Where Am I Wearing?
by Kelsey Timmerman
When journalist Kelsey Timmerman checked his labels, he realized that all of his clothing was produced overseas. His t-shirt was made in Honduras. His pants were cut and sewn in Cambodia. His shoes were made in China. Even his boxers came from overseas: Made in Bangladesh. Kelsey was curious about what sorts of people made his clothes. What were they like? Did they suffer inhumane treatment or were the jobs in garment factories improving their lives? So he got a second mortgage on his house, kissed his soon-to-be-wife good-bye and jetted off on a round-the-world tour to see if he could find the workers who made his jeans, his flip-flops, and other items in his closet.
Kelsey’s adventures are pretty entertaining. He has a very casual writing style, so it feels like you’re sitting next to the guy having a chat. Kelsey’s trying to find out what life is really like for Chinese or Cambodian factory workers, both good and bad. Some of what he finds is surprising: these people really want to keep their jobs. Yes, it’s hard work that many Westerners can’t even imagine, but it’s better than what they might be doing otherwise. But a case study this is not. For every serious conversation he has with a factory owner in China about production, Kelsey will take a group of young garment workers to a local amusement park or bowling. He’s trying to bridge the vast cultural gap, and show a bit of his American life when people openly share about theirs. This human element really helps strengthen the book and keep it interesting, but it does make the chapters less focused and topically scattered.
At the end of Where Am I Wearing? Kelsey Timmerman hasn’t drawn any firm conclusions about the good or evil of overseas garment production. Instead he encourages engagement and awareness about the products you consume; buy what you need and want, but take the time to find out the history of what you’re getting and how it impacts the global community we live in.
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