Everyday I wear a very old pair of Giorgio Brutini boat shoes(docksides, loafers, etc.). They've held up very well(maybe 10 years?), so I recommend this brand if you're looking for some nice shoes. The downside to this company's shoes is that they are made in China(or at least mine are). In fact, most shoes and clothes that people buy were made across seas. I think every piece of clothing I'm wearing at this moment was made overseas, and almost every article of clothing that I own.
So, I read this interesting piece on a person's quest to find US-made shoes. Actually, the shoes featured there aren't made in the US either anymore.
But the important point is that US companies are exploiting workers in many 3rd-world countries around the world in order to give us clothes at cheap prices and keep their profits maximized. These thoughts were prompted somewhat from a Bible study I had yesterday on Micah Chapter 2, which talks about the exploitation of the poor, and which I think applies to most people reading this post, including me.
Now they're generally not directly exploiting the workers, as they don't own any of the factories(like that absolves them). What they do is find business people in places like South Korea who own these factories in countries like China, Vietnam, the Phillipines, and Thailand, where all our clothes are made. These factory owners are the ones who work their employees for a standard 60 hours per week and mostly pay them minimum wage, which is so low in these 3rd world countries that working 60 hours at these wages doesn't even raise the workers above the poverty line of the country where the factories are located. They often live in barracks on the factory grounds and are not allowed to leave without permission, essentially making them slaves.
An exception is Cambodia, which I heard on an episode of This American Life is a leader among 3rd world nations in labor practices, but has a hard time competing with surrounding countries because they can't make the lowest bids for contracts since they pay decent wages.
So, I thought it would be nice to find shoe companies that do actually commit to making their shoes in the US. I found a cool website called US Stuff that has a shoes section that lists companies that have manufacturing operations in the US. Sometimes you can find companies with excellent prices, like Okabashi, which makes sandals. A popular company that makes casual/athletic shoes mostly in the US is New Balance.
I'm considering buying a pair of sandals from Chaco. And maybe if my Giorgio Brutinis ever fall apart I'll buy a new pair of boat shoes from B.A. Mason Shoes :-)