Don't Buy American Eagle, Instead Try...

by - Monday, August 08, 2016

This blog series "Don't Buy... Instead Try..." intends to point out some of the most egregiously unethical, wasteful, and environmentally ridiculous companies out there. Instead of dwelling on their considerable awfulness, the series will focus on the other options you have for purchasing.

Every purchase we make is a vote for the kind of world we want. 
Every single purchase is political.
 Every single purchase has ethical ramifications, and 
every single purchase should be approached with a spirit of stewardship. 

We can change the world by refusing to fund extreme greed, the mistreatment of other human beings, and the trashing of the environment. We need to stay aware of the many choices available to us. Will we get it right every time? No. But if we all make little changes, we can send companies a new message, that consumers will show up if they do the right thing. 

American Eagle flag t shirt
from ebay

Tonight, we headed to our local mall for some dinner, dessert, and letting our kid play in the pretty awesome play area. When dessert fell through (damn you, Dairy Queen), we just walked through the mall, and it struck me that basically any of the stores there would qualify for this blog. If we want to minimize our environmental impact or support American businesses that employ lots of Americans (not just a handful of underpaid high school and college students), we may all need to step away from the mall.

One of the most egregious of these is American Eagle (but we could say almost all the same things about stinky Abercrombie and Fitch, inexplicable Aeropostale, and the Gap) Despite "American" being in the name, American Eagle Outfitters sells only a tiny hand full of American products (mostly their scents, 4 t-shirts, Burt's Bees products, and a few Woolrich blankets online only). This is better than nothing, and it makes me sad to write this because the company is based out of Pittsburgh, but if you are trying to shop for ethical clothes, this isn't the place to start.

Also notable- the sheer number of t-shirts with American imagery on them- all of which were made elsewhere.

The first store was in Michigan, and the company was once headquartered in Tennessee. It's still not particularly large (especially compared to some of the things we have looked at here), but makes over 150 million dollars a year. They also have recently signed a "franchisee" agreement with one of the huge clothing distributors in the Middle East, so this "All-American" brand has stores all over the world. The company also makes the vast majority of their clothes oversees and have run into trouble for how they treat their labor.

American Eagle's strength is that it is marketed primarily to teens and young college students (specifically ones that wish they hung out at the beach a lot? Beach days aren't that common in Pittsburgh). I'll be honest with you, the teenage years horrify the (low key) environmentalist in me. They  are growing so fast that you don't want to spend a lot of money, but you also might have more trouble steering them away from trendy clothes or shopping in consignment stores. Striking that balance can feel incredibly tough if not impossible.

The good news is that it isn't impossible. You can still sidestep clothing stores like American Eagle and do better for the environment.

1. Get it Used- Yes, I know that I just said that someone who shops at American Eagle may not be wildly excited about used clothes. That doesn't mean you can't find something! Check what consignment shops are available around you and start browsing. You can probably save a whole lot of money and at nicer places find things that would still feel cool now. You can at least fill some wardrobe blanks this way.I have bough almost everything from consignment stores or Thread Up in the last year, and it has saved me a ton of money.

2. American Giant- This company's stuff will last you a long time, but their stuff does not come cheap. Might be a great place to check!

3. Pact- Fair Trade cotton goods, for everything from cute socks to pajamas to simple wrap dresses. A nice place to look if you want more ethical basics. And seriously, their socks and underwear are the best.

There are plenty of clothing companies out there still made in America- for boys, you can check The American List and look out for sales. Even when shopping for someone in a seemingly endless transitional phase, you can still get some of your shopping done in a way that

Want more shopping inspiration? Check out my Giant List of Shopping Lists.

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