Glenn Beck is known for his large undertakings (i.e. events in Israel, launching his own TV network). And while many of his ardent fans are likely not surprised by much these days, there are probably a few who couldn’t have predicted Beck’s latest major announcement: a line of jeans.
Becks’s clothing line, 1791 Supply and Co., has just launched its most impressive endeavor yet — 100 percent made-in-America jeans straight from the loom that made the original Levi’s. From the cotton grown for the denim, to the designing process, to the final details, everything is done in the United States. In an age when factories are almost exclusively outsourced overseas, Beck explained on his radio show Monday all that went in to launching the line in just ten months.
Photo: 1791 Supply and Co.
He began by relating the incredible history of the factory, and why he chose it:
I went and I found the company that makes the original denim. It’s in North Carolina– it’s [called] Cone Denim. These are the people that made Levi’s. They made the original denim for the 501s right after they became‑‑ they were…gold miner jeans for a while. They were made in California in the late 1800s. Right before the turn of the century they started to take off, and Cone Denim, the oldest operating loom in the United States, still operating, made that denim. So I went to Cone and I said, “Can you still make the 501, you know, that quality denim?” They said, “Oh, yeah. You mean red selvage?” And I said, sure, I don’t even know what red selvage means…
So why get into the jean business? Beck said he was outraged last year when he saw the new Levi’s ad featuring protesters and revolutionaries (see it here). The iconic company even adopted the tag line the “uniform of progress.” Not a fan of boycotts, Beck said they would simply create an alternative, and let the consumer decide.
And it was no easy task, particularly considering the level of quality and detail he insisted upon.
For instance, many of the small, copper rivets on jeans are no longer created in the original style. They are mass-produced, making each final product identical. Not only were 1791′s made in the original manner, however, — making each pair of jeans unique — they actually have a tiny “1791″ printed on them.
Photo: 1791 Supply and Co.
Because of this attention to detail and strict adherence to history and quality, Beck acknowledged that jeans are more expensive than some of the mass-produced alternatives (you can get them at 1791.com for $129 a pair), but he thinks it’s worth it.
“It’s part of our whole business structure not to make things in other countries,” Tim Didonato, merchandise design manager for 1791 and a driving force behind the company, told TheBlaze. “If it can’t be made here, then we’re not making it. We want to give our customers quality. It’s not, ‘We’ll take any jean, let’s sew it up.’ We’re testing them, we’re washing them, making sure it can go through hell.”
Many other companies use foreign labor but still might sell their jeans for $300. 1791 employs Americans, pays them, and does everything it can to keep costs low for consumers.
For example, Didonato explained that 1791 merchandise is available exclusively online, allowing it to to keep the markup as low as possible. If the company sold first to retailers, the retailers would understandably need a profit of their own, and the price would be closer to $300.
“We’re not buying these things pre-made. We create the concept from beginning to end, from a swatch of fabric, going to our pattern maker, going over for weeks on where the pockets should be, where the stitches should be…,” he explained.
In addition to to a truly American-made product, LJ Herman — senior Director of e-commerce for 1791 — told TheBlaze there was also another challenge: “My challenge was, don’t go in to debt.”
“We had to do this in a way where we were not indebting ourselves to make this project a success, and I think that was one of the biggest challenges,” Herman, who handles more of the business components while Didonato takes care of the hands-on and technical aspects, explained.
When asked whether he thinks 1791 will change the clothing market, making “Made in America” the norm once more, Herman said it depends. But he pointed to the fallout from U.S. Olympic gear being made overseas as an example of a changing attitude and said could be positioned perfectly ahead of the market if a fundamental change in attitude happens.
Still, the “Made in America” mantra is so much more than a tag line. For Herman and the team at 1791, it’s about a way of business. It’s not about “owning” a catch phrase, but rather inspiring a trend focused on encouraging quality products made by American business.
Herman summed it up simply: “Glenn always talks about putting your money where your heart is.”
“If you’d like to help us build an American company, making American quality, go to 1791.com,” Beck explained in his monologue on Monday. “American jeans. Made by Americans. The way Americans like to wear jeans and for what Americans like to do– work hard.”
You can watch Beck’s introduction and and the entire story, below (where he explains that 1791′s ranch shirts include a “non-union made” label:
Beck also discussed the launch of 1791 Denim on his television program on TheBlazeTV:
You can purchase a pair of the jeans here.