing, or is it the way it's spun or finished there that makes it different, and not the actual cotton itself? Thanks.

Dec. 06 2013 11:22 AM
Andrea from Philadelphia

Wages aside, are the working conditions different/better in Colombia than Bangladesh?

Dec. 06 2013 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, come on. The textile and ready to wear clothing industry from its inception was the first major manufacturing process that lifted millions off the farm and raised them a bit out of poverty since Dickens' time. It gave women a chance to work outside the farm and they wouldn't gave gone to the factory if it were better down on the farm. As true in Bangladesh today as it was in Scotland 200 years ago.

Dec. 06 2013 11:21 AM

Cheapest labor, eh? Why has Africa been excluded entirely? Cheap worldwide textiles have gutted the African textiles industry...They couldn't compete.

Much of African clothing comes from US donation boxes - that is our cast offs are SOLD in Africa. How can that be economical?

Dec. 06 2013 11:21 AM
Er-nay from UWS

How important is "good Government" in the price / efficiency of t-shirt production?

Dec. 06 2013 11:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I spent a day or two on a cotton combine on a kibbutz in Israel, jumping up and down in the rear bin to hamper down the cotten that was flying into it. I was accompanied by a Swedish girl in a bikini bathing suit :) I learned a lot about farming and Swedish girls on that kibbutz back in '71-'72 :)

Anyhoo, this is what I meant that technology made slavery obsolete. Even back in '71 one of those combines could easily pick through all that cotton at least as fast as hundred slaves at least, probably more.

Dec. 06 2013 11:17 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I spent a day or two on a cotton combine on a kibbutz in Israel, jumping up and down in the rear bin to hamper down the cotten that was flying into it. I was accompanied by a Swedish girl in a bikini bathing suit :) I learned a lot about farming and Swedish girls on that kibbutz back in '71-'72 :)

Anyhoo, this is what I meant that technology made slavery obsolete. Even back in '71 one of those combines could easily pick through all that cotton at least as fast as hundred slaves at least, probably more.

Dec. 06 2013 11:17 AM
Julie from Brooklyn

Hello Brian -
PLEASE get your Planet Money person to talk about the massive US government subsidies that make the US cotton industry so competitive that it drowns the African producers ability to compete on the global market?

You will know that this is a big issue in front of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - and has been for some years. It is cause of real concern in a world where African poverty impacts us al. And Africans want to trade their way out of poverty, not receive AID.
With thanks, Julie

Dec. 06 2013 11:16 AM

Cost of the energy sending our product to Indonesia and bringing that product back to the US from Columbia and Bangladesh? How does that compare to shipping the in-process goods domestically?

Dec. 06 2013 11:15 AM
Edward from NJ

Will the second edition NPR Shop t-shirts be distinguished somehow from the original Kickstarter campaign t-shirts?

Dec. 06 2013 11:12 AM

Does the manufacture of textiles always flow to cheapest labor market? Is it a given? US history is textiles went from New England, to the South, to Pacific Rim countries.

What changes in costs would need to occur to bring non-boutique manufacture of textiles to the US?

Dec. 06 2013 11:01 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Did the Planet Money people take a look at Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma," which followed a McDonald's meal?

Dec. 06 2013 10:41 AM

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