Eye On Apparel: Only In America
ANEK SANGKAMANEE / bbernard / Ortis / Shutterstock.co
From large, recurring orders to small one-offs, the message carried by promotional wearables fashioned from suppliers stateside extends far beyond the client’s branding alone. In an economic climate that’s forecasted to grow this year—U.S. gross domestic profit is estimated to increase 3.2%, according to S&P Global—and continue to stabilize after a period of major disruption, the benefits are even more palpable.
“American-made products are more readily available,” says Glen Brumer, sales director with Royal Apparel, a supplier in Hauppauge, New York. “With global supply-chain issues, ‘made in USA’ allows Royal Apparel to be in a good stock position and overcome shortages of imported goods.”
“I believe that American-made and USA-sourced products carry a lot of positive marketing beyond the product itself,” says Mike Brugger, president of West Palm Beach, Florida, distributor Fully Promoted. “Particularly with what’s going on in the world and in the economy, people want to keep products, services and goods here, so the biggest benefit right now is the fact that it’s made in America.”
When clients choose to incorporate American-made products into their campaigns, they are directly supporting U.S. manufacturers and more than 11 million jobs, according to Trading Economics. While sourcing product from overseas manufacturing hubs such as China and India typically affords more competitive pricing and other advantages, there is far less oversight. Thus, problems considered to be severe violations in the U.S., like child and forced labor have unknowingly occurred.
“We are proud of the skilled labor force of the USA and take pride in their work,” says Brumer. “There are safe working conditions and the workers are treated fairly.” It’s the combination of federal and state regulations and “more stringent quality control procedures,” among other factors, he says, which allow for more transparent oversight over supply-chain processes. With access to the latest in manufacturing equipment, Brumer says Royal Apparel is able to produce “higher-quality, longer-lasting products, which also helps the environment.”
Less than 2% of the world’s clothing is manufactured in the U.S., but incorporating homegrown items into campaigns comes with convenient benefits, such as lower minimum order quantities, greater supply-chain transparency and superior customer service. Perhaps the greatest positive right now is shorter timelines for orders, and with the supply-chain issues in China still causing widespread delays, American-made products offer solutions with more guaranteed timetables.
“Generally, American-made, sourced produced are more readily available than their imported counterparts right now,” says Brugger. “Large orders can be produced faster and in some cases are less expensive. Bringing in a container or air freight is astronomically expensive right now. Today, producing products here gives us more solutions.”
For MVP Sportswear, a Van Nuys, California supplier, President Helen Karapetyan cites shorter delivery times, higher quality control and easier problem-solving as advantages to selling American-made apparel in her business. She also notes “a greater ability to be creative,” “flexibility throughout the process” and the “ability to accommodate all sizes needed, with no orders too small or too large.”
Brugger also points to color consistency and the product safety component. “The color consistency is a higher grade,” he says, explaining that if an order is placed for tomato red t-shirts, this t-shirt will be the exact shade of tomato red if an order is placed months or years later.
Also important, he explains that products manufactured in the U.S. are held to more stringent safety requirements and inspections. “Whether it’s OSHA or food safety, there’s more legislation than oversight of what we manufacture here, which does increase quality.”
Whether gifting a branded pullover to new hires in an onboarding kit, offering it to employees in a company store or selling to end users at retail, American-made products also carry a lighter carbon footprint due to an easier transport. The cargo shipping industry, for instance, is a major producer of pollution and is responsible for about 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year, NPR reports. When American-made apparel is also fashioned from U.S.-grown cotton and/or recycled fibers, the environmental impact is even gentler.
As Karapetyan says, “guaranteed quick turnaround and delivery, and availability of reorders” are also major perks to USA-made gear. But these advantages coincide directly with shorter transport distances and thus, a gentler environment impact.
Brumer says that Royal Apparel has millions of garments in stock that can ship domestically within a day, and because of U.S. regulations, as mentioned above, the ordering experience carries greater transparency. “We also show our production schedule on what we are currently producing in our vertical production, so customers can plan,” he says.
An issue that arises when choosing American-made products is that these items are typically costlier than similar counterparts produced overseas. But the factors which typically contribute to a higher price tag—greater supply-chain transparency and oversight, ethical treatment of workers, higher-quality materials, a lighter eco-footprint coupled and shorter timelines, to name a few—collectively make for a superior product with a backstory that’s better aligned with production, green and ethical standards of other U.S. businesses. Brugger also says that with heightened transport and shipping fees, American-made goods are no longer more expensive by default, depending on the products.
Incorporating promotional products with a backstory that aligns with a brand’s mission or vision leads to a more impactful impression overall, and shows the recipient that brands are taking the extra steps to ensure quality over quantity.
In the promotional products industry, it’s commonplace for wholesale suppliers to source fabrication or apparel from foreign manufacturing hubs—which may be partners or their own overseas factories—to decorate them stateside.
But to be considered “American-made,” the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that “all or virtually all” of a product is made in America. The FTC describes a grill that’s made in the U.S. with knobs and tubing imported from Mexico.
Made-in-USA claims can also be expressed or implied, such as by citing the quality of homegrown products, showing the U.S. map or American flag, or making reference to U.S. factories on packaging.
Americans care about whether their products are made in the U.S., and according to a 2020 survey by The Reshoring Institute, nearly 70% of them even prefer it. Being transparent about an item’s production and origin story isn’t only critical to business under U.S. law, but it’s also critical in shaping end users’ positive perception of a brand.
A well-loved favorite, the Unisex Made In The USA Jersey Short-Sleeve Tee offers a smooth face for customization. Made from 100% Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton, this retail-fit tee is manufactured in Los Angeles using eco processes that demand seven-times-less water than the standard. Available in sizes XS-5XL. Shown in military green.
BELLA + CANVAS / PPAI 304892, S6 / www.bellacanvas.com
Whether it’s worn by team players or as everyday fashion, the 915TC Snapped Jacket is sure to leave an impression. Made in Van Nuys, California, this athletic fleece jacket is fashioned from blend of 80% polyester and 20% cotton, and features two side pockets and front snaps. Available in 16 colors, shown in navy.
MVP Sportswear / PPAI 562092, S2 / www.mvpsportswear.com
Bring the quality of American-made to the worksite with the AboveView hardhat. Made in Cynthiana, Kentucky, it features a wide brim for full protection from the elements and a transparent visor to spot hazards up ahead. Fully compliant with government and regulatory safety standards. Shown in red.
American Custom Safety / PPAI 157367, S3 / www.americancustomsafety.com
An attractive, casual option that’s fit for everyone is the Unisex Pocket Long-Sleeve Crew. Made in Anaheim Hills, California, from 100% pre-shrunk cotton, this heavyweight tee features open-end yarn, and a two-needle sleeve and bottom hem. Available in 18 colors, shown in ash.
Bayside Made In America / PPAI 213725, S4 / www.usabayside.com
Add beautiful imagery around your brand and make it an everyday accessory with the Burlap Tote, style No. 5630. Made in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the tote features a natural, lined interior with an inside drop pocket and a leather handle with a rivet attachment. Available in 25 fabric colors, shown in natural.
Sport Systems Custom Bag Corp. / PPAI 241577, S4 / www.sscbags.com
A relaxed option to consider for fitness studios and other local businesses is the Bayside-branded Women’s USA-Made Yoga Pants. Made from 95% cotton and 5% spandex, these form-fitting pants are styled with a wide, fold-over waistband and are machine-washable. Made in the USA and available in sizes XS-3XL; shown in black.
S & S Activewear / PPAI 256121, S12 / www.ssactivewear.com
The Sublimated Ladies’ Swim offers a range of options for fun-in-the-sun branding. Available as a traditional one-piece, a two-piece bikini or a one-piece with fashion cutouts, it’s made in Dallas, from premium polyester fabric and spandex, which allows the bathing suit to hold its shape. Bathing suit lining is also available in a variety of colors and bra cups can be added.
In Your Face Apparel / PPAI 254968, S5 / www.inyourfaceapparel.com
A wearable that’ll also serve as a treasured memento that recipients can pass down is the Lost Wax Cast Solid Brass Buckles. Made in Bloomington, Indiana, the belt buckle is perfect to gift to end users working in transportation or in construction, energy, manufacturing and mining, as well as in clubs and organizations.
Indiana Metal Craft / PPAI 112175, S5 / www.indianaimc.com
A trendy, short-sleeve crop-style short, the Women’s Eco Triblend Crop Tee is made in the U.S. from a green blend of 50% recycled polyester sourced from recycled plastic bottles, 37% combed, ring-spun organic cotton and 13% rayon. With a soft hand, it’s made in the U.S. with details including a set-on rib collar and a tearaway label. Shown in eco tri charcoal.
Royal Apparel / PPAI 269959, S1 / www.royalapparel.net
A patriotic way to celebrate your client’s brand, the Patriotic Hoodie is made in the USA from 80% cotton and 20% polyester. It features spandex ribbing on the cuffs and hemline, and offers the option to sublimate a logo or product silhouettes into the hood lining, and also to add the American flag applique (shown).
AKWA / PPAI 205981, S6 / www.akwa.com
The Made In USA Knit Sweater makes coziness into a fun event with a fully custom, knitted design. Made from 100% jacquard knit, brands can market vibrantly with up to six colors.
FPS Apparel / PPAI 273314, S3 / www.fpsapparel.com
Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.