Opinion: Can’t beat American quality


Commentary by Ward Degler

Gold Toe socks used to be the best in the world. Well-made and comfortable.

Sadly, they aren’t anymore. The last ones I bought had runs in them, and untrimmed threads pinched my feet.

The likely reason: They are no longer made in the U.S.

We Americans are addicted to quality. We want to buy things and know they will do what they are supposed to do. We want to know they won’t break or fall apart.

This probably started at the time of the Industrial Revolution, when we invented machines to do jobs that we used to do by hand. And when we did things by hand, they had to be as good as we could possibly do them. That meant the machines that took over had to do the job just as well.

American cars, American appliances, American clothing all had to be the best. And when it wasn’t, we sounded off.  We called malfunctioning cars “lemons.” Appliances that failed either got fixed or got sent back to the store. Substandard clothing got consigned to the ragbag and was never purchased again. American products were the best in the world.

So far, so good. Then overnight, manufacturing costs skyrocketed. And companies started looking for lower cost alternatives. We sent car-making to Mexico, appliance manufacturing to China and clothing labels suddenly came from a host of developing nations.

Problem solved. Or so we thought. Sadly, not every nation holds quality in the same high regard we Americans do. Substandard products began flooding the markets.

The good news, it seems, is the stubborn addiction we have to quality, the need to have the best. Industry is beginning to see the writing on the wall. Manufacturers have begun pulling construction back to America. Companies are building new factories on U.S. soil. Quality is coming back home.

Which means my next pair of Gold Toe socks will probably be perfect.