My Small Act

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Today I went around my local American Eagle Outfitters to do my small act. I look at many of the T-shirts in the store and looked specifically at the tag. The tag that is on all of the shirts with font so small that it is always overlooked, but was what I was deliberately looking for.

I took pictures of all the tags that I saw and noticed all the different countries. On the American Eagle Outfitters website, it said that their clothing was made in China, Guatemala, India, USA, and Vietnam. However, some of the countries I saw on the tags weren’t on this list at all, and some of the ones that were on the list weren’t on tags at all.

A significant number of shirts that I looked at were made in China or India. Vietnam and Guatemala was seen a couple of times, but USA never made an appearance. The company probably makes a few items of clothing from the US just to be able to say that not everything is made in far off countries. Mexico made an unexpected cameo on the tags. The country was not mentioned on the website, but there was a shirt that I saw, and probably a few others that said it was made in Mexico.

Looking at these tags made me aware of the origins of the shirts, and also of how the company presents itself.



Small acts

After reading all of this information about American Eagle, you could be wondering what you could do to help. It seems that when you see something happening, you never know how to help, or think about it. It seems like something so far away from where you are that it’s something foreign, something you are not a part of. But there are a few things that you could do.

If you discover a company that uses sweatshops, or treats their workers unethically, stop buying products from them. There are many companies that sell products that were made domestically and support the causes that you believe in. Buy goods from those companies and encourage others to do the same. This is called buycotting.

Another way to make a difference is to look at the tags of your clothing to see where they come from. Being aware of how your clothing is made or by who increases your knowledge and may change how you see the company.

The wages

The workers are provided with a very small wage in the countries that export apparel to the United States. By 2011, garment workers on average earned $94 per month in India, in Indonesia they earned $142 per month, and in Vietnam they earned $111. These wages had actually been increased from before. The workers in China had their wages increase by 129.4% from 2001 to 2011 (Center of American Progress, 2013).

In China, the workers are paid 36% of what is considered a living wage, 22% in Vietnam, and 29% in Indonesia (Center of American Progress, 2013). This means that these workers only get enough money to not starve, much less support their families. Therefore the workers had to work while they were malnourished and for very long hours.

Where my T-shirt is made

The average American Eagle T-shirt is made in several different places. After personally checking the tags of my T-shirts and going onto the stores website, I’ve found that the shirts are imported from many different countries. The shirts are made in China, Guatemala, India, USA, Vietnam.

These countries, along with others, are main manufacturers of apparel and products due to outsourcing. When the cost of manufacturing products within the country rose, companies were eager to take advantage of global outsourcing to make products in the cheapest way. In Canada, there is a minimum wage that workers need to be paid, and many health and environmental standards that need to be obtained. Working with these requirements cost the company more than they would like to spend on things other than making their product, so they move their factories to other countries. This is called globalization.

Of all the factories of American Eagle, none have had grave accidents of the building or their workers, but it is an important thing to prevent. American Eagle Outfitters are also not bystanders. They have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in 2013, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (American Eagle Outfitters), and have also sent an open letter to the government of Cambodia expressing their concern over recent violence (Le, 2014).

One of the many garment factories in India.
Figure 2: One of the many garment factories in India.

My American Eagle T-shirt

Figure 1: The logo of American Eagle Outfitters
Figure 1: The logo of American Eagle Outfitters

Many people, teenagers especially, see this blue eagle on billboard ads and think of that big, welcoming store where you can buy all the clothes your heart desires. The employees are young and friendly, and their clothing is so affordable. However, not many people know about how those T-shirts are made, and what goes into them.

On this blog, I will be posting the details of American Eagle T-shirts and the process that goes into making them.