in which i buy a hat

I needed a new cap. Wait…first let me say this: I’m not a hat guy. Some folks can wear a hat; some folks just can’t. Some folks look like dorks whenever they wind up beneath a hat. I am one of those folks. Except baseball caps. Anybody can wear a ball cap. Even me.

Right. So I needed a new cap. And I decided…wait. Maybe need is an exaggeration. I actually had two ball caps. A nice one bought at the ball park, with the logo of the local minor league team (Iowa Cubs). It’s a good cap, moderately expensive, but when I bought it I had long hair. I’ve cut my hair since then; now the cap doesn’t fit. A stiff wind will swipe it right off my head.

The other cap is what I call my ‘Commie Coke hat’. It’s moderately cheap grey cap, adjustable, has a Co-cola logo with a red star on the front. I mostly wear it when I’m in the woods. Or doing some sort of manual labor. Which means it’s pretty beat-up and stained. Not something you’d want to wear in public.

Co-cola Commie cap.

As I was saying, I needed a new cap. The problem was finding one with a logo I could tolerate. I tend to logo-resistant. I wouldn’t wear that Co-cola cap if it didn’t have the red Commie star (which I assume wasn’t intentional, but still). I mentioned my logo problem to a friend, who gave me the following advice:

Go look on Etsy, you putz.

So I looked on Etsy (which, if you don’t already know, is an online marketplace). There are easily a gazillion ball caps on Etsy. A mind-numbing selection. An overwhelming number of choices and options which left me…well, overwhelmed. I was about to exit the site when I noticed a seller who’d let you put your own lettering on a cap. That had potential. Plus the cap looked fairly nice. Plus it only cost like US$15.

Then I saw it was a seller in South Korea. How could somebody in Korea customize a cap and mail it to the US for about twenty bucks (including shipping)? The answer, of course, is because the Korean seller doesn’t have to fuss about with inconvenient stuff like a livable minimum wage for their employees, a safe working environment, worker health care costs, reasonable working hours, or child labor laws.

So fuck that, right? There was absolutely no way I could ethically buy a cap made under those conditions. Here’s a confession: my ethics can get a tad elastic when my curiosity is engaged. And I was curious. If I ordered that cap, how long it would take for the order to be delivered? Would the product be what I actually ordered? Could a $15 cap made by oppressed workers in Korea be anything but shoddy?

So what the hell, I ordered one. I ordered a specific color, with ITMFA (Impeach the Motherfucker Already)  on the front in a specific font.

You guys, it arrived in ten days. It’s a better quality cap than my Co-cola commie cap. It’s the color I ordered. And while the lettering isn’t perfectly centered, it’s still pretty good and it’s in the font I ordered. In fact, the entire experience was so good that it’s discouraging.

I’m mostly a writer, which means I’m relatively poor. I come from a working class family, which means I feel solidarity with working folks. I can understand why poor folks would opt to buy a quality product from the Asian market for a bargain price instead of a quality product from a US source for a higher price. I think it’s still ethically wrong, but understandable. In the long run, this hurts the poor and working class — but let’s face it; the poor and working class can’t always afford to think about the long run. They’ve got bills to pay now.

So here I am, a relatively poor American wearing a cap made by significantly poorer and much more oppressed Korean workers. Here I am, wearing a hat calling for the impeachment of a man who not only endorses but enthusiastically utilizes the oppression of foreign workers for his own personal profit.

I like the hat. I like the message. I sort of regret buying it. I hate that I don’t regret it more. I deeply regret that global conditions exist that allow one group of workers to be exploited like this, and that allow other workers to justify exploiting less fortunate workers. We can say it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but it’s mainly that way because the rich are starving the dogs. I regret that I contributed to starving the dogs.

If YOU want an ITMFA cap, don’t do what I did. Instead, if you can afford it, kick out the extra coin and buy one made here in the US. In fact, I encourage you to kick out the extra coin and buy a ball cap from a source who’ll use the profits to support worthy causes. A source like, say, the ITMFA Store.

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