Made In The USA: Kirkland Signature Socks

Okay, I admit it. As of late, this “Made In The USA” series has been a little bourgeois. And the items that I have coming up won’t do much to address the criticism that’s been repeated by our readers again and again: namely, that this obsession with American-made products is really just another way to spend too much for things, the same way that the “foodie revolution” occurred because you have all these people in cities earning $250,000 a year who literally don’t have enough room in their apartments for a second bicycle but who still want to indulge in copious displays of economic well-being.

To counter this unfortunate trend of $175 extension cords and the like, I present to you: Kirkland Signature Socks. I paid $8.95 for these at Costco a while back. The best way I could think of to torture-test them was simple: use them for a day at work, then an evening at the skatepark, then another day at work, then 35 minutes on the elliptical machine. That’s not really equivalent to a year’s worth of hard use or anything like that, but it’s enough to cause visible wear in the overseas-made stuff you get from Wal-Mart. As part of this comparison, I would then evaluate the Kirkland socks against my limited-run, American-made Flint&Tinder socks, to see which set was better.

Surprise: The Kirkland Signature socks appear to be just as good as the F&T socks that cost literally ten times as much. But, as with everything, there’s a catch.

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Made In The USA: Shinola x General Electric

“Can’t believe that you, of all people, buy into the Shinola hype.” That’s what a commenter wrote on my Instagram page yesterday. I think that’s a compliment. And while my opinion on Shinola is, I hope, reasonably hype-free, I also can’t say that I’m immune to the brand’s charms.

I stopped by their Ann Arbor store late last night. This is, it has to be said, a profoundly satisfying place. The ground floor is designed around a selection of natural materials and carefully spot-lit to cast a flattering glow on everything from their boxes of traditional wooden pencils (that I bought for my son) to the handsome Runwell, Bixby, and Detroit Arrow bicycles.

The basement, reached down a set of wrought-iron-and-rough-wood stairs, is an authentic marvel. Brick-lined, with a fourteen-foot ceiling and that same careful accent lightning. A gloss-red bicycle sits between small, private alcoves for conversation. There’s a bar, tended during my visit by a painfully earnest and ruggedly handsome beard-and-suspenders fellow who cleaned glasses with the precise amount of vintage, authentic effort displayed by the android bartender in Passengers, where you can buy soda and baked goods. Beneath another soft spotlight, there’s a pair of bookshelf speakers and a selection of usual-suspect records (What’s Going On, Rubber Soul, Physical Graffiti, that sort of thing) for you to play on their stunning new Shinola (by VPI) turntable. A great place to write a novel, meet your future wife, or just relax with a made-in-Detroit Shinola soda. At only $1.00, the twelve-ounce glass-bottled cola is probably the only genuine deal the brand offers.

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Buy American With “The American List”

The new Continental is a genuinely brilliant automobile. I’d take mine as a Black Label in Rhapsody Blue with the Chalet interior, three-liter 400-horse AWD and every factory option. Once you do that, you’re looking at seventy-eight grand, but the equivalent Funfer BMW costs fifteen stacks more and isn’t as nice inside. I’d say that the Continental heralds a genuine return of American-made luxury. (Unless you think Tesla already got there, of course.)

The problem for me is that I don’t really have $78k lying around. If I did, I think I’d spend it on a base Viper. In either case, however, I’d have the satisfaction of buying American. Would you like to experience that same satisfaction for somewhat less than the $78,000 price of a Black Label Continental or even the $44,300 of a Continental Premier? Then check out The American List at A Continuous Lean. It’s more of a guideline than an authoritative document on sourcing, but it’s a good place to start. And somewhere between Alden and Zippo you’ll find something that is just right for you.

Made In The USA, Sorta: Tempur-Pedic Dual Cooling Pillow

Six years ago, I paid nearly two thousand dollars to buy a foam mattress from The Original Mattress Factory. I can honestly say that it changed my life. Any X-ray of my body would look like a cheap jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of stuff from the hardware store laid across it, and as a result I find sleep both painful and unlikely. The foam mattress was a game-changer.

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Baruth demanded that I retire said long-suffering mattress and replace it with a proper name-brand Tempur-Pedic, which cost more than a Ducati Monster S2R in excellent condition. But — wonder of wonders — my life is once again improved. There are now actual nights where I go to sleep and wake up seven hours later, something that hasn’t happened in years.

I was so enthused by this development that I decided to get a new foam pillow to replace my old foam pillow. Tempur-Pedic has one that contains cooling gel. It’s brilliant. I can feel my habitual ill temper slipping away like ice on the roof of my house under the assault of the March sun. But if you know me, then you know that I can’t just be satisfied with a product being life-changing and delightful.

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Made In The USA: Westone UM2

Long-time readers… hell, even you fresh-off-the-Internet-boat-types may recall this one. Two weeks ago, I bought a set of Sennheiser headphones that turned out to be made in China. I promptly returned them to Amazon. It cost me nine bucks in shipping to do so — Amazon doesn’t consider “made in China” to be an acceptable reason for a free return — but it left me with some not-quite-cash burning a home in my pocket .

This past Saturday I was at Sweetwater Music in Fort Wayne, most positively and definitely not buying a new PRS Private Stock because I was able to tear myself away from it before the emotional weakness took over, and I saw that they had some entry-level Westone in-ear-monitors (IEMs) for sale.

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Forget It, Jack, It’s Chinatown: Sennheiser HD598CS

Welcome to our newest feature: Forget It, Jack, It’s Chinatown. In this feature, we will be exposing products that are made in China despite carrying a non-Chinese brand and not advertising their Chinese provenance. With any luck, this will provide definite answers to people who Google “xxx made in China”. (I’m not the only person who does that. Right? Right?)

Today’s episode: the Sennheiser HD598CS.

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Made In The USA, Black Friday Edition: $79.95 Basic Black New Balance 993

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You want a great pair of shoes? Today’s the day. Click this link to get to Joe’s New Balance. (I don’t get anything, but you have to use their email promo.) Choose Made In Usa. Choose basic black 993. It’s $99.95. After your 20% off, it’s $79.95.

If you’ve ever wanted to own a set of the best all-purpose casual shoes out there, now’s the day. For another ten bucks or so, you can get some of the color combinations, if you like, but this all-black 993 is new to the site and I think it’s pretty neat!

Happy shopping, everybody!

Made In the USA: Noble x Massdrop In-Ear Monitors

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It’s the kind of thing we’re told just doesn’t exist anymore: American-made earphones. (Sorry audiophiles: In-Ear Monitors.) Noble Audio still makes them, however. Although their traditional entry-level set is $399, they’ve coordinated with Massdrop to build a special set for $249. If you use earphones for more than brief periods, it’s worth checking these out. I’ve already ordered mine. When you register through my referral link, you give me the chance to get fun stuff. So far, referrals through this site have gotten me: a Pilot fountain pen, several American-made Vapur water bottles, and a titanium spork! You know you want me to have more titanium sporks, so get shopping!

Made In The USA: Rattlerstrap Titan

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I think a lot of my friends are going to make fun of me for this one, and perhaps deservedly so. The Rattlerstrap Titan belt is a child of the “Everyday Carry” phenomenon, also known as “EDC”. It’s an American-made, titanium-buckle belt with a very fine-grained adjustment, which is nice when you’re trying to use the same belt for both denim and wool pants. But its raison d’etre is based on the rather ridiculous assumption that you will need one hundred feet of nylon paracord on short notice.

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