Hillary Clinton’s new campaign ad calls out Donald Trump — whose campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again” — for not having his clothing line made in the U.S. (Photo: Getty Images)
In the ad, titled “Shirts,” Robert Kidder, the owner of New England Shirt Company in Fall River, Mass., explains that his factory has been in operation since 1883 and currently employs more than 60 people.
“But Donald Trump’s brand of shirts come from China, his suits from Mexico, his coats from India,” Kidder says. “Trump’s products have been made in 12 other countries because he says there’s no place in America that he can make them. Well, there is. You know, Donald Trump says he’ll make America great again while he’s taking the shirts right off our backs.”
This isn’t the first time that the Clinton campaign has called attention to the fact that when it comes to the business of fashion, the Republican presidential candidate and former reality TV personality has taken his business elsewhere.
During the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Democratic National Committee aired a Funny or Die-produced video titled “Donald Decoded: Outsourcing,” featuring Community and The Hangover star Ken Jeong learning that the Trump-branded clothing he had been admiring on his mannequin scene partner was all made outside of the United States.
It’s a strange choice, to say the least, for someone who has built his campaign on the slogan “Make America Great Again” to not even make his own goods in America.
(Trump’s daughter and frequent campaign surrogate Ivanka Trump also produces a clothing and accessories collection bearing her name; her line too is not made in America, but rather in China and Vietnam.)
And Trump’s love of foreign fashion doesn’t end there; he is also famous for only buying and wearing suits made by Brioni, an extremely high-end Italian designer. Clinton, in contrast, is equally well-known for her love of pantsuits, hers almost exclusively designed by American Nina McLemore, whose tailored jackets and pants have also been worn by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and journalist Gwen Ifill.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 the average American family spent $1,786 on clothing annually.
In other words, the significance of buying American-made clothes has the potential to have a real impact on the American economy.
Andy Green, the managing director of economic policy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, tells Yahoo Style that in his opinion, the “Shirts” ad is symbolic of the stark differences between the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
“These shirts are symbolic of the overall approach to manufacturing and the middle class and working families that you’re seeing during this election cycle from both campaigns,” Green says. “The Clinton campaign wants to see manufacturing happen in the U.S. and knows these are important jobs to have here. Trump is talking a big game, but in reality, where the rubber meets the road or where the cotton meets your skin, it’s just not there.”
Green notes that under President Obama, significant efforts have been made over the past few years in terms of reshoring, or bringing more jobs — especially in manufacturing — that were previously outsourced abroad back to the U.S. And, Green adds, Clinton has announced additional policy proposals to build on these efforts.
“For years, people have thought that it’s not economically feasible to manufacture in the U.S., but because of changes in manufacturing patterns, advances in manufacturing, and having items being made closer to the markets where those items are sold, things are starting to change,” points out Green. “There is definite possibility and a lot of room for creativity and innovation in this area.”
Green reiterates, “At the end of the day, it’s really symbolic of putting your money where your mouth is and calling out those who talk a big game but have done nothing throughout a thirty- to forty-year career to make ordinary working families’ lives better and contrasting that with someone who for 40 years has been working every single day for the middle class and for the ability to join the middle class — something all Americans can participate in.”
In a statement shared with Yahoo Style, New England Shirt Company says, “We proudly consider our factory to be a slice of America. Our family of cutters, sewers, pressers, and staff is a diverse network of ethnic backgrounds, religious ideologies, and, of course, political leanings. As such, the same discourse and debate upon which our nation was founded occurs within our walls. New England Shirt Company’s decision to appear in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad is not meant to reflect the beliefs of the employees … rather, it aims to illuminate a particular conversation that affects every member of our community: American manufacturing.”
The statement continues: “A commitment to the American worker is a commitment to American manufacturing and the NESC leadership finds Donald Trump’s hypocrisy around this topic offensive to our heritage and to our tradition of craftsmanship. Our message to Mr. Trump is not meant as one of challenge but one of opportunity; we invite Mr. Trump to embrace the American workforce and to bring his production home to communities like ours.”