- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (November 24, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0470376546
- ISBN-13: 978-0470376546
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes 2nd Edition
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Journalist Timmerman travels the globe in search of the factories that manufactured his clothing. Tracking a T-shirt, underwear, jeans, and flip-flops leads him from Honduras to Bangladesh to Cambodia and China. It is not surprising that he encounters heart-wrenching poverty or gains an eye-opening view of how much the average piece of American apparel is marked up. What is unexpected is the revelation of just how much harm is done to workers when overseas manufacturers are boycotted. Timmerman’s interviews with numerous factory workers make it clear that taking away their jobs is akin to creating a poverty tsunami. Yet, as Timmerman confesses, “There isn’t a single worker who makes my clothes who lives a life that I would find acceptable.” Like most of us, he wants a simple solution to the problem, rather than be faced with the paralyzing morass that is global poverty, and so he suggests some costly, if important solutions. The injustices of the global clothing industry must be more thoroughly researched and addressed. Timmerman’s heartfelt, if somewhat disjointed, chronicle is a good beginning. --Colleen Mondor
"If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Kelsey's book. It's light reading...Give it a try!" (BromleyTimes.co.uk, January 14th 2009) "...his conclusion that "we should try to be engaged consumers not mindless pocketbooks" may be a valuable revelation." (Financial Times, January 24th 2009) "...puts globalization into human perspective. He Personalizes the stories of the people who make our clothes...highly entertaining and thought provoking" (Manchester Evening News, January 24th 2009) "Timmerman puts faces on the garment industry. This needs doing and he has the warmth, compassion and interest" (Irish Times, February 4th 2009) "...some of the realities - and myths...It's a personal take on a global issue. The corporate version of travel writing." (Ethical Corporation Magazine, February 2009) "Timmerman pull us right in to the lives of these people - forced into a life of hard labour." (4Men Magazine, April 2009)
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The author allows us the opportunity to get to know a little about these people and their families. We normally do not think about things like that whenever we are out shopping for new clothes, but after reading this book, it has that affect on us.
I jumped at Kelsey Timmerman's Where Am I Wearing because I thought it might put a face on globalization. The book exceeds in that regard brilliantly, revealing the lives, wishes and desires of the people that make our clothes. Perhaps most importantly, Timmerman discovers that the corporate machine simply doesn't want us to think about this dimension of our purchasing. Now that 97% of our clothes are made overseas it is easy to forget that `Made in Cambodia' means made by people living with hopes and dreams in Cambodia. Kelsey reveals that an argument can be made for factories employing children, primarily because these children will likely be relegated to scavenging landfills or attempting to falsify papers to simply gain employment in a garment factory. Americans are filled with guilt when thinking about child labor but the children of developing countries want to work as clothing manufacturers. Banning child labor removes our guilt and clears our consciences but does little else than assisting in placing the issue outside the reach of memory. However this "progress" comes at a cost, the jobs and exports of the developing countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia and China may lead to larger GDPs but families are separated as a younger generation migrates to cities.
Many of the garment workers live a dual existence, earning more than enough money to get ahead in life, to pay for an education, but send more than half of it home to an impoverished family, unable to survive in a modern farming environment. Is it really progress to doom millions to long hours (sometimes 100 hour weeks and 15 minute lunch breaks) just for development? Just to develop a middle class, a middle class better suited to the nomenclature of consumer class?
The alternative is grim, many of the Cambodian farmers unable to produce a living are forced to live in the Phenom Penh municipal waste dump. Seeking recyclables amongst the trash mountains, more than two thousand fight to earn less than $1 a day. But they choose to do this, it is a better alternative than the quickly disappearing village lifestyle of abundant fresh air and limited food.
Some of the most touching moments in Kelsey's journey to the factories that made his clothes come when treating the workers to great meals at restaurants, taking them to an amusement park or witnessing poverty and its ability to magnify the audacity of the human spirit. The true problem is not the garment industry and its harsh working conditions. The problem is that in a world economy where poor farmers are now part of a lower class, the brutal factory lifestyles are their best option.
If the producer's job is to make, then what is the American's job in the current societal fabric? Simply to consume, Timmerman ponders as he tries to eat on a Chinese worker's salary, $3/day. Could not buying when I want tear the world apart? We see that now as US consumption decreases and the global economy collapses. People aren't buying and the world is suffering. When laws against child labor have placed restrictions on US imports, children in these nations protested the decision. Once again, they want to work. Interestingly, the author's allusions to the advantages of a "stone age" lifestyle are in line with the exact same observations made by Charles Eisenstein in The Ascent of Humanity (which I just finished).
The truth behind the garment situation is far more complex than I ever could imagine. Its not just: sweatshops bad, made in USA good. Take the time to read this book and gain some perspective on where the globalized economy is taking the world. From the most dedicated social activist to the deepest entrenched economic globalist, this is a refreshing take on the guilt many of us wear.