I have a Bernie for President t-shirt from the 2016 primaries. From time to time I slip it on and wear it around town. Six months, a year, three years later: people still react.
“I like your shirt,” someone shouts from a car. A careworn transient flashes me the “hang loose” sign. “Nice shirt,” says the grocery cashier. Every time.
Political tees have power — maybe not to reach a million people at once. But enough to reach one person very intimately. Some pols care about that power; some don’t.
But if you do care, and if you’re a Democrat, and especially if you’re from California: you need to care about one more thing: where it was made. What it says on the collar tag.
Does it say “Made in USA?” If you’re selling the tee from your online campaign store, it had better say that. You do NOT want to be Mitt Romney, with a flimsy official tee that bellows “Believe in America” but a collar tag that mutters “Made in El Salvador of USA Fabric.”
“Bu-bu-but…” Mitt stutters. “USA fabric! USA fabric!” Not good enough, offshoring investor scum! Most of the work’s in the sewing. Mitt’s handlers possibly thought that the poor quality of the spray-on label would keep people from deciphering it. But I was motivated.
Is this a small thing? Sure. But symbolism counts. It shows respect: like wearing a tie to an interview at a company where no one wears them. If you’re a Democratic candidate for high office, you get your t-shirts from a company that did not fire their US workers and move production to Latin America as soon as NAFTA made it practical.
And that’s why conscientious Democratic candidates buy Bayside tees. Bayside is a clothing brand from AST Sportswear of Orange County, California. Bayside t-shirts are quality: heavy duty, well-constructed. They look good. But what really matters is that they are “The True American-Made Tee.” Says so right on the collar.
Oh, not all shirts with Obama or Clinton’s name on it were USA-made; various supporting and party organizations and independent vendors will use whatever tee is cheap.
But the ones that count, that the presidential candidate themselves did sell you… They’re Baysides. Like this one.
Hilary Clinton’s flagship presidential campaign tee from 2016 was a Bayside. Aside from making her look like a stylish ’30s hero populist — which she is not — it’s quite striking.
And inside that fine shirt, you find the heart of the matter: a neck tag telling you rhat you’ve bought a True American Tee — MADE IN AMERICA. They tend to make the point over and over.
But wait, there’s more. Beneath the first neck tag lies yet another tag. This one enumerates all the things about the tee that were “Made in USA.” The cotton. The thread. The cloth. The dye. Everything.
Yes, a Bayside screams, “I’m on your side, average working stiff!” Whether you are, or not.
After I understood the Bayside’s role in politics, I went back through my collection and found quite a number of them. Remember John Kerry’s campaign in 2004? A Bayside. The tees from the Obama campaign committee? Baysides.
Obama’ absolutely had to use a Bayside, or something like one. After all, conservative ‘birthers” questioned whether he himself was “Made in the USA.” .
So his committee put out this printed Bayside tee that flat-out said it: showed his picture captioned with “MADE in the USA” in big letters. And with his certifcate of birth on the back. (And a union bug underneath the picture.)
Could you possibly print that message on a Made-in-Nicaragua Hanes tee? Fox News would be on you in a second.
If you’re a California politician, or a liberal political institution, or especially a union, you use Baysides too. I’ll sprinkle a few California Bayside tees (and others) throughout the rest of this post.
California pols who want to go the extra step have their Baysides screen-printed at Alliance Graphics in Berkeley, California, the only unionized t-shirt screen-printer in California. You get yourself that union bug on the shirt and you are righteous in the extreme, my friend.
So, who is Bayside? Are they the only source of American-made tees? And why have you (probably) never heard of them?
Well first, as a rule you can’t buy Bayside tees in stores. AST Sporstwear sells directly to screen-printers. Not just tees, but all sorts of sportswear that can be imprinted. You can buy them at online sportswear outlets who buy mass quantities directly from Bayside. It keeps the price down.
And yes, there are other American-made tees. Donald Trump claim that the Trump/Pence tees from his official online store are American made. Though I haven’t been able to confirm that, and I’ve tried.
But Bayside is special: first, it’s of best quality. American Apparel was all over the Made-in-America niche before it went belly-up. But their shirts were — well, lightweight. I won’t say flimsy. Okay; I will.
Second, AST Sportswear absolutely guarantees that every bit of the product is American-made. Baysides are made by a high-efficiency, vertically-integrated manufacturing operation that controls every part of the process. They call it “dirt to shirt.” Cotton comes at one end of the process. Clothing comes out the other.
You remember the Bayside t-shirt tag? All the things that were made in the USA? That’s because AST spins the yarn. AST weaves the cloth. AST cuts the cloth. AST sews the pieces into clothing. AST dyes the clothing. They have complete control. Whatever you want, when you need it — the entire company can turn on a dime. All 500 of them. There are no subscontractors or suppliers to wait for. And no chance — zip, nada — that anything was subcontracted out to Nicaragua. They guarantee.
Besides, Bayside is a Great American Success Story, founded on hard work and innovation. When the rest of the sportswear industry dropped the ball, they picked it up
The year is 1995. NAFTA rules have freed clothing manufacturers to make clothing outside the US without tariff. All the major t-shirt manufacturers move all labor-intensive work to the Carribean, Mexico, and beyond. Immediately. Plants shrink down or shut down everywhere.
Which left four entrepreneurs in Orange County with an opening. They wanted to sell to the screen-printer market, to the people who imprint the tees and sportswear that people buy in head shops, from sports teams, from political campaigns, from concert promoters, receive at conventions, and more. Screen-printing firms need fast turnaround on large quantities of specific types of tee, and it’s hard to fulfill that from a plant in Jamaica.
So the entrepreneurs — four brothers — decided to fill that niche. They started their own small outfit selling tees to the screen-printing market. All made in Orange County. Not the cheapest, but — there when you needed it.
And bit by bit they built their company up into a hyper-efficient t-shirt and sportswear-making monster. Selling in bulk as they did, at high quality and efficiency, they could still complete in the USA. While the others fled.
The “Made in America” gimmick came along not long after. Except, it’s not a gimmick. They’re making American goods in America, and making a profit. How much more creative is that — and American — that just looking for the cheapest oversea supplier?
So who are these all-American entrepreneur heroes, who built wealth not by financial manipulation but hard work and ingenuity. Well…
Meet the Rashid brothers: Mohammed, Ali, Abdul, and Omar. All raised in Diamond Bar, California. They are the founders and sole owners of AST Sportswear and the creators of the Bayside line. They’re building an empire while reinvesting in American workers, American jobs, and American know-how. USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
You American-born MBA middle-managers who won’t get your own hands dirty: get with the program!
This leaves one question. Remember the Bernie for President shirt? What kind of shirt did Bernie use?
Well, here’s the tag: the UNIONMADE label, complete with eagles and stars and “UNION MADE IN THE U.S.A” in bold letters. Bernie Sanders strongly supports unions, and so would have nothing but a union shirt. Bayside-brand tees are not union made, I’m sad to say.
But I couldn’f find a website for UNIONMADE tees. Searches kept leading me to the Bayside website. Duh: a lightbulb finally went on: I found a small link for “Union-Made Clothing” on the Bayside site: a small selection of teesat slightly higher prices.
And it turns out that, inside the compact AST empire, there is a small union shop: 50 cutters and sewers from the Teamsters Union who make tee shirts for people and organizations that want to support unions to the max. The tag on those shirts reads UNIONMADE, not Bayside.
Yes: Even Bernie buys Bayside.