Where am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes

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Fueled by passion and curiosity, Kelsey Timmerman tells the story of the items we often take for granted. KelseyTimmerman says:. Vonster Where would we be without doorknobs and socks? Out in the cold with blisters Where is Kelsey Contest.

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A rich man is a poor man with money. Digg Facebook Flickr Linkedin Twitter. Contact Kelsey hi kelseytimmerman. Since so many freshmen across the country start their college careers reading this book, I hope they will find it useful. My Where Am I Wearing? The people I met have inspired me to be a better neighbor, consumer, donor, volunteer, and a better glocal global and local citizen.

And all of this started with Amilcar in Honduras. Maybe he has a family. Maybe he still works at the garment factory. Maybe has haunted me since that fateful day in when I met Amilcar. I scan the notes that year-old me scrawled, and I stare out at the blue beyond.

Timmerman, Kelsey

They were made in China. This question inspired the quest that took me around the globe. It cost me a lot of things, not the least of which was my consumer innocence. Before the quest, I could put on a piece of clothing without reading its tag and thinking about Arifa in Bangladesh or Dewan in China, about their children, their hopes and dreams, and the challenges they face.

This quest is about the way we live and the way they live; because when it comes to clothing, others make it, and we have it made. You should feel privileged I told you. I would like to think that I won the award for my stellar collection of Scooby-Doo and Eric Clapton T-shirts, but I know what clinched it—junior high, when my mom still dressed me. Basically, I was the Bugle Boy. You might not remember the brand of clothing known as Bugle Boy, but you probably remember their commercials where the sexy model in the sports car stops to ask the guy stranded in the desert: Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans you are wearing?

I had entire Bugle Boy outfits. As far as most consumers are concerned, clothes come from the store. Clothes came even later in the chain for me during this time—from gift boxes on holidays or birthdays or just magically appearing on my bed with Post-it notes hanging from the tags:. If clothing made it to this extremely comfortable stage, I normally established some kind of emotional attachment to it and stashed it away.

In high school, I remember Kathie Lee Gifford, the beloved daytime talk show host, crying on television as she addressed allegations that her clothing line was being made by children in Honduras. I had bigger problems in those days, such as, finding time to wash my dirty car or how I was going to ask Annie, the hustling sophomore shooting guard with the big brown eyes, to the homecoming dance.

Globalization was a foreign problem of which I was blissfully unaware. I did know that it existed, and that I was against it. Everybody was.

Huffy bicycles that were made in the county to the north were now made in the country to the south. Buying American was in. To do so, we shopped at Walmart—an all-American red, white, and blue store with all-American products. Not only were Americans losing jobs to unpatriotic companies moving overseas, but the poor people who now had the jobs were also being exploited. Slouching at our desks in Sociology , we talked about sweatshops—dark, sweaty, abusive, dehumanizing, evil sweatshops.

Nike was bad, and at some point, Walmart became un-American. I felt morally superior because I was wearing Asics. A degree in anthropology and a minor in geology left me eager to meet people of different cultural persuasions who lived far from the squared-off, flat fields of Ohio. While my classmates arranged job interviews, I booked plane tickets. I had seen the world in the pages of textbooks and been lectured about it long enough.

It was time to see it for myself.

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The first trip was six months long, and the second and third trip each lasted two months. A love for travel came and never went. And then one day while staring at a pile of clothes on the floor, I thought, What if I traveled to all of the places where my clothes were made and met the people who made them? I was stocking up on travel supplies—duct tape, tiny rolls of toilet paper, water purification tablets, and waders to protect against snakebites in the jungle—when I bumped into a classmate from high school working in the camping department of Walmart.

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More beaches? Then I told him the entire list of my clothes and the other places I intended to visit.


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This was the response I received time and time again. In fact, I found this automatic assumption to be rather disturbing. It seemed to be a given: The people who make our clothes are paid and treated badly. Besides, we saved a few bucks. I returned home, every bit the beach bum I was before the trip. A seed had been planted. Events changed me. I bought a home.

I started to become a normal American—a consumer with a mortgage, a refrigerator, and a flat-screen television. I began to settle into my American Dream, and comfortably so.

Where am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes

However, the pile of clothes appeared once more, and I became obsessed once again with where my stuff was made. I started to read books about globalization and the history of the garment industry, but I felt that they all missed something. The lives, personalities, hopes, and dreams of the people who make our clothes were lost among the statistics. I decided to resume my quest to meet these people.

No one met me at the airport when I arrived in the countries where my clothes were made. No company CEO was expecting me. I had no contacts, no entourage, and no room reservations. However, I had plenty of mental ones. I was simply a consumer on a quest. If you asked me what I was doing, I would have told you something about bridging the gap between producer and consumer.

You probably would have thought I was a bit off, recklessly throwing time and money to the wind when I should have been at home paying off my mortgage and putting my college degree to work. But I did have priceless experiences that changed me and my view of the world. I did my best to find the factories that made my clothes.

I took off my shoes and entered their tiny apartments. I ate bowls of rice cooked over gas stoves during power outages. I taught their children to play Frisbee, and rode a roller coaster with some of them in Bangladesh. I was challenged to a drinking game by a drunken uncle in China.

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A Walmart that is much different from the ones here. Its the 10 largest retailer there and there is about Walmarts in China Source: Cindy np link. Although Timmerman touches on the economics of the garment industry, his main focus is on the people and their difficult lives. A common thread among each of these workers is family. Many of them leave small villages to work in the city and send money home to support their parents, siblings, and often their own children.

With little opportunity back home, the small wages of manufacturing jobs bring some stability and hope for survival Source: Rebekah np link. I picked up this book expecting more of a guide on what companies to avoid buying clothes from, but it is not that kind of book. I enjoyed "traveling" to Honduras, China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the United States and hearing the stories - Timmerman's writing style is funny and easy to read and it didn't take me long to finish the book Source: Shepherd np link.

This is not a typical book about the globalization of the apparel industry; Timmerman is neither an activist nor an industry defender. Indeed, he has no expertise or special interest beyond the fact that he wonders how the clothing he wears is made. Presenting himself as the ultimate boy next door from a working-class family in Ohio, he uses a casual tone more reminiscent of blogging than muckraking.

His curiosity about the origins of his T-shirts, sandals, and other clothing leads him to factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and Honduras. He takes on the project with few preconceptions and little knowledge and perseveres with a charming lack of guile. That sincerity, plus an honest skepticism, allows him to avoid preachiness.

This book does not explore the reasons for global inequalities and cannot replace even journalistic accounts, let alone scholarly ones, but for readers seeking a first humane glimpse of the situation without complex arguments or finger-shaking moralism, this is an agreeable choice Source: Klopfer nda np link. He then decided to travel to those places—Honduras, Cambodia, Bangladesh and China - to go undercover as a garment buyer in order to meet the people who made his clothes.

He wanted to know not only their working conditions, but also their names, personalities, and dreams. He wanted to somehow bridge the divide between producer and consumer and put faces to the industry Source: George np link. Ninety-seven percent of our clothes are made overseas. So I decided to visit each of the countries and the factories where my five favorite items of clothing were made, and meet the workers.

Where Am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes

I knew the basics of globalized labor — the forces, processes, economics, and politics at work. But what was lost among all those facts and numbers was an understanding of the lives, personalities, hopes, and dreams of the people who made my clothes Source: Timmerman np link. I believe that if we reduce global issues to the stories of individual people, we can better see ourselves, our parents, our sons and daughters, and our hopes and struggles in one another Source: Timmerman ndb np link.