Olympic Uniform Hypocrisy: Reid and Pelosi’s Clothes Are Made In China Too

For all the furor over Ralph Lauren's uniforms not being made in America, little has been done to support our home-grown garment industry

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Ralph Lauren / Reuters

U.S. Olympic athletes rower Giuseppe Lanzone (left) and swimmer Ryan Lochte are pictured wearing the 2012 U.S. Olympic team closing-ceremony uniforms, made by Ralph Lauren.

Maybe it’s a lingering Independence Day hangover, but it seems that everyone in America has jumped on the patriotic bandwagon over the United States Olympics uniforms.  On Wednesday, Ralph Lauren — arguably one of the most iconic American fashion designers — released images of the opening ceremony uniforms designed for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. By Thursday, besides drawing criticism for the garments’ sartorial shortcomings, consumers, politicians and the media were gasping over another jarring detail: our elite American athletes are going to appear on the international stage wearing clothes manufactured in China?

Both sides of the political aisle immediately went on the attack, blaming the U.S. Olympics Committee for outsourcing the team’s garments and mementos — even though they did the exact same thing in 2008. “You’d think they’d know better,” House Speaker John Boehner said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went even farther, telling reporters, “I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”

(MORE: Our Real Blind Spot About China)

But would Mr. Reid and other politicians who have shared their disappointment in these China-made uniforms care to throw their own clothes in the fire, as well? It’s no secret that the majority of American-designed clothes we wear (myself included) are not actually produced in America. Where’s the outrage over that?

According to Erica Wolf, executive director of Save the Garment Center, an organization that seeks to preserve New York City as the capital of American fashion, just 5% of the clothing sold in the U.S. is actually manufactured here. In 1960, that number was 95%. That’s a significant statistic that should garner attention on its own, especially with all the debate about job creation and the flailing U.S. economy. Politicians are quick to get outraged about the importance of “Made in America” for the Olympic Games, but in reality, Save the Garment Center and other organizations have pushed congress to prioritize legislation that supports U.S. apparel manufacturers. So far, however, the issue hasn’t come to a vote. “The controversy over the Olympic uniforms has given [Made-in-America manufacturing] much more of an awareness to the national level,” Wolf told me in a phone interview. “But it’s not enough. We need more.”

(LIST: Top 10 Sports-Fashion Controversies)

U.S. manufacturing is on the rise overall — it increased 5.7% since June 2009, creating some 330,000 jobs — but there is much progress to be made in the fashion industry. According to ABC News, if all the clothing and mementos from the Olympics had been made in the U.S., it would have kept $1 billion from going overseas. So imagine the economic impact that producing all (or at least more) of the American-designed clothes in the U.S. would have. As New York Rep. Steve Israel said on the House floor Thursday morning, “‘Made in America’ is not just a label, it’s an economic solution.”

Rep. Israel and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who have both been supporters of American manufacturing, wrote a letter to the Olympic Committee on Thursday morning asking that it “take immediate steps to guarantee that this embarrassment does not happen again by voting that any future contracts for Olympic uniforms are made in America.” But why stop there? We can start by buying American ourselves — it does exist. A 2011 Moody’s Analytics report found that if consumers spent an extra 1% on U.S. goods, it would create 200,000 jobs. That would be no small victory.

Friday evening, the Lauren company issued the following statement:

For more than 45 years Ralph Lauren has built a brand that embodies the best of American quality and design rooted in the rich heritage of our country. We are honored to continue our longstanding relationship with the United States Olympic Committee in the 2014 Olympic Games by serving as an Official Outfitter of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams. Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States. We have committed to producing the Opening and Closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.

PHOTOS: Ralph Lauren’s U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony Uniforms

57 comments
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jrhydn
jrhydn

American Apparel/////

Kris West
Kris West

This anti-trade "buy American" nonsense is ridiculous. Low-skilled manufacturing's days are done in America. This doesn't mean we've lost jobs, it just means the work we do will be different. If you have a degree in a STEM field or practice a skilled trade, you'll do fine. There's still plenty of demand for doctors, engineers, computer programmers or skilled trades like plumbers, electricians, etc.

Rather than using tariffs and trade barriers to force poor people to buy over-priced American goods, we ought to reform our education system to turn out workers ready for the 21st century economy.

Rather than demonize investors who go overseas, we ought to fix the reasons WHY they go overseas. Lower our corporate tax rate (currently it's the world's highest), flatten our tax code and fix the mess that is America's financial regulatory system. If we make America the most profitable place in the world to invest then people will invest here. If not, they will seek other markets.

TENSPEED2
TENSPEED2

MR REID: YEAH! LET'S BURN THESE STUPID UNIFORM MADE IN CHINA!

DEMOCRATS:YEAH! BURN IT!BURN IT!

MR REID:。。。。。。

DEMOCRATS:WHAT HAPPANED DUDE?

MR REID:OK, PLAN B, LET'S SMASH THESE FUCKING LIGHTERS MADE IN CHINA!

DEMOCRATS:。。。。。

eetom
eetom

The greatest hypocrisy is to claim that the reason of objecting to wearing uniform made in China is purely economical.  Admit it, the reason is that the American's pride has been hurt.  Swallow your pride.  More and more things will be made in China whether you like it or not.

Marcus
Marcus

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Kimsbenn
Kimsbenn

The Boy Scouts of America require official uniforms to be made in America. This being the case, complete uniforms are very expensive. I'm glad they adhere to this policy but glad not everything is that expensive!

Baron Cormac
Baron Cormac

Let's see. All the tax breaks we gave to clothing manufacturers to move their operations off shore. Yep. And check out most of the Flags that the American Legion likes to hand out. You guessed it - Made in China.

baba_ijebu1
baba_ijebu1

somebody should check:Where are the armed forces uniforms made?USA?CHINA?

Cliff Weathers
Cliff Weathers

All armed forces standard-issue uniforms are made in the United States (as dictated by law), however the specialized rayon used in making some Army and Marine uniforms is a product Australia.

paul vinci
paul vinci

All this talk about the Olympic uniforms makes me sick - to think our senators and congressman don't have better things to discuss. Its so Hypocritical. On both sides of the isle, Democrats and Republicans alike are throwing Ralph Lauren under the bus for the uniforms that were made for opening ceremonies .... Let me ask these fine upstanding politicians ..."where are the cloths on your back being made" ? Do you only wearing American made cloths ? Whats in you closet ? ??? LOL . And where are the NIKE/ADIDAS etc. sneakers and swimsuits being made that are going to help propel our athletes to victory ?? We all know that answer. GET A GRIP - GET A LIFE- STOP GRANDSTANDING AND DO THE JOB YOUR OVER PAID TO DO !!

dakinsky
dakinsky

Close enough. Uniforms ordered by communists from communists. Do they look mao?

stfusa
stfusa

Welcome to the age of Global corporations..... They arent tied to any one nation or notion.... All they care about is just one thing and one thing ONLY...PROFITS... And lots of them..at any costs...and its never enough of it... They have and will go to any lengths for it...Destroy lives, societies, democracies...anything . These modern entities which are similar to psychopaths  are now classified by the corrupt US Supreme Court as 'persons' ......this is just the beginning...

budd22
budd22

Really? those politicians are the ones not only enable the outsourcing, but profited as well. It doesn't  matter how you dress up, a high end prostitute still is a hooker. 

adam_onge
adam_onge

It's the principle that we are talking about here and of course, the US Olympic team represents the "Best of America", so what they wear is very symbolic!

Besides, it's about JOBS, stupid!

Tanay Tejasvi
Tanay Tejasvi

Really Hate 'Made in China' ?...Why dont you start with burning your iphones

Problem Americans? *Troll Face*

Triple Seq
Triple Seq

Really?  You are proposing that we tariff or quota Chinese clothes?  First of all, that's totally anti-American (can't handle the competition?), secondly, it economically asinine.  How folks that don't know the first thing about economics are allowed to write op-eds in TIME on topics such as these is beyond me.  Do you not understand that trade sanctions ultimately cost the economy more in inflation than the jobs they produce / save? For every factory you save you are shutting down 20 Targets.

MaryWaterton
MaryWaterton

There is no reason in this world why it should be cheaper to make ANY product halfway around the world cheaper than it can be made here. Transportation costs alone should make it impossible to be profitable in that manner. So why is it possible? Because in 1974 the United States took itself off the Gold Standard and the rest of the world followed in kind. So China can print money and thereby peg their currency lower than ours. The solution to most of our current problems is to return to the Gold Standard. But that won't happen because the banksters make so much easy profit through the printing of money. You and I pay the costs of money printing through inflation (i.e., your dollar buys less because printing more makes what you have worth less).

Kimsbenn
Kimsbenn

I think it may have more to do with payroll, a company's largest expense. With the wages demanded by American workers with the benefits it easily outpaces what a Chinese worker gets. After a recent strike Chinese workers gained an extra $28 per month. It wasn't what they wanted, but close, and they were satisfied. American workers are excellent, and we all want and even deserve a good wage, but that is what helped most companies decide to leave. It matters not if you receive breaks and incentives if you know costs will be similar, but it's not even close. And when the unions are present the costs are even higher. It would be nice to buy 95% American made goods but I can't afford it - and I have a decent wage job.

Tanay Tejasvi
Tanay Tejasvi

Coz Gold standard implies limited money printing ability  which implies limited credit which implies limited capital which implies limited growth...

Neil68
Neil68

We export Firm and China export product, so.........what else?

Kwende Idrissa Madu
Kwende Idrissa Madu

The same people who complain about  the fact the US Olympic teams  uniforms are made in China provided incentives and tax-breaks to the corporations that destroyed the domestic garment industry. 

chippy1
chippy1

They may  look good, but can they jump?

Jonnyxo
Jonnyxo

American politicians only whine when the can get press...  in reality they couldn't care less about where the clothes are made, they only try to score brownie points by ranting about what might seem like a hot potato.  All the while they buy the same "made in other parts of the world" goods and think nothing of it.  Truthfully, the rest of the world looks at American politicians as the most stunned, knuckle draggers around... scary since you have nukes...

felino2012
felino2012

HE MADE THEM IN CHINA,BECAUSE HE WANT TO MAXIMIZE HIS PROFITON ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS EVENTS  THE WORLDHAS THE OFFER. I SAY BAN RALPH LAUREN FROM THE 2014 OLIMPICS,LET HIM MAKE UNIFORMS FOR THE CHINESE

Zhouzhou Zhou
Zhouzhou Zhou

what the heck is wrong with Chinese and made in China,  u can't live without it every now and then, try burning your precious iphone and then call your mother! 

Alsard  Huey
Alsard Huey

I'll tell u what's wrong with china and chinese people,in this deal,there are two winners: chinese red nobles and those major American multinational corporations,and there are aslo two losers:American people(at least they get the "cheaper" benefit) and those real suckers -- chinese common people( i'm not just talking about those workers,but all socioeconomic strata except those vampires related to the government who's using currency manipulation to suck everything up),those poor chinese bastards are robbed in countless ways by their government.

Susan Antony
Susan Antony

 Why can't the iPhone be made in North America?

Elliott Husband Powton
Elliott Husband Powton

Because it would be too expensive.  You can't have Walmart AND have everything made in America.

It's ONE or the OTHER.  As it stands you can't have both,

eetom
eetom

How many uniforms must the Chinese sell to America to earn enough to buy one Boeing jet?

How many jobs will be created in America if the American Olympic athelets buy their uniform from American manufacturers?

Cyberspeak
Cyberspeak

If anyone has ever seen the sweat shops in china they would feel pity for them not racist hatred.     Since when has it become politically correct to hate Asians?    You know what the greatest American ideal has been; to Love all people of all races.   What an embarassment to hear politicians voice hatred toward a nation of people over clothes.  Politicians should put people in their heart not their hate.

stfusa
stfusa

 But didnt we as a Americans constantly propagandized over our history with need to believe in the notion of 'villians' or 'enemy' to hate.?  Characterizing any country that rises up in military or economic power who might challenge our imperial power over the world? Nazis,  Soviets and now Chinese..

TheyLieAboutUsernames
TheyLieAboutUsernames

U.S. Olympic athletes representing their country on a national stage are not the same as Joe Sixpack buying a t-shirt from Walmart. If the author of this article can't figure that out then they need to go back to the mailroom. And saying we should buy American made apparel as though average consumers can afford it? What's with all these clowns living in bubbles presuming to know what's best for the rest of us?

Janet Reynolds
Janet Reynolds

The Koch Brothers reward corporations for outsourcing jobs. Chinese workers

are beginning to complain about poor wages and are demanding better pay. Shipping goods back to the USA is also getting expensive. This may eventually bring back our manufacturers. However, greed from executives and CEO's will continue to divide the classes. America may never be the home of the free again unless you are wealthy.

rory2012
rory2012

US politicians act like a idiot.The true is not because the uniforms are  not made in America.The fact is they are made in China if they were made in other country rather than China,it won't stir up all this fuzz.

chillj
chillj

That is only logical, as China is the primary competitor of the U.S.  That American Olympians are wearing  clothes not manufactured in their own country, but that of their primary competitor,  is demoralizing and insulting to Americans.  The Olympics are  entirely  about symbolism and national pride; it is unfortunate that Ralph Lauren has none of the latter and understands nothing about the former. 

patricia013
patricia013

Making the outfits in the USA should have been a given!  How much more of this nonsense are they going to pull on the American people?

L A Odicean
L A Odicean

In the picture Lanzone looks like an English cricketer and Lochte looks like an umpire. Very suitable for the English Olympics.

Minoqo
Minoqo

"But I can't afford to buy American because I don't have a job.  But I can't get a job because not enough people buy American.  But I can't afford to buy American because I don't have a job.  But I can't get a job because not enough people buy American..."

"Maybe if we lower taxes on the rich, instead of just keeping the extra money, they'll use it to hire me.  They got rich by helping others like that, right?"

Anhthu Vu
Anhthu Vu

That is true but not entirely correct. Greed builds on itself. Doesn't matter if we lower taxes on the rich, they will always find ways to make them richer, disregarding how you live your life.

"Cool we get taxed less, but we still make more money manufacturing our products in China than in the US, so let's continue to do that".

US companies didn't just outsource and move their plants to China because they couldn't make a profit here. It's because they couldn't make "enough profit". How much is enough for the rich is the question.

Oneill
Oneill

what Eddie said I am blown away that anyone able to make $7648 in four weeks on the internet. have you seen this site link  (Click on menu Home more information)    http://goo.gl/NC66q   

Guest
Guest

Very true, we have the same problem here in Europe too.

newsy97
newsy97

Incredibly on the money!!!! As a man who lost his thriving business to the "free trade" agreements of the 1990's, I fully understand and agree that the Dems can't run away from the giveaway of much of our manufacturing base, just as the Republicans can't run away from the almost depression creating fiscal policies from their era of the previous decade.

LoginIncorrect
LoginIncorrect

Everybody wants to have their cake and eat it too, but ... you can't.

When you eliminate all barriers to trade, when your trading partners are both quite competitive and engage in currency manipulation, when the free market is your national religion and deregulation is your rallying cry, this is what you get.

Our elected representatives are no dummies -- they know this.  But they are also too cowardly to tell the electorate the obvious truth.