Friday, February 08, 2008

Travels of a t-shirt

Travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli is an interesting look at the complete product cycle of a common item of clothing. Many of us own and wear t-shirts. They are screen-printed with catchy phrases, trimmed, embroidered, or even stained. T-shirts are a commodity nearly equal with toilet paper. I leave the statistics to the author, but I think you get the idea.

The author traces aspect of the birth, life, and eventual death of a t-shirt. From the farming and harvesting of the cotton fiber, spinning the yarn, knitting the fabric, sewing, retailing -- the author leaves no step untouched. I was already familiar with most of the topics covered in the book. What I didn't know was how much government (Global, not just US) is involved in cotton production. There are quotas, laws, regulations, and an amazing amount of government farm subsidies. In other words, US taxpayers own a large portion of US cotton production - of course it only enriches certain individuals.

Another interesting exploration comes at the end of the t-shirt's life. I was fascinated by the textile product recycling industry. The free market found a way to move a large amount of unwanted, by some, material that finds a still useful life.

Anyway, an interesting book.

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