A journalist travels the world to trace the origins of ourclothes
When journalist and traveler Kelsey Timmerman wanted to knowwhere his clothes came from and who made them, he began a journeythat would take him from Honduras to Bangladesh to Cambodia toChina and back again. Where Am I Wearing? intimatelydescribes the connection between impoverished garment workers'standards of living and the all-American material lifestyle. Byintroducing readers to the human element of globalization—thefactory workers, their names, their families, and their way oflife—Where Am I Wearing bridges the gap between globalproducers and consumers.
- New content includes: a visit to a fair trade Ethiopian shoefactory that is changing lives one job at time; updates on howworkers worldwide have been squeezed by rising food costs anddeclining orders in the wake of the global financial crisis; andthe author's search for the garment worker in Honduras who inspiredthe first edition of the book
- Kelsey Timmerman speaks and universities around the country andmaintains a blog at www.whereamiwearing.com. His writing hasappeared in the Christian Science Monitor and CondéNast Portfolio, and has aired on NPR.
Enlightening and thought-provoking at once, Where Am IWearing? puts a human face on globalization.
About the Author
KELSEY TIMMERMAN is a freelance journalist and public speaker. He's spent the night in Castle Dracula in Romania, gone undercover as an underwear buyer in Bangladesh, and taught an island village to play baseball in Honduras. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and has aired on NPR.
Table of Contents
Prologue: We Have It Made xv
Part I The Mission 1
Chapter 1 A Consumer Goes Global 3
Chapter 2 Tattoo’s Tropical Paradise 13
Chapter 3 Fake Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Anti-SweatshopProtestors 17
Part II My Underwear: Made in Bangladesh 21
Chapter 4 Jingle These 23
Chapter 5 Undercover in the Underwear Biz 31
Chapter 6 Bangladesh Amusement Park 37
Chapter 7 Inside My First Sweatshop 43
Chapter 8 Child Labor in Action 49
Chapter 9 Arifa, the Garment Worker 55
Chapter 10 Hope 63
Chapter 11 No Black and White, Only Green 69
Update for Revised Edition: Hungry for Choices 75
Part III My Pants: Made in Cambodia 79
Chapter 12 Labor Day 81
Chapter 13 Year Zero 87
Chapter 14 Those Who Wear Levi's 93
Chapter 15 Those Who Make Levi's 99
Chapter 16 Blue Jean Machine 111
Chapter 17 Progress 121
Chapter 18 Treasure and Trash 129
Update for Revised Edition: The Faces of Crisis 135
Part IV My Flip-Flops: Made in China 139
Chapter 19 PO'ed VP 141
Chapter 20 Life at the Bottom 149
Chapter 21 Growing Pains 159
Chapter 22 The Real China 169
Chapter 23 On a Budget 177
Chapter 24 An All-American Chinese Walmart 181
Chapter 25 The Chinese Fantasy 187
Update for Revised Edition: Migration 193
Part V Made in America 197
Chapter 26 For Richer, for Poorer 199
Update for Revised Edition: Restarting, Again 211
Chapter 27 Return to Fantasy Island 215
Chapter 28 Amilcar’s Journey 229
Chapter 29 An American Dream 237
Chapter 30 Touron Goes Glocal 249
Appendix A Discussion Questions 269
Appendix B Note to Freshman Me 275
Appendix C Where Are You Teaching?: A Guide to Taking Where Am IWearing? to a Glocal Context 279
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A little slow but I learned a lot and it was really surprising to learn where our clothes come from. Highly recommend
Sometimes you read a book that is so boring you can't find much if anything to say but "boring". The book is so slow and I didn't learn anything from it. Don't waste your time.
This book is really eye opening as to where your clothes are made.
Well, it seems kind of appropriate that Where Am I Wearing is being released today from John Wiley & Sons. After all it's Black Friday this week in the U.S.
Many of us will be buying clothes for gifts or ourselves. But do you ever really wonder where the item is made? Do you look at the tag as part of your decision or are you just happy to get a good deal?
Kelsey Timmerman did a little bit more that wonder. He decided to find the factory in Bangladesh that produced his favourite 'Jingle These' boxers. And his jeans, tee-shirt and flip flops.
And so off he treks to the other side of the world to discover the origins of his clothes.
In Bangladesh, he poses as an underwear buyer to gain entrance to view the factories. While most of us will speak out against sweatshop labour, Kelsey finds that nothing is as cut and dried when faced with actual people and their lives.
"My own conclusion, after visiting Bangladesh, is that we should not be ashamed that our clothes are made by children so much as ashamed that we live in a world where child labor is often necessary for survival."
He has great fun with some street kids, taking twenty of them to an amusement park for the same price it would take to get one American kid into Disney World.
It is this aspect that I enjoyed the most in Timmerman's book - the personal level of interaction - meeting with and talking to the actual workers of the garment industries he visited in their own environments.
Timmerman's writing style is entertaining and candid, but still explores the history of the garment industry and what is being done to reform it.
In Cambodia, home to his treasured pair of blue jeans, he discovers that 75% of the country's exports are garments. Again, it is the personal stories of the eight female workers sharing a 96 sq. ft. room that grabbed me.
It is in China that he has the most difficulty accessing a factory. But he connects with a married couple working in the flip flop factory. They provide for family back in their rural village and have not seen their son in three years. Kelsey decides to go to the village to visit.
Back in the US he visits a garment factory that made his oldest and still wearable shorts.
Timmerman provides no black and white answers but instead gives us much food for thought. Where am I Wearing is a fascinating, eye-opening, thought provoking read that will have you reading tags just to see where your favourite piece of clothing was made. Perhaps it will make you think a little bit longer before you get out the wallet and help you become an informed consumer.
"When I walk into my closet, I think about the hundreds - if not thousands- of people around the world who had a hand in making my clothes. Jeans are no longer just jeans, shirts no longer just shirts, shoes no longer just shoes, clothes are no longer just clothes. Each is an untold story."
(So far - Canada, US, Bangladesh, Taiwan and China - what about yours?)
This outstanding little book should not be missed¿it is worth reading and discussing in every household and classroom in America. Do you know where your clothes were made, by what types of people and under what circumstances? Do you care? Should you care? This intriguing book looks into these issues and more, yet its tone is refreshingly accessible and unpreachy.
All-American Kelsey Timmerman noticed that his typical ensemble of T-shirt, jeans, boxers, and flip-flops, all bore tags declaring their foreign manufacture in places such as Honduras, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and China. His curiosity (and his experience as a travel writer) became a mission to visit the places and meet the people who actually made his clothes. With a backpack, notebook, camera, the clothes on his back, and a mixture of guileless intelligence, he set out to explore the globalization of the garment industry, up close and personal.
His approach is to minimize the intrusive effects of his inquiry into the factories' operations and the lives of the workers by keeping his visits as unofficial as possible. He is just an ordinary guy who happens to be interested in the origin of his underwear. Although he has heard about sweatshops, child labor and unfit working conditions, he wants to see for himself. He wants to know if it's possible to be an informed, engaged consumer. His journey helps us see that we can all be better informed. The people who make our clothes all have names, faces, needs and dreams.
"[In Bangladesh] Asad leads us past a high table with neat stacks of cloth. A few of the workers standing around the table hold what appear to be giant electric bread cutters with blades two-feet long. One woman marks the cloth using a pattern and then sets to slicing. She cuts the outline of a T-shirt. Plumes of cotton dust fill the air¿the factory is clean, exits are marked, and fans maintain a nice breeze. The conditions seem fine. They are much better than I had expected, and I'm relieved."
In Cambodia, eight young women garment workers share an 8' by 12' room that has a squat toilet and a water spigot. They earn between $45 and $70 per week and send home as much as possible to support family members in the countryside. Many of them miss the culture of family and village but they are well aware of the necessity of their work to their families' survival.
Seeing these and many more disparities between the lives of foreign garment workers and the lives of average American consumers, Timmerman is guarded about sharing details of his life with those he interviews. However, he eventually decides that "not knowing is the problem" on both sides. When he tells the Chinese couple about his first¿and second¿mortgages, they find unlikely solidarity in their mutual states of indebtedness.
This book is far from a "them" and "us" comparison and guilt trip. There are many complicated issues interwoven here, to be considered and discussed. The warp and woof of economic and social pluses and minuses is a constantly changing pattern, and the questions¿what and where to buy, how to support or protest industry conditions, how to maintain American jobs, how to influence human rights¿necessitate the participation of what the author terms "engaged consumers."