Where Does a T-Shirt Come From?

The processes involved with making a T-shirt have long been held as a prime example of manufacturing in a global economy, but what really goes into it? The good folks at Planet Money set out on a quest to illuminate the process first-hand, by selling their own T-shirts on Kickstarter, then circling the globe to document the entire process:

We wanted to see the hidden world behind clothes sold in this country, so we decided to make a T-shirt. We wanted to make an ordinary shirt like the vast majority of the shirts sold in this country — not organic cotton, not hand-sewn in the United States.

And that they did. Turns out, it takes a lot of people, and a lot of technology, to make one little T-shirt. The beautiful finished product (the media, not the T-shirt, though the T-shirt is cute/a pun) is up on NPR’s site and includes stories from a cotton farmer in Mississippi, factory workers in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and shipping containers in Colombia.

“When I see people just picking up a T-shirt and putting it back on the shelf in a store,” says Anupam Agrawal, who heads the spinning operation at the factory, “I say, ‘Hey, man. We worked very hard to make the yarn which has made that T-shirt. Give it some respect.’ ”

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