Election season here in the U.S.A. brought people’s “patriotism” to a fever pitch, and we may or may not be the better for it. But one thing is clear: there are serious economic and social underpinnings that a lot of U.S. citizens latch on to. One of those elements is the “Made In the U.S.A.” moniker, one that for many people elicits high quality, rugged, durable—but expensive—products. Is there any truth to this? And if so, what product manufacturers measure up?
Let’s get something straight: not everything made in the U.S. is a quality product. And even if it were, our cost of living coupled with huge manufacturing costs make for expensive goods. So why the swelling of pride (or derision for other countries) when it comes to U.S. goods? Perhaps it’s because we used to be at the top of the manufacturing game 50-60 years ago.. Booming mill towns, high quality and durable goods making their way across the globe. We were the powerhouse, and we got used to being there. But in the years since, other countries took our innovation and innovated on top of it, making it their own and doing it better, faster, and cheaper than we were. So maybe we’re jealous that we’re not at the front of the pack anymore.
Is Made in the U.S.A. actually better? Yes, I believe so. We may not be able to make things quickly or cheaply, but nothing good ever comes that way. America was built on a solid foundation, and so are our products. But America is also a capitalist society, which means companies look out for the bottom line first. Which means they have no problem shipping manufacture to other countries that will do it faster and cheaper, even if that means sacrificing quality. The worst part is, because of rampant poverty and uneven economic distribution, the lowest common denominator is where the market will align. It’s the WalMart economy. As long as we keep buying from the Walmarts of the world, we’ll keep getting their products.
That being said, there are some companies out there who believe that a superior product can be made in the U.S. Some companies will charge more for these items (e.g., Filson, Woolrich) while others compromise with a balance of U.S. and foreign made products (e.g., Carhartt, L.L. Bean). But all the companies build their values on the principles of high quality manufacturing and solid product guarantees.
What does this have to do with PTV? As travelers and adventurers, we will encounter people and things with roots in all sorts of places around the world. We are not xenophobes. We believe the interaction with other people and cultures gives us knowledge and empathy that improves our experience as humans. As part time travelers, we believe that our own roots are just as important. So for us U.S. based vagabonds, being able to believe in a company that has the customer at the heart of its value system, and that will only produce products that live up to those values, is pretty damn important. And if that company has roots in our homeland, we can have some genuine, healthy pride in ourselves and our country. And that is what we, as travelers, can bring to people of other cultures: healthy pride and quality products.