Did you ever wonder why the tiny pocket inside the pocket of your jeans existed? The tiny pocket is actually a watch pocket in which workers used to store their pocket watch. As denim was an piece of clothing targeted for the working class who needed robust clothing, the pockets was also tailored for the workers who needed a place to keep their watch. You would expect that denim, as common as it is, is something you know well, and I too expected that I knew it before I discovered the purpose of the watch pocket as well as just how dirty the denim industry was.
The average women in America own 7 pairs of jeans, yet most people in general seem to be ignorant of what lies behind the visually appealing ads, the prominence, the beauty of it all. Besides the obvious harm in its ads that perpetuate the stereotype that a certain body type is more desirable than others, the denim industry has much more to hide: the dye involved in the production leads to the release of heavy metals ranging from cadmium, lead, to mercury. The discharge from the production often leaks into the local water which means that not just the employees are affected, but the region as a whole. The residents of that area are exposed to water that has been through the full production chain of denim from dyeing, distressing, and washing.
The problem is that not only are their immediate health compromised but also their fertility rates. Moreover, in several less economically developed countries in which the jeans are produced, child labor is often utilized to reduce production costs. Due to the lack of awareness about the toxic chemicals in the local rivers or lakes, the residents sometimes drink, do their washing, or directly expose their skin into the water, which will definitely have detrimental effects on the denizens body.
What is more is that this whole process does not have to involve toxins. With the investment into the production process, the costs of production may increase; however, the employees who actually make the denim will not have to compromise their health to lower the price of a good when not many are cognizant of the detrimental effects of purchasing a single jean.
Of course there are certain corporations that have decided to take a lead in evolving into a clean industry by declaring the reduction of the use of chemicals continuously like Levis or American Eagle. However, the truth is that most corporations still use production mechanisms that threaten the wellbeing of hundreds and thousands of people just to reduce costs of production and increase their revenue. This leads us to the ultimate question: do decision making bodies, especially corporations whose aim is to maximize revenue, have a duty to prioritize the wellbeing of the public over financial gain?Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 10.16.42 PM