Star-Spangled Presents: Holiday Gifts Made in the U.S.A.
A recent Consumer Reports survey reveals that many Americans seek out domestically manufactured items. They have plenty of options.
The presidential campaign focused a white-hot spotlight on the loss of domestic manufacturing jobs, so it wasn't surprising that in a Consumer Reports survey just before Election Day, 40 percent of Americans said it was increasingly important to seek out gifts made in the U.S.
To assist those who want to "buy American," particularly during the holiday season, we sought out goods of various stripes that aren't just conceived, designed, or engineered here—buzzwords that suggest an American connection that often falls short of actual production—but also are actually built in domestic factories.
The list is longer than you might realize. Many big-name companies now offer at least a few products made under the Stars and Stripes. Wrangler and Levi's, for example, manufacture denim jeans for men and women, and PF Flyers has its "Made in USA" sneaker collection, with pairs starting at $150. The Wrangler jeans we found were priced at $120; Levi's were on sale for as little as $70.
But don't expect a company's entire line to be American-made. Today, many businesses are multinational corporations. Take New Balance, for instance. The athletic shoe and apparel maker produces more than 4 million pairs of sneakers per year at its U.S. plants, but some shoes are churned out at facilities in Europe and many more come from Asia, including China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Similarly, Lodge, the iconic cookware company, produces its foundry-seasoned cast iron and carbon steel items domestically, but its enameled cast iron goods are made in China.
How do you know where those sneakers and other goods from global companies come from? If a business makes products abroad or uses materials from other countries, it is required to disclose those details on labeling or packaging. The rules regarding "made in America" claims can be complicated. Check out this primer on those rules.
Searching for the Red, White, and Blue
In addition to label reading, you can also discover a product's heritage simply by asking customer service. We've found company representatives to be knowledgeable and up front. Other helpful sources are websites such as Made in America Movement, AmericansWorking.com, USA Love List, and MadeinUSAForever.com.
Here are brands that offer at least some products made in the U.S.A.:
Kitchen and housewares: All-Clad (bonded stainless-steel cookware), NordicWare, Viking Professional, and West Bend cookware; Lasko, known mostly for its fans; Kirby and Oreck vacuum cleaners; Bunn coffee makers (like the Speed Brew Outdoorsman); Pyrex glassware; Lenox bone china and Homer Laughlin dinnerware; Tervis Tumblers (insulated acrylic cups and ice buckets); Cutco, Lamson & Goodnow, and Rada cutlery; KitchenAid stand mixers; Blendtec and Vitamix blenders.
Apparel, footwear, and accessories: American Apparel (though at press time, the financially strapped company was considering eliminating 3,500 jobs at its Southern California base), Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, Filson, J.Crew, L.L.Bean (notably the company's Maine Duck Boots), Orvis, Texas Jeans, Woolrich (mostly blankets, throws, and socks); Fox River, Smartwool, Thorlos, and Wigwam socks; Allen Edmonds, Danner, Kepner Scott, G.H. Bass, New Balance, Red Wing, SAS, and Wolverine footwear; Kangol and Stetson hats; Copper River bags and backpacks, Domke camera bags.
Tools and home care: Ariens, Stihl, and Troy-Bilt power equipment, including string trimmers, blowers, and chain saws; Channellock, Moody, and SK, and Stanley hand tools; DeWalt power tools; Maglite, Monster, SureFire, and Tektite flashlights; Shop Vac wet-and-dry vacuum cleaners.
Toys and sporting goods: Aerobie flying rings and discs; Wiffle balls; Vermont Teddy Bears; Gravity skateboards; Little Tykes; Lionel trains (made in U.S.A. boxcars); Crayola crayons; Wilson (NFL footballs); Louisville Slugger pro wooden baseball bats; K’Nex, Lincoln Logs, and Tinkertoy building sets; Titleist golf balls; Aspen and Nautilus fly-fishing reels.
Audio gear and instruments: Grado Labs (headphones); Klipsch (including Heritage Series), Danley, and Genesis Advanced Technologies loudspeakers; Gibson, Martin, Taylor, and Rickenbacker guitars; McIntosh Labs audio equipment.
Would you pay more for American-made products?
Tell us why in the comments section below.
If you're looking for a true American toy, how about springing for a Slinky? Most Slinkies continue to be made in the U.S.A., at a plant in Hollidaysburg, Pa., using the same machinery that has churned them out since the 1960s. While there are some 20 metal and plastic variations—from dog-shaped to gold-plated—to purists, nothing quite beats the unadorned steel original, which still makes that unmistakable metallic clang. Who imagined a spring could be so much fun? The toy was invented in the 1940s when Richard James was conducting experiments using springs and one fell to the floor and began to walk.
Lincoln Logs are another American favorite for generations. Part of the K'Nex family, the classic wooden construction toys were invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, son of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The toys have remained popular because they help children develop fine motor skills and sharpen their problem-solving skills.