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This 'All-American' Brand Is Made Overseas

There are a lot of things we associate with the good ol' USA. Apple pie, big cars, and blue jeans are some we bring up when talking about products associated with American style. But not all are actually made here in the United States — at least, not anymore. With globalization's lower costs and the challenge of production in the U.S. (where materials aren't always easily sourced, and skilled workers draw higher wages), many products once made in the U.S. are now made in China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere. There's even one quintessentially American brand you may not realize has been entirely outsourced. 


Related: 76 Brands Still Made in America

Ironically, the story of the brand's creation — Levi's — is a thoroughly American one. Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant, worked with his brothers at their dry goods store in New York City before heading to San Francisco to open a branch. Jacob Davis, a Latvian immigrant and tailor who bought material from Strauss, came up with the idea of reinforcing pants with copper rivets, but didn't have the money for a patent; he and Strauss went into business together and received a patent for their riveted denim pants in 1873. Blue jeans were born.


Today, Levi's are made in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Until the closing of a near-legendary White Oak denim plant in North Carolina, Levi's had a Made in the U.S.A. line of 501 Original Fit Jeans and trucker jackets (the traditional jean jacket). But the plant closed in December 2017, and now U.S.-made 501 jeans must be hunted on the secondhand market.


Even while still being manufactured, U.S.-made 501 jeans could cost up to $150, while the 501s made outside of the U.S. range from $50 to $90. American-made isn't cheap, but people who want American products will be glad to know it's still possible to buy American, even if it's harder — and even if they won't have the classic Levi's logo on them.


You may still be impressed with the lengths Levi's goes to on promoting sustainability, ranging from using less water to finish denim, putting rain-fed cottonized hemp in its clothing, and opening Levi's Tailor Shops to promote recycling and reuse. Saving American manufacturing with your purchasing can be tough; saving the world might be easier. 


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