The Afterlife Of American Clothes

T-shirts

T-shirts (Photo credit: Beautification Syndrome)

By Gregory Warner and David Kestenbaum

This story is part of the Planet Money T-shirt project.

Jeff Steinberg had a maroon and white lacrosse jersey that he wore for years. It said “Denver Lacrosse” on the front and had his number, 5, on the back.

Then, one day, he cleaned out his closet and took the shirt to a Goodwill store in Miami. He figured that was the end of it. But some months after that, Steinberg found himself in Sierra Leone for work. He was walking down the street, and he saw a guy selling ice cream and cold drinks, wearing a Denver Lacrosse jersey.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty crazy,’ ” Steinberg says. Then he looked at the back of the shirt — and saw the number 5. His number. Steinberg tried to talk to the guy about the shirt, but he didn’t speak much English and they couldn’t really communicate.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about that over the following days,” Steinberg says. “It was just beyond me how it could have gotten there.”

It turns out the epic voyage of Steinberg’s jersey — from a used clothes bin in the U.S. to sub-Saharan Africa — is actually really common. Lots of U.S. shirts (including, it seems safe to say, lots of Planet Money T-shirts) will eventually make the trip.

Charities like Goodwill sell or give away some of the used clothes they get. But a lot of the clothes get sold, packed in bales and sent across the ocean in a container ship. The U.S. exports over a billion pounds of used clothing every year — and much of that winds up in used clothing markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

We recently visited the giant Gikombo Market in central Nairobi. There’s a whole section for denim, and another for bras. We, of course, headed for the street of T-shirts, where vendors lay out their wares on horse carts. The shirts have been washed, ironed and carefully folded. It’s more like Gap than Goodwill — if Gap had a very strange product line.

Read More  The Afterlife Of American Clothes : Planet Money : NPR.

Advertisements

About The Soul Brother

An observer to the world. I have a unique view of the world and want to share it. It's all in love from the people of the "blues". Love, Knowledge, and Sharing amongst all is the first steps towards solving all the problems amongst humanity.
This entry was posted in News from the Soul Brother and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s