Made in the USA
As the XXXI Olympiad drew to a close yesterday in Rio, we look back at the medals won, the sportsmanship displayed and the records broken. But, we can also take note of what the athletes wore. What the athletes wear has become an important part of the spectacle that is the opening and closing ceremonies. Many will remember Olympic great Simone Biles last night walking into the arena holding the US flag decked out in her crisp Ralph Lauren Team USA button down shirt and shorts outfit. (In a show of particularly good teamwork, fellow gymnast and roommate Laurie Hernandez reportedly ironed Simone’s clothes before the big entrance.)
But, equally important now in the US is not just how the clothes look, but where the clothes were made. In 2012, iconic American designer Ralph Lauren took a public relations hit when it was revealed the outfits he designed for Team USA, were in fact made by a team in China. The backlash in the media and on Capitol Hill was brutal. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even called for the clothes to be burned.
Since then, Ralph Lauren has announced all the Team USA clothes would be made in the USA. But, what does it really mean to be Made in the USA?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which sets the legal guidelines, “To make an unqualified Made in USA claim, your product must be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. and you must have proof to support that claim before saying it on products, on packaging, or in advertising. According to the Enforcement Policy Statement, “all or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. The product should contain no – or negligible – foreign content.” The full requirements can be found at: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-made-usa-standard. The FTC takes violations seriously and takes enforcement actions.
Congress is currently considering legislation to strengthen the Made in the USA labeling rules. This action is in response to a California law which created a stricter Made in the USA standard.
Clothes for Olympians have come a long way since the ancient games in 776 BC. In fact, at that time, the athletes competed with no clothes at all! But, as we look to competition in 2018 in Seoul, in 2020 in Tokyo and in 2022 in Beijing, lets hope that the clothes will not just be worn by a strong Team USA, but also made and manufactured by an equally impressive team of US designers, machinists and artisans.