So how trustworthy is the label many of us insist on seeing before we’ll throw down a single Chinese-backed U.S. dollar on a piece of clothing? Turns out that “Made in USA” means pretty much what it says. Congress requires that “all or nearly all” of the components of any item thusly labeled must be of U.S. origin, and assembly needs to take place domestically. Sez the FTC: “the product should contain no—or negligible—foreign content.” Then there’s an obscure provision called the Berry Amendment, which saved a good chunk of what’s left of the U.S. apparel and textile industry. Berry requires the Department of Defense to source—unless it’s absolutely impossible—from domestically manufactured goods.
Having said all that, items that incorporate a significant amount of foreign made material can claim to be American made provided they acknowledge the provenance of the parts. So if you just picked up a nice pair of jeans that are made from Japanese denim but assembled here, the label will read “Made in USA of imported fabric.” Of course, when it comes to jeans, that’s a tough combination to beat.