It has become a part of my normal purchasing routine to check a product’s country of origin. Often times, I’ll scan for this before other important data, like ingredients, features or even price. During the brief interval of time before I locate this information, I find myself actively wishing to see a “Made in the USA” tag or small American flag. It’s not jingoism, although I feel immensely fortunate to be an American. I’ve never cried during any of the countless times I’ve watched Remember the Titans, but it’s a story that does give me a better understanding of what the act of crying might feel like. So you know I’m a real American.
It is a more immediate feeling. There is something I find exceptionally satisfying about having a product – a well conceived, well crafted, well functioning product – made nearby to me. In a place I can drive to, by people I can see and converse with, whose hands I can shake. It is an enjoyment borne of a profound, immeasurable reverence for people who create things.
An item I know to have been produced close-by feels different to me. It feels like something that was actually made, as opposed to something that just is, then shipped. There is a heightened sense of the process of it, the act of creation, that is better preserved along the interstate than by ocean shipping lanes. I don’t get the same satisfaction from a product made in Canada, although I am a huge fan of that country (got married there; always stocked with Honeycup). Toronto is closer than the Pacific Northwest, however nothing I wear is quite as important to me as my Filson jacket, made in Seattle, unbreakable. And yet, this is an enjoyment that reached its summit when I learned that my wife’s wedding dress was to be hand crafted in New York City, only blocks away.
I don’t deny that this enjoyment is vitally nourished by the growing novelty of Made in America. A feeling of lament tracks closely the thought of outsourcing so much of our product creation. It would be a sense of impotence if we could not; it is lamentable that we do not. It seems improbable that there would have been much of a basis for this genus of enjoyment, or at least an awareness of it so acute, in the 1940s. We were making just about everything we needed then, and I hope I would have had the mettle to rather find myself preoccupied with this.
But today, in 2011, whenever my routine check yields a Made in America tag, it is an affirming event, a token that we don’t just move numbers, push and pile paper and wait with bated breath for the next Congressmen to devise some new way to corroborate that too many in Washington have wee clue what it means to be serious.
We do invent, design, test, redesign, retest, perfect, make, manufacture and stand behind it all, head held high and warranty in hand.
We have soul.
A drawing made by my grandfather, when in his 90s, long after surviving the Holocaust. He was a tailor.
I expect to return to this theme in future posts. I’d like to spotlight American companies and artisans making products that work beautifully. Meanwhile, I find myself wondering whether there are people out there who share these thoughts to some degree. Are there products, made near to you, that get you geeked?
I’d really like to know…