October 3, 2022
Made in Mexico vs Made in the US

Many people ask, “why don’t you make your hats in the US?” or “I’d rather buy something made in the USA”. We appreciate the thought but really…let’s take a nice hard look at the real difference between the two. It’s a fact that Made in the USA is going to be more expensive, and it’s not just the labor cost differences.

First. Let’s talk about the materials.

Regardless of where the hat is made, unless it’s in China, we all use the same materials and they come from various parts of the world. Virtually less than 10%of the materials originate in the US.

Hat bodies… the straw material is sourced from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Panama, or Ecuador. Palm leaf is sourced from Mexico, Central America, or China. Canvas is sourced from Mexico, China, US, or Vietnam. Wool comes from Australia, Mexico, China, Argentina, Bolivia. Rabbit or Beaver felt comes from Bolivia, Ukraine, Czech Republic. There’s a reason that materials are sourced from different regions, and it normally has to do with availability, ability to transform it into a hat body, its composition and cost. Some regions are just better equipped to handle the manufacturing process to make the materials than others. If you think any Hat Factory makes their own hat bodies from scratch, in 99% of cases, that just isn’t true.

Chemicals… There are special types of lacquer, paint, thinner and other solvents that are used in the hat making process. The region where the Hat factory is located needs to have the proper supply chain close by and readily available to supply.

Sweatbands… There are many different materials used for sweatbands-leather, cotton twill, foam, synthetics or elastic. Someone has to make the sweatband, then someone has to print it. Because different hat styles require different sweatbands, buying from a distribution center doesn’t work too well. And for a smaller Hat Factory to invest in all the equipment needed to produce sweatbands themselves, it’s just not cost effective. So, it’s necessary to rely on local supply companies to fill the orders.

Same goes for all the other accessories you don’t think about–size tags, patches, liners, ribbon, conchos, hat bands, paper tags, boxing, packaging, etc. To run efficiently and effectively, there has to be a supply chain set up to service the factory on a daily basis. And those materials are sourced around the globe. Think of it like the Auto Industry in Detroit back in the 70’s. Ford doesn’t make the seats, door handles, windows, dash, tires, etc. There is a network of suppliers around the area that meets the needs of the factory. And the Hat industry in the US is by far nowhere near the size of the Auto Industry. It would take decades to get that network up and producing to provide the factory the materials it needs.

Now let’s talk about the actual manufacturing process.

Believe it or not…many of your “Made in USA” companies have several of their hats lacquered, formed and sweatbands done in Mexican facilities like ours and then shipped to their US destination to finish up final shaping and accessories applied.

We all go through the same processes to produce a hat using very similar methods. True, some shops have found various methods that work best for them. Based on the equipment required and the skillsets of their employees they can produce a better look, save time, or save money. Some shops are totally automated in their equipment, others still use mechanical equipment. Our experience is that the mechanical devices incorporate more hands-on skills than letting the machine do all the work(except for pushing a button). Who would you rather have creating your hat…one that pushes a button or a crafts man that actually handles and feels how the material is reacting as the hat is being formed?

And we haven’t even discussed the Governmental regulations on the application, handling, storage, purchasing, disposal, etc. of all the different chemicals used in the process of hat manufacturing.

Now, you could have a custom hat shop make a one off felt hat for you, but the cost and time is going to be high, and options are fairly limited. But you’re confusing one-off to production… a shop vs a factory.

 

Now let’s talk LABOR.

How many of you know100people in the US that have experience in Hat making? How about 50people?30 people…even 2?Yes…you say people can be trained. Of course, they can. But how much time, material and money are you willing to waste to get them up to speed and be able todo ALL of the processes properly so you have a quality product you can stand behind? Personally, I would rather have the best person I can find with the greatest skill level and a mindset that will continue to offer solutions to problems that come up in the manufacturing process. And believe me when I say, “Those problems come up hourly and are ever-changing”.

90% of the hats made in the world come out of San Francisco del Rincon, Mexico. Many of the60,000residentsof this town have been hat craftsmen for over 6 generations. Not to mention the supply distribution network that has been in place LOCALLY for decades. So, imagine trying to find 30, 50 0r100 people that have experience one way or the other. In San Francisco del Rincon,50% of the families have someone that has experience in the hat industry. The labor market is already in place.

Now you’ll say, “Yeah, but the Mexicans work for pennies, and you don’t have to pay them benefits.”

I’m sure there are some places, just like in the US, that don’t pay their employees a fair wage, benefits or provide a safe working environment. As a matter of fact, you can probably name several in the US…including some very major corporations. The same is true in Mexico and most other places in the world. However, at Gone Country, we do pay our Mexican Factory workers an ABOVE average wage, Vacation, Holidays, Overtime, Health Benefits, Retirement, 2Hour lunch break, Performance Bonus and provide them a SAFE Certified Working Environment. And the money goes back to support the families of the local community. Our workers are craftsman, not button pushers.

So next time when you insist on Made in USA, think about what the differences really are.

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