What's In A Label, An Essay By Bryan Costales

What's In A Label?
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You examine the label in a tee shirt to determine who made it. Some search for designer labels. Other look at the labels for cleaning instructions or to see what material was used to construct the shirt.

There was a time, in America, when the term "union made" on a label was the mark of a quality garment. In the 80's it became politically more important to see the words "American made" on a label" With modern trade agreements, we mostly expect to find labels on tee shirts made from all over the world.

The more socially aware among us, instead of worrying what to buy, worry about what not to buy.

Some worry about spy chips external link sewn into clothing labels, where those chips allow the retailer to associate the clothes worn with buying habits and credit card numbers.

Some worry about the abuse of women and children in sweatshops external link. Here, labels tell in which country the garment is made. If that country dramatically violates worker and human rights, its tee shirts may be boycotted.

But there is a third sort of person who worries more about labels on the outside of clothing than on the inside. Consider, for example, the recently withdrawn line of women's tee shirts from Abercrombie and Fitch that read across the front, "Who needs brains when you have these?" Certain blue-noses (and yes you know who you are) used an email campaign to pressure for the removal of those shirts from the market.

The reason blue-noses have so much power is because they organize. Imagine a boycott against a country or region or brand that encouraged sweatshops. If, as with the blue noses, millions of like minded could be organized, enough pressure might be brought to close down those sweatshops.

Now imagine, in a better world, a young girl, poor, uneducated, the wrong color, and speaking the wrong language. She will foreverafter be spared the shame of working in a sweatshop.

Imagine another young girl, middle class American or European, the right color, and speaking the right language. She will foreverafter be spared the guilt of buying the wrong label.


© 2005 Bryan Costales Creative Commons License #Bryan_Costales
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