Just a regular guy, raised in the American Midwest, Kelsey Timmerman journeys through four countries to discover where his favorite pieces of clothing were manufactured. His first venture is into Honduras to find the factory where his t-shirt was made. Unfortunately, the trip is fruitless. Without any contacts, he is obviously denied access to the factory, but he briefly speaks with one of the workers after hours. Although deemed a failure, this trip plants a seed to pursue further travels into Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and, finally, an American factory.
Timmerman is more successful during these other trips. In Bangladesh, he goes undercover as a buyer to gain access to a factory. Although it’s not the exact one that manufactured his boxers, he is able to observe the workers and the conditions in which they work. Cambodia is the home where his Levi’s jeans have been sewn. He finds that with regulation, Cambodian factories are well run and there are few instances of child labor. In China, he is unable to tour a factory, but he speaks with a couple who make flip-flops similar to his own. On the surface, it seems Chinese workers may have better conditions, with the highest pay of the countries he visits. But Timmerman soon finds that garment workers are often forced to work many hours of overtime without pay, and many of the regulations in place to protect them are not enforced.
Although Timmerman touches on the economics of the garment industry, his main focus is on the people and their difficult lives. A common thread among each of these workers is family. Many of them leave small villages to work in the city and send money home to support their parents, siblings, and often their own children. With little opportunity back home, the small wages of manufacturing jobs bring some stability and hope for survival. Thought provoking and revealing, Where Am I Wearing? is a human interest story that gives us a glimpse of not only how our clothing is made, but also who makes it.
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