Forget It Jack, It’s Chinatown: Richer Poorer Socks

I have a bit of a distaste hierarchy when it comes to made-in-China stuff. Are you a Chinese company, using your own brand and forthrightly discussing Chinese production? Then maybe we can do business — this article is being written on a Lenovo Y900. Are you an American company that makes some of your products in China, clearly labeling them as such? Okay, Pelican and SILCA… let’s give it a shot (although I just had an unpleasant experience with a Chinese SILCA product, more on that in the near future). Do you obscure the place of production in favor of long bullshit rants about American design and sustainability and being a force for good? Sorry, Patagonia, you can fuck off.

Ah, but there’s a level of Chinese obfuscation even below that of Patagonia et al — the level where you claim to make things in Western countries, or in Japan, only to send me Chinese products when I order them.

I’m not buying as much from Massdrop as I used to. They moved to a new referral system and caused 36 of my referral credits to effectively vanish in the process. More and more of their products are sourced directly from China, often under the guise of being Western brands like Boker. Still, every once in a while I see something they have that might work for me. Their Richer Poorer No Show sock drop seemed like a good idea. There was no country of origin mentioned so I looked on the Internet and read their sourcing information. USA, Korea, and Japan were the choices. So I ordered.

Well, if I’d bothered to look at the previous Massdrop I would have seen an explicit statement that these were made in China. Unfortunately for me, someone China-washed the newest iteration of the drop text. When the socks arrived, they boasted “Designed in California” on the packaging AND on the socks. What the socks don’t say: Made In China. For that, you have to consult the micro-sized text on the back of the bottom of the cardboard holding the socks together.

Not only are these made in China, they’re made of garbage fabric and they don’t work worth a damn. Avoid at all costs. Not recommended.

26 Replies to “Forget It Jack, It’s Chinatown: Richer Poorer Socks”

  1. AvatarRyan

    Fuck Patagonia (to an extent). I had an R4 Fleece that I picked up from Moosejaw something like 10 years ago because it was Polartec Wind Pro and USA Made. It started to delaminate from the membrane and I sent it in for warranty.

    Unfortunately, they no longer produce anything of that caliber so they gave me $250 credit. To make matters worse, everything is “ethically” sourced from China/Vietnam/Laos/Wherever now. When I asked how “ethical” it is sourcing products from people making $1/day, the CSR got pretty indignant. The same goes for Arcteryx, minus their “LEAF” line, which is still Made in Canada.

    I’m sure you already know about Smartwool socks, but my Patagonia/Arcteryx stuff has all been replaced by TAD gear. It’s a bit too “high speed” for my tastes, but they fortunately offer jackets without patch panels and whatnot.

    Also, Moosejaw can go get fucked too. What used to be a Michigan company was recently purchased by Wal*Mart and they replaced all of their knowledgeable staff members with Community College students making $9/hour.

    It’s extremely difficult to find quality outdoor gear in sizing for anything larger than a manlet. I still have old Woolrich and Filson that was passed down to me from my grandfather. Most Woolrich stuff comes from China, leaving only Filson left. Even they are a bit suspect considering their positioning as a “lifestyle” brand. I will say, though, that their leather bags are well worth the price of entry.

      • AvatarRyan

        Yes, TAD Gear (Triple Aught Design) sells great shit. They were producing some items in China for awhile, but I believe most of that production has returned here.

        I have no complaints about my Ranger or Stealth jackets. I’d really like to pick up one of their Interval (Cone Mills Selvedge) jackets in the near future.

        Will definitely check out the others, thanks for the info!

    • AvatarFred Lee

      When I asked how “ethical” it is sourcing products from people making $1/day, the CSR got pretty indignant.

      WTF do you expect? Ignoring for the moment that “ethical” is completely subjective in this context (do you believe it is more ethical not to pay that person $1/day, because you’re applying your upper-class values to a third world country?). Do you also go to McDonalds and berate the cashier about ethical treatment of animals? Save that for when you sit down for a one-on-one with Chouinard. The CSR is trying to earn money to put food on the table and put his kids through college. Wrong person to vent to.

      And to Patagonia’s credit, virtually no other outdoor clothing maker would even talk to you after 10 years of product usage, much less give you a credit for the full price paid.

      • AvatarRyan

        The $1/day comment was in jest, but I’ll bite. No, I don’t berate McDonald’s (or other restaurant) workers regarding their treatment of animals. Personally, I place the importance of human life over that of animals. YMMV, however.

        While I cannot comment on your experience with outdoor gear, but lifetime warranties on quality stuff is the norm. I don’t think it is unfair to exercise that warranty considering how the item failed, especially considering that I paid something like $250 for it originally and still had the original sales invoice. I’ve had similar experience with an item from Arcteryx, and even The North Face.

        I purchased a premium product because of its quality, and when it came time for replacement (warranty or not), their offerings had been diluted to be no different than the commodity garbage offered by anyone else. Their whole “sustainability” PR nonsense took it one step further.

        • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

          I used to have an affinity for Gerber knives for some reason. The one I had when I was a kid, bought with my own money and the first thing that I didn’t lose through my own absentmindedness, eventually disappeared. So I got another one, and it was significantly shittier than my first. Eventually I got another one, and it was even worse. By the time of my third purchase the Internet had been invented so I looked up why Gerbers are so crappy. Turns out they were bought out by Fiskars-another once proud name-and manufacturing had been moved to China. Now you couldn’t pay me to take one. I regard them as equivalent to the no-name crap you see at a convenience store.

        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          The Eddie Bauer store offered me full credit on a new parka because my 30 year old Ridgeline down parka needs a new zipper and the old Bauer stuff has a lifetime warranty. After seeing the crap that they now sell, which doesn’t even fit properly, I decided to keep wearing my ratty old Ridgeline.

    • AvatarJMcG

      I quit Filson when they hired the marketing guy from Patagonia six or seven years ago and their prices went through the roof. I sure like what I have, but it’s not worth what they charge for most of their stuff anymore. The pictures in the catalogs are worth a few giggles.
      I actually met Yvon Chouinard years ago while he was picking up his mail near the Tetons. Nice fella.

      • AvatarRyan

        Interesting, I didn’t know that. I know Bedrock (Shinola) owns them now, and I agree that prices have been trending upward. Of their newer stuff that I have purchased (wool shirts, upland hunting gear, etc.), I see little variance in quality from the items my grandpa purchased in the 40s. I still use a lot of that stuff regularly.

        • AvatarJMcG

          I can’t really speak to their quality anymore, I haven’t bought anything from them in some time now. I remember going to the Filson store in Seattle as a young man back in the 80’s and being impressed with how bombproof and no-frills their clothing was.
          I used their mackinaw bibs and cruiser on a winter caribou hunt in northern Quebec with complete satisfaction.
          The last straw for me was getting an Alaskan Guide shirt that ended up being made in Morocco. It really bugs me when companies charge made in the USA prices for goods made elsewhere. I think Filson went through a spell of ownership by a VC firm, but I’m not really up on it any more.
          Thanks for your reply, take care.

          • AvatarJames

            Quality of their made-in-Seattle stuff is pretty good–sturdy, if a bit unrefined (as you’d expect, for outdoor gear). Filson’s Web site should make it clear whether an item is made in the USA or overseas. Note that their overseas gear has a wider variety of available materials, and sometimes has greater structural complexity. (I.e., waxed-cotton briefcases: made in USA; polyester-weave rolling suitcases: imported.)

    • AvatarPaul E

      I didn’t realize Dave moved production north of the border. My understanding at the time I bought mine 10 years ago, is that they were made in Mexico. Still, the quality of the bags is amazing, both in materials and construction. The price paid for the quality and service was a screaming deal, IMO. Mine’s aged/patinaed nicely. Good stuff.

  2. AvatarDan

    I’ve been loving my Darn Tough socks. Made in Vermont, unconditional lifetime guarantee. Yeah, I spent $20 on a pair of socks. But as long as I don’t lose them, I will always have a pair of socks. When they wear out, just send them back and they send you a new pair.

  3. Avatarstingray65

    Country of origin tricks are very common in the fashion industry. I’ve seen stories where high fashion brand clothing items are 95% made in low cost developing countries, shipped to a “fashion” country such as Italy where the last button and “made in Italy” tag is sewn on so that the brand can get around country of origin laws and legally sell it as “made in Italy” and command a premium price. Apparently some brands even ship in low cost laborers to Italy, etc. to do that last 5% to generate even higher profits.

  4. Avatarrambo furum

    I agree on all points but feel obligated to mock “no-show” socks. Why do they exist? For people that want that carefree boathouse summer look but are too fussy about foot odor or some mild discomfort? Or are they people worried about preserving their throwaway sneakers or boat shoes? Those fruity “ankle” bobby socks are lame, but at least they are honest.
    They always showanyway, like errant bra straps peeking out, unless they choose instead to uncomfortably slide and bunch. Nien danke.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      My weak excuse is this:

      I would prefer not to wear socks with slip-ons or white nubuck summer shoes but I am having trouble with bloody calluses on my feet as a result. This was a halfway measure.

  5. AvatarVTNoah

    Still waiting on your long term “Darn Tough” socks review.

    That said, I’ve started moving away from no shows. Darn Tough has enough cool patterns and they are comfortable enough that I enjoy showing off what I’m rocking.

  6. AvatarDaniel J

    I’ve purchased a few items from massdrop over the years. It’s pretty well known, at least in my mind, that their flashlights and many other items are Chinese sourced.

    I do like that they are starting up their own line of pocket knives through millit knives based out of Idaho. This is not to be confused with massdrops line of ferrum forge which are designed here but made in China.

    Getting to boker for a second. I’ve got a gentlemans folder that I knew was made in China. Anyone who’s vaguely looked at knives over the last 20 years knows that there are several of their large lines of pocket knives made in China. And boker IMHO hasn’t hidden that, at least no more than any other knife manufacturer.

    Even Benchmade went through a period where some of their knives were made in china, specifically the HK line and outdoorsman line. I think some still are. I’ve also never been convinced that all their materials, even on made in USA branded knives, are made here, especially the zytel handles.


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