Part I Cotton King

How Raw Cotton Turns into Cotton Yarns

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122 thoughts on “Part I Cotton King”

  1. Comment from student in spring 2012

    My first impression about reading the book, “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” was that I was less then thrilled. I was not sure what to expect, andunfortunately was not that excited. However, after reading the first section of this book, my perspective has changed. I found this first part very interesting and some of the information completely surprised me.

    We have talked a lot in class on how unfortunate the United States is doing on trade and our economy. I had no idea that we were so abundant and efficient at producing cotton right here in the states. That we were in fact the leader in the global cotton industry, as the book noted in the first chapter. It never dawned on me that soo much is put into the production of cotton. A big condition being climate. This is why few advanced industrial economies cannot produce cotton at the rate we can in the United States.

    Another thing that the book mentioned that I felt was very interesting was when the author mentioned how another reason why the United States, in particular Nelson and Ruth Reinsch, were so sufficient in the production of cotton, was that farmers in poorer countries are “tradition bound” rather then “innovation bound.” I never realized this before, and I completely agree with that opinion.

    While further reading on, it was interesting reading that it was believed that the American cotton victory was lead over China and India because of slavery, and also that modern markets were not sufficient in India or China around that time period. What is interesting to me about this is that the U.S. along with China and India economies and markets has changed dramatically. India, and China especially are catching up very quickly to our modern markets, yet we still remain the leader in the cotton industry. This book seems very interesting and I am looking forward to reading more.

  2. Comment from student in spring 2012

    When I started reading Travels of a T‐shirt in the Global Economy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the past, when I’ve taken courses related to the economy, i.e. Econ 201, the reading material was mostly textbook. So when I began, I had the idea that it would be reading a boring rendition of the same story I’ve read 3 times before: supply, demand, China, graphs & tables. But I soon realized that that was a broad generalization, it was more of a history lesson if anything.

    I was interested to find out that a single family, a single factory, in good old Miami, Florida, produces one of the main manufacturers of screen-printed souvenir and tourist memorabilia alike. Meeting the Reinsches was a great way to explain the job of picking cotton in west Texas. Nelson Reinsch knows the trade all too well, he grew up breaking his back in his parent’s cotton fields in the 1930s, and today instead, enjoys the benefits he reaps, no pun intended. Him and his wife own one of the largest cotton farms in Lubbock, Texas and has seen the industry through it’s ups and downs in the eighty-plus years him and cotton have been friends.

    When TTGE began the discussion on cotton plantations and slavery, in my mind, the book soon reverted back to “everything I already knew,” but that wasn’t the case. There were some topics brought up that I thought were valid and also interesting. In school, when we would learn about all of the Industrial Revolution and all of the technological advances in the 1800s, I always remember writing down “Eli Whitney: cotton gin, separated the cottonseed from the cotton plant, great advancement!”. But the book put into perspective something that I never thought about…the cotton gin that the creative Whitney made was a great step for the cotton business, but it also “solidified the slave plantations for cotton in the South” (Rivoli).

    I like the position the author takes in discovering, researching, and learning about its subject. I did think that the very specific information about the cotton and subsidies chapters was slightly monotonous and repetitive. As mentioned above, I have enjoyed this book so far for its credit to the accuracy of the history behind cotton, American history, and world history.

  3. After reading the first 4 chapters of the T-Shirt Travels book, a lot of thoughts are going through my head. First of all, it is crazy to think that the plant that was harvested to create my jeans and shirt was also used to develop an ingredient in my peanut butter. Secondly, I can’t help but to wonder where the cotton farming industry can go from here. Many years ago, cotton farms offered plenty of job opportunities for people due to the work required to avoid pests and insects and to pick cotton at the exactly correct time. Now, due to advancements in technology, there are so many machines that have replaced these workers and allow a single farmer to accomplish the job. The use of machinery, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds has created a quick and sufficient way to produce an abundance of cotton. I think that these advancements in technology are the exact reason why consumers are able to get products they want so much more quickly. I also think it is the reason why consumers never stop wanting new things. This scares me because it makes me think that everything will be made by machines. The book also mentioned how poorer countries are unable to compete with the USA because a lot of people lack the money and skills necessary to use certain machines or chemicals. What will be their future? Will they survive? Why do farmers in our country get so much money from the government when their machines and chemicals do most of the work, and the workers in poorer countries work long hours without technological assistance and make no money at all? Finally, I am interested to see if the new trend of “organic” textiles will affect the U.S. cotton industry. While researching baby blanket manufacturers during my internship this summer, I found that a lot of companies who make their products in our country prefer to use organic fabrics. This may cause for a change in the USA cotton farming industry…

    1. good thoughts! Two comment: first, probably what the cotton industry really cares is how to sell more cotton–this is a buyer driven industry. If the consumer want organic and organic products can generate higher profit, why not grow more? Second, subsidy is the result of industry lobby–another example showing “rule of the game” matters.

  4. Before reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I wasn’t in a rush to open it up and read it. Once a began reading the first part I was beginning to learn a lot of things that surprised me. The book get better and better as I read and began to really catch my attention. There were several things that were mentioned in the book that I never knew about cotton, but one in particular really shocked me. When reading on page 50, “out of 22,000 pounds of cotton that leave Nelson’s farm in the module truck, only about 5,300 pounds is the white lint that will be turned into T-shirts.”, I was in awe of how little white lint there was in 22,000 pounds. That means the remainder non white lint, that was once considered garbage, is now being sold also, which is great for the farmers. I couldn’t believe how many uses there is to that garbage now and days. The bolls, stems, and dirt part of cotton usually becomes cattle feed and is also being converted into briquettes, building materials, fertilizer, and ethanol.
    Not only can the farmers make a profit on the “garbage” part of the cotton but they also can make a profit if they decide to sell the oil from the cotton seed, which I never actually knew there was such a thing as cotton oil. Aware of it or not, but we have all eaten cotton oil at least one time in our lifetime because many items that are in our markets around the country are in fact made with cotton oil. Items that consist of cotton oil are Snickers bars, Ragu sauce, Peter Pan peanut butter, Girl Scout cookies, Certs breath mints, and the biggest buyer of cotton seed oil in the world is Frito-Lay. I couldn’t believe that although cotton seed oil is in many foods that I have eaten in my lifetime I never actually heard of it before, and never knew there was such a thing. After learning this information, I immediately asked my mom if she knew of cotton seed oil being in foods because she cooks often, and she also never heard of it. I truly believe if it wasn’t for this book, I probably wouldn’t have found out about it. After reading the first part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” and learning things I was shocked to learn, I am intrigued to read more.

  5. After finishing the first part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I feel much more informed about the history of cotton and how it began. When we were assigned this book I was really not looking forward to reading it but after finishing the first part I enjoyed it. I learned about a lot of thing I didn’t know before hand about the cotton industry.

    Through out the first part the book talks about how Texas is the biggest cotton producer by 1890. As the book states today there is a good chance that a shirt we could be wearing the cotton was born near Lubbock, Texas. With talking about in class how bad our economy was and how much the united states imports goods, I would have never though we were the largest exporters for cotton. Also when the book talks about the Reinsch’s and how they are un-able to go away for thanksgiving because they need to be doing the crops 24 -7 is something I didn’t realize. The weather impacts the crops so much if it rains for a couple days once it dries it needs to be picked immediately.

    Another thing the books talks about is how the United States had remarkable improvements in cotton production and that’s why we are the best cotton producers. Improvements made in things like: machines, chemical the GM technology all contribute to the outstanding cotton production the US has to offer. The Reinsch’s tell a great story of how they grew into being these farmers where there product is sold world wide.

    After further reading I came across something I had no idea about which kind of caught me by surprise. In one of the sections it talks about linters, which are tiny bits of cotton fuzz that are stuck to the seed after ginning. The part I was most surprised by was when they said cellulose from the linters are in foods such as ice cream, hot dogs and sausage casings as well as writing paper. I really am looking forward to reading more about things I had no idea about. This book is something I would have never read but it seems like a really interesting book!

  6. I really enjoyed how Rivoli started the book off with points of raw society by showing the protest. Usually books such as this one have a great deal of bias. I feel Rivoli does a great job with avoiding this. I felt by him stating that his goal for the book was to figure out the facts made me able to relax and not be confrontational with the information.I thought an interesting point he makes is how the trade skeptics and the corporations need each other as well as the sweat shops. I never really thought of the business this way.

    In addition, the author states that Texas was one of the most foreign places he has ever been, although he lives in the United States, at first I giggled at the thought of Texas being foreign but then I began to think about it from the authors point of view and what he meant by this. Cotton is produced all over the earth, But I never really thought of Texas being the hot spot for cotton production. Later on the author says that US cotton farmers are well educated, have an entreprenuial spirit and the amount of government help given to the farmers help them to remain competitive today. I was amazed that the government helps these farmers so much, like the Agricultural Adjustment Act. It was reassuring the our government is still trying to invest in America’s farmers.

    What was really hard to swallow was how the industry in America started with slavery. Although it is somewhat common knowledge of the involvement of slavery and the cotton industry, I know I tend to push the gruesome details in the back of my mind. The author stated that young healthy slaves were able to pick 300 lbs a day and children were able to pick 100 lbs a day. I was shocked by this. I could not imagine how the slaves dealt with the heat and the tedious work and carrying the sacks through the fields. I felt a little bit ashamed about the history of my country.

    The part of the book where the author talked about the genetically modified cotton seeds really had my attention. Not once have I ever stopped and thought about how they fought against weeds and bugs. The obvious conclusion is pesticide. However, this tiny little seed is so crucial to the lives of so many that so much research and investment was made to protect it and make it the best it could be. I honestly just never would have imagined that so much effort was taken to protect the crop. I also thought the spray to “kill” the plant to make the cotton easier to harvest was just fascinating. I also loved hearing how these farmers are using as much as the crop as possible like using the cotton seed oil in frying chips and other food products. In such a wasteful “throw it away” society I find it just amazing that these farmers are finding a way to make money out of everything.

    So far I really really like this book. The book balances enough fact with telling a story and I can not wait to read on!!

    1. yes, I also like that the author did a great job of writing in an objective way. This is particuarlly the case in the third part of the book. Another issue is why the U.S. government would choose to help the farmers. Does it naturally happen?

  7. I enjoyed reading the first four chapters of “Travels of a t-shirt.” It was really interesting to get a little bit of the history of the cotton industry. I liked reading the parts that were about the Reinsch family. It gave me a good idea of what it has been like over a long period of time for a farmer in this industry. It was interesting to hear that Texas is still the main spot for cotton production. I had just assumed that as time has passed production had moved into other countries, so it is great to see that it still has a place here in the US.

    It was interesting to read about how much the cotton industry has advanced over the years. From slaves having to pick and clean the cotton with their bare hands to the invention of the cotton gin. Things such as weather, and bugs that held the fate of farmers’ cotton plants in the past are now not of concern. With all of the advancements and pesticides, these are worries farmers no longer deal with. In addition to these things are the many advancements in technology that GM has made.

    It was really interesting to read how difficult it was to produce cotton. Never had I imagined it was such a time consuming and difficult task. These farmers both past and present really have to dedicate so much time to work. It’s very reassuring to see that the US government has passed acts to protect the farmers. Like Mr. Reinsch said, he doesn’t have to worry about his crops being a total loss anymore because the government is now there to protect him. So far I have enjoyed reading the book.

  8. I liked that Rivoli began with a preface about the the protests against the WTO and other organizations. In reading the four chapters I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know. To start off, I did not know that Lubbock, Texas was called the “cottonest city” in the world. I did not even know Texas produced a lot of the worlds cotton. I also thought it was interesting to learn that there have been so many shifts in countries in all different types of industries. The U.S. used to be the main producer of electronics and now China is the main producer. it is very interesting to see that most industries now produce their products in Asia. However, the United States still is the leading power in the production of cotton. The United States was not always the leader in cotton. In 1971 the U.S was hardly on the charts in cotton production but then skyrocketed nearly forty years later.

    It is still daunting to think that the U.S. cotton industry started with the help of slavery. This is something that still puts a dark cloud over the United States. Slavery was such a important topic in our history but it is sometimes forgotten. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about the history of slavery in the cotton industry except not repeat it.

    This book is interesting and has taught me information that I was not aware about.

  9. When I first started reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I was very intrigued and felt like I was learning something totally original and new about the history of American cotton. It’s amazing to me that years ago there was a city in the United States that was proclaimed the “cottonest city” in the world, such a twist considering that today China is the number one country in the world in cotton production. Its wild to think that during the Civil War, the south was producing two thirds of the total world production of cotton. During this time the size of the farms in the south were two times larger than the farms up north. In addition the south had the man power in terms of slaves on their plantations doing the work. As I continued to read about the creation of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, machinery that enabled the production to move a little bit faster, I thought about the difference between the two countries. The farmers in the poorer countries were bound by economics as well as tradition that would have enabled them to “catch up” with the United States in cotton production. Ironic that now so many years later China is now ahead of the United States in cotton production. We were the innovators back then and now they are largest producers of cotton in the world. While China is ahead of us in production I feel like China will control the global textile and apparel industry in regards to the production of cotton. I’m looking forward to reading and learning more.

    1. Personally, I doubt that “China will control the global textile and apparel industry”. First, as mentioned in the class, country needs to follow “comparative advantage” in making products. China doesn’t have the land and natural resources to expand cotton production. That’s why China is the leading importer of cotton. On the other hand, China probably has no interests in dominating the textile and apparel industry. China has more ambition in other high-tech sectors.

  10. Initially, I was not very eager to read “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”. I had assumed that this was going to be just another boring macroeconomics book containing a bunch of analyses of data and graphs. However, after reading the first four chapters I was pleased to see that this is not the case, and I now feel very differently about it.
    After completing the first chapter, I was very surprised to find that for over 200 years the United States has been the undisputed leader in the global cotton industry. I was not only shocked at the title the U.S has so proclaimed and held for past 200 years, but also at how far ahead we have remained in the cotton race.
    I did not know prior to reading this book that Texas, particularly Lubbock, was the prime location for growing cotton not only in the U.S but globally. I found the role that Texas Tech plays within the cotton industry to be very interesting as well. I really enjoyed reading how close the people who work within the cotton industry are, and how serious even the alumni of Texas Tech are in regards to cotton’s significance to the state of Texas. It was also nice to read that Nelson and Ruth Reinsch have been able to keep and maintain their farm for so many years.
    Upon further reading, I was amazed at how far the technology has progressed since cotton was first farmed. It was interesting to read how it has become a one man show since the introduction of all the new modern machines, and how it has progressed to the point where Nelson can take a nap after lunch. After reading how technologically advanced the U.S. has become within the cotton industry, I was surprised to learn how far behind some countries such as Africa have become and how their progression is further inhibited by the political powers there.
    I found the most interesting part of the reading to be how many different things the cotton plant is used for today. It was fascinating to learn that CRISCO was named for crystalized cottonseed oil, and that Frito-Lay is the biggest cottonseed oil buyer in the world. I was also surprised at how the fiber which makes up my favorite garments, jeans and t-shirts, is also an important source of vitamin E for pharmaceutical producers .
    It will be interesting to see where the cotton industry goes from here, not only in regards to future technological innovations, but also the new roles the cotton plant will play within the food, pharmaceutical, hygiene, and textile industries.

  11. The first 4 chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in The Global Economy” have opened my eyes to the intricate history of the U.S. cotton industry. I have learned a great deal within first part of this book. Right away, I read that Lubbock, Texas is one of the largest cotton growing regions in the world. The Reinsche’s 1,000 acre farm, alone, can produce 500,000 pounds of cotton which is enough to create 1.3 million t-shirts.
    Chapter 1 tells readers that one of the reasons why the U.S. cotton industry has been able to thrive for so long is because they have received subsidies from the government. In 2004, the U.S. trade negotiators admitted that the subsidies were unfair and agreed to end them but 4 years later the subsidies remained in place. Another reason for American cotton farmers’ success has been their ability to adapt to the unpredictable and constant change in supply and demand of the global market.
    Chapter 2 described some of the unfortunate circumstances that were responsible for the significant growth in early U.S. cotton production. Growing cotton in the South involved extreme physical labor and if farmers were required participate in a “competitive labor market” their output and profits would not be nearly as substantial. For this reason, the most successful Southern plantations relied on slavery. After the Civil War, the government found ways to protect the cotton farmers through “tenant farming” which still yielded unfair treatment for the lower level workers who would always be in debt to the farm owners.
    Cotton farms began to move west toward Texas with the improvement of cultivation technology. Chapter 3 states that today, the Lubbock area is filled with farmers who are educated with an entrepreneurial sense of business. They benefit from research by the USDA and Texas Tech University. These advantages of research and insurance are what keep the U.S. cotton industry at a more superior level than any other cotton growing country. Chapter 4 explains that the conditions of the cotton industries of Asia would seem completely unfamiliar to any American cotton farmer. This book has done a great job of describing the United States’ place in the global cotton production industry.

  12. I find it interesting how the United States boasts about free trade, yet the subsidies it gives to its U.S. cotton producers give the U.S. the upper hand in cotton trade and cotton prices compared to poor nations that produce cotton. The author of Travels of a T-Shirt argues, however, that U.S. cotton producers have an advantage not only from subsidies, but from the long held dominance of the U.S. cotton industry and the advancements in technology, production methods, innovation, marketing, and entrepreneurship that are found within the United States. The author claims that with or without subsidies, these factors of global competitiveness are weak in developing countries and the institutions that can support them do not. Similar was the case in the 1700’s, when Capitalism in America rewarded ideas and innovation, while China did not, nor had the institutions needed to govern such things as property rights. Today U.S. cotton producers benefit from the use of genetically modified cottonseed, mechanical equipment, advanced cotton quality measurements, and research in news ways of recycling the cotton extras, such as cottonseed oil. Developing countries, such as those highlighted by the author in West Africa, do not have the capital, educational systems, or governance to compete with the United States’ competitive advantage. They do, however, have cheap labor recourses, which keeps them in the global marketplace. I think that Travels of a T-shirt puts the argument about subsidies and the U.S. competitive advantage over other countries in terms of cotton in perspective.

    I also think it is interesting and unfortunate that these countries are “too poor to pollute” because they cannot afford the pesticides, and then they are too poor to pay the fees to become organic certified, even though they can be considered organic. Nor are the farmers able to fill out the forms required to be considered organic certified, according to the author. This again relates to the lack of capital and educational institutions needed to support a country’s cotton industry.

    Before reading this book I had a negative perception of genetically modified products. GM cotton reduces the need for pesticides that are harmful to the environment and the farmers. This means less fuel consumption needed to apply the pesticides as well. GM cotton also uses less water. If these are the benefits of producing GM cottonseed oil then why do European countries put a restriction on GM products?

    What is also interesting to me is that many of the T-shirts we wear might be “Made in China” but the cotton may be grown in the United States. This shows that there is much more that comes into play when a product reads “Made in China.”

  13. I would say so far the book has surpassed my expectations. I fully intended for this book to be a dry, facts and an extremely painful read. What makes it so easy to read is the fact that is is story-like, and not just meaningless facts.

    I actually was not at all surprised by the fact that Texas is a major cotton growing state. The fact that the United States is so dominant in the cotton producing market is was surprised me. After reading the history of American cotton, however, it does make a lot more sense how the United States is so dominant in the cotton industry.

    Historically, I knew that the South grew the cotton, and the North had the mills to refine the cotton for use. The fact that from 1815-1860 the United States was so dominant as a result of slavery, I did not know. Of course I knew about slavery, but to read that it was because of slave labor that cotton farmers had less risk to assume was interesting. However, as awful as slave labor was, it gave American cotton farmers a significant market advantage. While today we have clearly moved far beyond slavery, the basic cotton growing principles still apply: farmers need lots of land, to tend the large amount of land they need a larger set of workers.

    An added factor of cotton farming today would be technological advancements. Obviously, technology in general has transformed and grown since the 1800’s. Today, there are machines available to do much of the labor once done by hand. For example, the cotton-stripping machines. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that these machines began to be perfected. However, without these machines today, cotton farming would be much more labor intensive. Technological advancements, with other advancements have definitely added to the United States success in the cotton industry.

    So far, the book is interesting, and a fairly easy read. It is informative, but tells a story with the facts. By building a story around Nelson and Ruth Reinsch, you are able to connect better with the author’s concept.

  14. Before reading Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, I was not sure what to expect. I was certainly not excited to read it because I thought it would be just another informative textbook that just dragged on with facts. It took me a while to even want to open the book. However, after reading Part I, I realized this was going to be much more interested than I expected. Throughout, Rivoli talked about how Texas is the world’s largest cotton producer, with the small town of Lubbock, accounting for almost 30 percent of American cotton. It is crazy to think that one simple cotton t-shirt that I own could be from Texas. This was also really surprising to me because as we learned in class, the United States imports most of its products. On one of the slides we saw that in 2010, the United States imported 98% of the products. I also never realized how much care cotton plants require. The weather controls cotton. After a rainstorm, it must be picked immediately or the plant will dry out. Back in the day, insects and weeds would destroy cotton, which required growers constant attention. With advanced technologies today, insects and weeds are still harmful to the plant, but “growers manage to stay a step or two ahead of them” (pg. 42). The cotton industry has grown immensely over the years with advanced technologies improving machinery, chemicals – like Roundup Ready, and GM technology. I am really glad to have the opportunity to read this book. I found it to be a lot more interesting and easy to read than expected. I’m also learning a lot more about cotton than I would have without this book. I cannot wait to continue reading.

  15. Before I first started reading “Travels of a T-shirt, I had no idea what the book would really focus on. It was interesting to read about how Lubbock, Texas is known as the “self-proclaimed cotton city of the world.” One certain topic I found very interesting at the beginning of the book was how subsidies may account for some cost advantages in today’s economy, they cannot be the longer-run explanation for the industry’s dominance. I enjoyed how it stated in the text that, “But anyone who believes that America’s competitive power in the global cotton industry reduces to government subsidies should spend some more time near Lubbock, Texas.” It is remarkable to read about Nelson Reisch, a cotton farmer in Lubbock, Texas who did not miss more than four cotton harvests in his eighty-seven years.

    Technological innovation has drastically made cotton production easier than ever. I found it crazy to even think that people made ten cents for picking only a hundred pounds of cotton in the fields during 1925 and 1926. The pain Adrian Gwin went through sounded excruciating. He also talked about picking fifty pounds of cotton in a 14-hour work day. He emphasized on the technology inventions of having many machines to do the job now. I also found it interesting how much technology has advanced. In Lubbock, the farmers benefit from a virtuous-circle relationship between private companies, universities, and the U.S. government. In today’s society, farmers are very well-educated and entrepreneurial to contribute their intelligence to research for technical and business assistance.

    I had no idea that it all began in Lubbock, Texas. It is amazing to think how much technology innovation has benefited the cotton production from what it was even in the early 1920’s. Towards the end of chapter 4, I enjoyed reading about the virtuous cycle was a huge advantage for cotton marketing and advancing science as well. In Lubbock in 2007, there was to be seen on a regular day that approximately 45,000 cotton samples were made per day. Passing the cotton through a sensor, measured length uniformity, as well as grading them into twenty length categories. This technology is unreal and I am looking forward to reading more about the cotton industry I have not been informed about.

  16. In TMD 224, Culture Dress and Appearance, we watched a film about the travels of a T-shirt, which left me wondering if The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy covered the same topic. However, after a page in I quickly realized that this was not the case.

    The movie from TMD 224 followed the life of a T-shirt after given to goodwill in the U.S., and how it could end up being sold in third world countries. The focus of this book is on the dominance of the U.S. cotton industry, which fittingly is the perfect tool to tie together all the topics we’ve been talking about in class.

    After reading the textbook for this class, it’s safe to say that it is very dry, and bogged down with terminology. In addition to all the extra readings provided, this book helps make sense of it all. I found the second chapter about the history of American cotton to be particularly interesting. And all the components that were looked at to contribute to where it stands today such as: slavery, Eli Whitney, the Industrial Revolution, sharecropper’s, and Bracero workers.

    I know that that government subsidies are a thing that happened, but I never realized just how much was given to the cotton industry in the U.S. It’s also interesting see how other countries feel about this, and how the WTO agrees that this is an “unfair” advantage. It’s especially interesting that the South in the U.S. doesn’t even have the most ideal climate for growing cotton compared to some of the other countries, but have invested so much into technology.

    The ability of the Lubbock farmers to form relationships with each other, private companies, universities, and the U.S. government is pretty amazing. Nelson and Ruth Reinsch may just look like two ordinary Southern folks, but their connections with Texas Tech and the USDA have allowed them to adapt to the harsh demands of the cotton industry.

    I guess so far this book leaves me questioning the U.S., both its position in the WTO and domestically. I can’t help but connect this to the reading to the factor proportions theory and the GDP of the U.S. compared to its capital and labor. Is the U.S. wrong? I know, the WTO and other countries think so, but why should we be punished for dominating the industry. On a more ethical perspective, does that make me conceded (or American) for even thinking that?

    1. Interesting! I am thinking maybe the TMD 224 video is more related with part IV of the book.

      You raise some very good questions. Just like in a football game, WTO creates a set of rules and expects that all member countries can comply with the rules in market competition. Becuase subsidy will distort the market price, WTO restricts the using of subsidy in many areas. For some developing countries, when the U.S. government provides subsidy to its farmers, it is like the U.S. team send 12 players to a football game. That’s why these countries complain about subsidy. But U.S. is a strong team, meaning factors other than subsidy also contributes to the competitiveness of the U.S. products in the global marketplace.

  17. When I received “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” I was not very excited to open the book. It just seemed to be another book about the economy, and remembering back to my past economy classes I was not very thrilled. But after reading just the first four chapters it has shown me that this is no ordinary economic book. In fact it was interesting to read and gave much insight to how cotton has grown throughout the years in America. Before this I would have never known that still to this day we have ‘dominated the global cotton industry for 200 years.’ And that cotton moved from southern states to Texas where it is now the largest producer in America.
    Reading the second chapter gave great insight to the history and how the north’s Industrial Revolution increased the amount of cotton that needed to be grown to keep up with the demand of cotton t-shirts in both America and Britain. Rivoli spoke of the slavery in a very unbiased manner which appeals to many different readers. During the late 1700’s I did not think that anywhere but America created cotton due to being very single minded. But Rivoli stated “other countries continues to produce cotton in a relatively stable quantities while American production soared…American producers squashing the competition with low-cost and efficient production.” (17) The last few words in this quote drives the economy to produce certain things in countries. The most efficient production is key while low- costs is what many business owners look for. They also had many traditions that could not be broken with the raising and harvesting of the crop which made the production much less.
    Another thing I found interesting in this book the how much care cotton needs. Someone needs to make sure that there are no weeds and that creatures are not eating the crop (like what happened in India), or that hail or strong wind sweep the cotton ball off. And that after the rain it takes four days to dry before its able to be picked. Throughout the years technology has increased which has made work go from a whole group of people to about a dozen to now even just a single person for an entire farm.
    Over all these beginning chapters were very interesting as well as eye opening. There are so many more interesting things I found while reading that if can not state them all. But I can not wait to continue reading this book.

  18. The first part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the global Economy” by P.Rivoli provides interesting and significant data about the cotton industry. The way in which the author describes the specific information about the Reinsch family allows the reader to relate to the process more. One fascinating aspect of this reading was the fact that the United States is the leader of cotton production and not abroad.

    Another interesting feature that was mentioned throughout this portion of the reading was the way in which the cotton production industry has evolved over time. For example it use to take a full field or workers back in the day when now the same can be accomplished by only one farmer. Another piece of information that was provided which I found humorous, was the attachment that farmers had to their mules before they transitioned to tractors. You would think that the farmers would only care about the cotton and the profit they were making. It was also eye-opening to read about all of the different things that are made from cotton and cottonseed. For example, animal feed, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, CRISCO, twine and more. This shows the significance of cotton and that not only does this fiber produce apparel but many other items used in our everyday lives.

    Although the United States is a the top producer of cotton, other countries have and still are facing not only economic issues because of cotton, but health problems as well. It was heartbreaking to read about all the people who have died and gotten chronic conditions because of the pesticides used on the plants and the conditions some of the workers have to endure while working. This book has made me more appreciative and knowledgeable about the cotton industry.

  19. When I started reading chapter 1 of The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, one part that stuck out to me was, “During my first visit to Lobbock, Texas, I thought it was one of the most foreign places I had ever been. Somehow, since then, has also become one of my favorite places. There is a very good chance that my T-shirt—and yours—was born near Lubbock, the self-proclaimed “cottonest city” in the world”. I found this to be interesting because most people do not know that most cotton comes from Texas. As I have learned in textile classes, cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in the apparel industry. Texas is better known for farming, horses, cowboys, and open land. The majority of clothing is made from cotton, so people should be educated on where there clothing is made. I was also interested to learn that “history shows that almost all dominance in world markets is temporary and that even the most impressive stories of national industrial victories typically end with sobering postscripts of shifting comparative advantage”. For example, the American cotton industry has had its ups and downs. Although America is technologically advanced, faster and more intelligent than other countries, the cotton slave plantation was a huge mark on America. Slaves were hired to work long, hard hours to grow cotton and to pick, gin. Although cotton is a very important material to have, it is a disgrace to have slaves be forced to do “mind-numbing, back breaking physical labor” and during the Spring when it rained a lot, the fields had to be weeded up to six times.
    I was also interested to read about the four stages of cotton production by Richard Day. I learned that Stage 1 is all about preparing the land, using mules for planting and hoes for weeding and tractors. Stage 2 is cultivation and weeding. Stage 3 is fertilizing, and more cultivation and weeding. Stage 4 is when cotton is mechanically harvested. It was learned a lot by looking at the graphs on page 29, which explains the labor hours during each season during each stage.
    Lastly, I was also interested to read that every part of cotton is used whether its for T-shirts or reusing, recycling, and repackaging. “out of the 22,000 pounds of cotton that leave Nelson’s farm in the module truck, only about 5,300 pounds is the white lint that is turned into cotton. The rest is “garbage”, but it is eventually sold. The pie chart explains that 24% is lint, 40% is burs, sticks and trash, and 36$ is seeds (seed meal, seed hull, seed oil, and seed linters).
    I enjoy the graphs and charts because it helps to visualize the numbers and facts. I found the first part of this book to be very thought provoking and I look forward to reading the next part.

  20. Before opening “The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I was skeptical to think what this book may be about. Obviously being in a textiles class, I knew it would hold some characteristics about the global economy and how a little piece of clothing like a t-shirt can travel from continent to continent and have such an impact on the cotton industry as a whole. This book has a well written description about the cotton industry and how it began in the South. The South has a lot to do with much of our textile production and manufacturing today, without its drastic boom many years ago cotton would not be the leading textile it is today.
    The first part of the book goes into great detail about the Reinsch family and how living in Texas and growing cotton has impacted their life. It was astonishing to see how much they truly valued growing cotton, and how they wouldn’t even take a break for Thanksgiving because cotton is a 24/7 job. The other fact I found interesting was that Texas was a lead distributor in cotton, and that the United States still holds the title of the number one leader in production. It is nice to see that the United States has held onto it’s roots in textiles, unlike other products which are now being manufactured and produced in Asia.
    It was noted in the book that due to the production of cotton slavery hit an all time high. Slaves were used to pick and clean the cotton so it could be sent off and sifted out to distinguish the lint from the white cotton. Much of the cotton crop was damaged from in-climate whether conditions and animals so it was important to make sure the bad cotton was not sent out for production. Slavery was an important and heartbreaking time in American history, and through the history of cotton we are able to take a step back and realize how terrible people were treated back then and how not to repeat history today. Overall, the first part of this book has given prime examples of the cotton industry in the United States and its production on a global level.

  21. After reading chapters 1-4 of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, I feel like I have gained much more knowledge than ever did in econ 201. Knowing this class involved economics I first dreaded reading this text because I imagined that it would be similar to a boring economics textbook. Surprisingly, I was mistaken; the book was more a history textbook than an economics one.
    Introducing the Reinsches was an excellent way to incorporate the importance and abundance of cotton produced in the US. Before reading this I was under the impression that the United States outsourced for the majority of our needs. This chapter taught me the history of the cotton industry and what we have to offer other countries. I also found it interesting that Americans complain about jobs in the US but Nelson has been able to keep a job and make an income for 87 years in the same field. The Reinsches give a real life example of a successful couple, owning one of the largest cotton farms in Texas.
    The cotton industry has many struggles I noticed. I had no idea that weather and the climate would have such an impact on cotton growth and picking. The book describes it as “a race to get the cotton before the Texas elements.” Machinery solved this problem. Technology and machinery aided labor in the fight against the weather with cotton. Also I found it interesting that even with all of the new machinery such as stripper and the defoliants, there is still plenty of labor for Americans.
    Overall I liked the authors approach to presenting the contents of this book. The information was presented in a clear manor and with a entertaining story line. Though this book is extremely educational, it is an easy and fun read as well as a history lesson.

    1. Personally I feel economics offers us a new perspective to look at the world. It is far from being abstract and only dealing with cold numbers/formulas. The beauty of economics is to help us think in a logical way. The author did a good job of illustrating important economic topics and presenting them in a story-telling format.

  22. A lot of the tings I learned about from part 1 was very surprising. I did not know how much cotton we produced here in the United States. This is because of climate and our openness and willingness to try new technologies and innovations. This allows us to exceed other countries in their production of cotton because they are more focused on tradition and how the predecessors did it. However, some of these countries are catching up to us.
    The downside of technology is that it is leading to job replacements. Previously, many people were needed throughout the cotton industry. Now, a lot of machines have replaced these people. This cuts costs and time in the supply chain. Although some countries are catching up to us in cotton production, poorer countries will never be able to compete because they are deficient in the resources needed to get these new, constantly changing, expensive technologies.
    The cotton companies also make money off what is left after cotton has gone through the supply chain. I had no idea cotton oil was in so many items in our daily lives. This surprised me as I had no idea cotton even produced oil, let alone that it was incorporated into so many processed foods. This makes me want to continue reading and see what else I don’t know about in the industry.

    1. that’s why textile and apparel is complicated and important. It touches agriculture, manufacturing, retailing and service sectors accross its supply chain. That’s why I hope our students can have a “big” landscape of the industry in mind.

  23. After reading Part 1 of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” I am much more enthusiastic about learning about Cotton. Economics is not my strong subject, but this books has a nice way of making economics exciting and interesting. I learned a lot about cotton that I never knew prior to reading. For example, how the United States was the number one country in producing, selling, and trading cotton at one point. I guess this makes sense now that I think about it. You would think because so many clothes are made in China and India, that they would be the number one countries producing, selling, and trading cotton (even though China was number one country at one point). The United States was making a huge profit off of cotton since it was the number one country in the cotton industry. I do not think it is fair that other countries, especially poor countries, complained about this and tried to find a way against it. If the Unites States is excelling in something, why should it be punished? The United States clearly worked hard to grow and process cotton and gain a profit out it. Other countries should find a way to do the same or even do better than the United States. The United Sates should not have to decrease their efforts and profits because other countries cannot measure up. It is unfortunate that other countries are not getting attention or income form producing, selling, and trading cotton, but that is not the United States’ problem. The United States is doing what it has to do to in order to make a profit in the textile industry. For example, there are 25,000 American cotton farmers and 18 million African cotton farmers. This is because the United States has such advanced technology and money that it can produce more cotton faster and efficiently then other countries, that it puts these African cotton farms at a disadvantage. But at the same time, this is making the world price of cotton down. But, every time the world price of cotton goes down, the income of the farmers outside of the United States goes down. So even though the United States should not be punished for excelling in the cotton industry, it is also hurting other countries. I think the world should find a way where the United States can still excel in the cotton industry, yet the other countries can still do well and not be effected by the United States. That way every country wins.

    1. good thinking! As my preply to some other student’s comment, “fair trade” or “fair competition” do not mean equal results–just like in a society,people’s income always varies. The key debate is whether all countries comply with the rules and compete in a level playing field. Some poor countries believe government subsidy to private enterprises is not fair–just like US complain many developing countries for providing subsidy to their manufacturing sectors (such as textile and apparel).

  24. Before reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” I was concerned that the information that I was about to read was not going to have any interest to me. I was surprised to find after reading the first four chapters that there was so much information that I had never even known about the clothes that we wear everyday. It was surprising to hear that the U.S. was the number one country in cotton production because I feel as though now when talking about the U.S. it is usually negative information about trade. Learning about how the U.S. cotton was in demand by England was something that I had never known before. To read about how cotton production had progressed from a tedious job of everyday labor, to something that was done by all machines was very interesting to learn about. It was also interesting to learn that as the production of cotton was updated so was everything else around it. People had to start being educated, there were machines built to help characterize each cotton particle and there were now rules and regulations that needed to be followed. Another thing that was very surprising to me was how much all the entities of cotton is actually used. I had no idea that cottonseed oil was used in so many food items. There was a lot to learn about in this first section and this book is great for putting into prospective where the U.S. stands in relation to other counties with cotton production.

  25. So far, I am pleased with reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy.” I appreciate that this book takes a more personal approach to studying markets, economic power, and the politics of world trade. This book is much easier to connect to and learn from than a textbook.

    It was enlightening to read about how successful the United States has been at dominating the cotton industry. Most of the data we look at in class about global trade is depressing. It does not seem as though the US is finding success in their trade balance. I was pleased to read in this book that we are doing well in the cotton industry. I was shocked to read that the Reinsches’ cotton farm can produce 1.3 million T-shirts if fully planted. It is interesting that 1,000 acres can produce over 1,000,000 shirts!

    Another topic that grabbed my attention was the crucial advancements in technology that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Today, technological advancements have gone even further. Farmers no longer need teams of slaves to manually pick cotton. It is hard to believe that the “land of the free” was allowing shameful amounts of slaves to be used to pick cotton. Today, farmers have machines that do the majority of the work, and seeds/chemicals that ward off bugs and weeds. It is impressive how far we have come as a country, and Rivoli does a great job explaining this. When Rivoli explains the use of GM seeds, this reminded me of a documentary I watched in my Consumer Behavior class. The movie, called “Food Inc.” exposed the politics of the farming industry and how farmers are being arrested for using specific kinds of seeds. I wish Rivoli delved deeper into these issues, but his explanation of the industrial developments in the cotton industry were very interesting. I look forward to reading “Cotton Comes to China.”

  26. The first part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” turned out to be way more appealing to me than what I assumed it would be. I now feel like I have a pretty good amount of knowledge about the history of the cotton industry than I had before.

    I really admire the Reinsch family for what they have done and continue to do. They are dedicated to their work and when it comes to producing cotton you have to be because it is a 24/7 job. They have missed out on holidays such as Thanksgiving because of certain weather conditions holding them back and the cotton needing to be taken care of all the time. To be successful in this industry you need to be all in it and it is very inspiring that the Reinsch’s are.

    Until reading the first 4 chapters of this book, I never knew that Texas is considered the largest cotton producer and that the United States is the largest exporters for cotton. It was interesting and of course upsetting to read about the slavery that went on in the cotton fields and how now it is completely different in our world today due to the cotton gin coming to be. Reading these chapters also made me realize that there is a lot of work, time, and skill put into the production of cotton and that farmers actually need to be educated to do it.

    Learning that there have been and still are people dying and getting severe illnesses from working in the cotton fields because of pesticides that are used on the plants was terrible to read about. Something should be done to change this because no country should have to suffer like this, health wise and economy wise.

    After learning so much about the cotton industry from these first 4 chapters, I am actually looking forward to see what’s to come in the next part of this book.

  27. At first glance, Travel’s of a T-Shirt reminded me of a book that I read for a class called “Culture, Dress and Appearance(TMD 224). I was a bit worried at first while reading this book because I didn’t enjoy the novels that were required to read in that class.
    I thought I would have a hard time digesting the book, but the author quickly introduced the Reinsch family, which enabled me to feel as though I was learning about the cotton industry on a first hand account instead of reading facts from a textbook. The beginning chapters linked facts to this “farming family” , which is just one family who helped the United States to produce the large amounts of cotton crop.
    Nelson shared how the cotton industry has changed since he has been farming the plant for over 80 years. As time passes, the cotton industry represents one area that has completely became reliant on the use of machines. Nelson shared his struggles with the cotton industry before machines were available and it made me think about how many consumers take for granted many of the products that we have today. The stages in producing the cotton plant require certain weather patterns and precise timing which often don’t result in higher profits.
    I was not surprised to read that cotton plantations were able to flourish due to the accessibility of slaves in the southern states. Many owners chose to own slaves in order to maintain and grow more cotton plants.
    As the book continues, I think it will be interesting to see how vastly different countries grow and produce the crop. In these first few chapters, I’ve also noticed even more so how the the availability of machines has changed our economy for the good and bad , not just in the textile sector.

    1. slavery somehow is similar to today’s debate about immigration. Immigration has a key role to play in shaping and affecting the competitiveness of a country’s industry, especially those labor-intensive ones. Comparative advantage theory still works pretty well even in the 21st century.

  28. The first part of “Travels of a T-Shirt” was very different from my expectations, in a good way. I expected it to be kind of dry, statistic-filled and all about world trade of textiles. Based on what we’ve discussed in class, I figured it would have a lot of information about the countries that the US imports cotton from.
    I was surprised to find out about America’s “domination” of the cotton industry, as I was under the impression that we outsourced so much for financial reasons. It was refreshing to read about the jobs that are still available in this industry. The chapter about the history of cotton was interesting because I had previously learned a little about the process of picking cotton, but Rivoli uses great details, real life examples, and overall explains the process very clearly. I enjoyed following the journey of the Reinsch family, and seeing how their lives changed with changes in the industry.
    While for the most part, I have a more positive outlook on cotton and it’s production within the United States, I did realize that there are downfalls. I never would have thought that the weather in Texas was so carefully tied to the cotton garments that I wear. The industry is very dependent on weather. Another problem was the rise of slavery, consistent with the rise of production of cotton and new technologies. Fortunately, that is not a problem today and there are paid jobs available.
    Overall, the first section of this book has taught me a lot, and was written in a format that made it much easier to understand than your average textbook. I am looking forward to learning more.

  29. The first chapter of ” The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” left me with a quote that made me think about the cotton production process as a whole. The quote was ” When we consider the risks that a cotton boll faces on its way to becoming a T-shirt, it is a wonder we have clothes at all. The cotton can’t be too hot, and it can’t be too cold; it is susceptible to both too much water and too little”. We do not realize the process the demand and the history that comes along with cotton.

    I found it almost ironic though that there once was a city in Texas called “the cottonest city in the world” because what we are focusing on in class deals with how much globalization there is going on in the world and how many jobs are being lost not just in the U.S. but all around the world. Even though the U.S. is still one of the leading cotton producers in the world, the number of farmers does not even compare to the number of farmers in countries like China and Indonesia. The numbers were 25,000 farmers to around 4 million.

    It was also interesting to learn more history of the production of cotton and the impact of slavery on cotton production because I feel like most students only know the bare minimum of how cotton first came about. During the Civil War, the south was producing 2/3 of the world’s cotton, and now China is the main driver in cotton production. Learning more about the history of cotton shows how much technology has affected it’s growth and how much faster it is to produce it. I am curious to see what the rest of the book is going to teach us and open our eyes to because I am sure people do not realize the story and jobs that comes along with putting on a plain t-shirt every day.

  30. Before opening the, “The Travels of a T-Shirt in The Global Economy” I had preconceived notions, expecting to read a book that was boring and factual. I was wrong and instantly intrigued by how entertaining the narrative and storyline was from just reading the prologue. It left me curious to find out more about the life and birthplace of this random cotton t-shirt that was one of about 25 million allowed in the U.S. from China in1998. After the first chapter I had already found out more information on the dominance that is the United States cotton industry than ever before. I then continued to enjoy the information that seemed to pour out of the pages of the next three chapters that followed.
    I was impressed by the life of the cotton growers, Nelson and Ruth Reinsch, in chapter one and really enjoyed learning about the cotton industry from the example of how long and prosperously their cotton farm operated. It enabled me to gain a better understanding of how the U.S. has been the undisputed leader in the global cotton industry, and also helped me understand how fortunate the U.S. is to have Texas’ cotton growing climate in an advanced industrial economy such as the U.S.
    I also enjoyed being able to understand the concept of comparative advantage after learning it in class and then being able to apply it to the U.S. cotton industry. I was intrigued by the fact that the lessons of the early American cotton industry are relevant for modern day debates. “The tactic of suppressing and avoiding markets rather than competing in them continues today to be a viable business strategy, particularly in agriculture.” Do to the labor involved in cotton cultivation the labor revolved around slavery.
    Then in chapter3 I was able to grasp a full understanding about where it all began in Lubbock, Texas and what it has become today. Today it is a highly qualified and skilled “circle relationship” between farmers, private companies, universities and the U.S. government all contributing to the United States domination of the industry. I found the last sentence to be very powerful which stated, “today cotton growing in America is almost a one man show.”
    By chapter four I felt as if I was living the life of the Reinsch family and was experiencing firsthand the affects of government policies on agriculture, as well as advancements machinery, Gm technology and the overall improvements of cotton production. I am curious to continue reading about the life of the t-shirt and its participation in the politics, markets and power of the global economy.

  31. When starting to read “The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I was less than excited. I figured this would be another book that would teach me about how the economy in the United States in less than perfect. I never expected to learn that the United States is the leading exporter in the cotton industry, even above China. The United States has shown a clear advantage over these poorer countries by inventing ways to make cotton picking easier and less demanding.
    It was interesting to learn exactly how demanding cotton picking is. I never knew so much physical labor and time had to be put into it. I am slightly concerned that machines are taking over the industry. By using more machines than people, the cotton picking industry has lost many jobs. However, by continuing to advance in technology the United States is able to stay ahead of other countries and continue to be the number one exporter.
    Our class is always talking about globalization and how it has become a major player in the textile and apparel industry, so it was nice to see that a city is Texas contributes the most cotton. It was also interesting how much the people in Texas thrive and continue the tradition of cotton picking. When the book talked about the Texas Tech and how their alum were appalled by changing the schools logo, it made me realize that this is their life. Cotton picking is what most of these people have grown up doing and is all they know.
    By reading this book I am starting to understand where the cotton industry started and where it is heading. I never knew that slavery was a major factor in picking cotton. The book has grown on me and I feel like I am becoming part of these Texas families. They have gone through so many changes with government policies, slavery, and new machinery. The first section has grown on me and got me more interested in the cotton industry. I am interested to see where it goes and how things continue to change.

  32. Though I was not too thrilled about this book from its title, the first four chapters have explained a lot to me about the cotton industry. Before reading the first part, I had no idea America had so much say in the production of cotton throughout the decades. Since we discuss about how much globalization is taking over our economy and our world as a whole, it is surprising to see that America still has an enormous amount of cotton resources.
    It was very inspiring to read that the Reinsch family have dedicated so much of their family past and history into creating cotton as one of the largest producers and exporters. With the production of cotton, comes the importance of weather and climate. Before reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy,” I was not aware that the growth of cotton was so tedious, especially with the plant’s need for specific climate and weather. Though the production of cotton created numerous jobs for Americans, the work of producing cotton was a very tiring and tedious task. Such labor lead Southern plantations to use slavery as a source of work in order to receive the most benefits for the cheapest cost. Although the production of cotton has come a long way since the times of slavery, it has transformed tremendously to rely mostly on machinery.
    With the invention of machinery that aids the production of cotton, many benefits and loses have been driven through this process. One benefit is the execution of producing cotton at a faster rate than ever before. Such production of cotton allows for America to export the plant in a quicker manner. One downfall of machinery replacing the physical labor of making cotton is that many jobs were lost for farmers throughout the years. Although many jobs were lost, machines allow for the production of cotton-based clothes to be created and exported in such a faster manor, which helps the high demand for clothes these days.
    Overall, it was very interesting to learn about the history of the growth of cotton because it better explains the resigning for technology taking over the production process. Even though I was not too excited at the beginning of reading this book, I am now anticipating what else there is to learn and know about cotton within our world.

  33. Prior to reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in The Global Economy” I was not aware of the impact the United States still had on the cotton industry. I was surprised to learn that Lubbock, Texas was one of the largest cotton growing regions in the world. It also came as a shock that the Reinsche’s 1,000 acre farm can produce enough cotton to make 1.3 million t-shirts. As we learn in class about how globalization is changing the world, it was eyeopening to see that the United States still has a handle on the cotton industry. Although the first chapters of the book explain the US cotton industry, the 24,000 US cotton farmers are still no comparison to the near 4 million cotton farmers in China.
    In Chapter 1 I learned that the US cotton industry received subsidies from the government. Reading about the United States ability to adapt to the change in supply and demand gave me a better understanding of the global market. In Chapter 2 the early American cotton industry was discussed. The chapter describes the intense physical labor of cotton production, which is why the most successful cotton plantations relied on slavery. In this chapter I also learned that during the Civil War the South was responsible for two thirds of the worlds cotton. Chapters 3 and 4 state that the US cotton industry today, mainly in Texas, is equipped with educated farmers who also know the business portion of the cotton industry. Today cotton production is completely different in the US then it is in Asia. The fact that these two countries have such different approaches on cotton production makes me eager to continue reading. I am curious to see what is currently happening in the cotton industry as globalization progresses.

  34. After reading the first part in “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, I suddenly have a great interest in actually learning about cotton and the effects on the American economy. As I was reading some of the comments above, I too was not eager to read this book. But after reading just the first chapter, I became intrigued by the long and interesting process that it takes for cotton to be sold and how it has evolved over the years.

    In the first and second chapter, I was amazed by how the Reinsch family has such a passion for growing cotton. I love how they are both in their late 80s and still love what they are doing to make a living. I also found it interesting how Texas was where cotton was “born and raised”. I liked how chapter 2 also brushed up on the history of slaves and cotton growing in the south. I forgot that it was an extremely tedious process for slaves to have to pick out cottonseeds individually. Thankfully for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, it got the job of pulling out seeds done a lot faster. Cotton production rose up to 90-fold by 1820 and slave plantations were solidified.

    In the third chapter, I realized some of the hardships that Texas had when cotton picking. Hail, wind, and rain were a few elements that could cause the cotton to get ruined and jeopardize the prices. Insects and weeds were also a problem. I also like how this chapter discussed “high-input” industrial agriculture. It is a growing concern of the use of pesticides, fertilizer, water, fuel, and herbicides in today’s society. It was crazy to read up on different technologies being built today to genetically alter cotton. An example would be GM cotton being created to use less water and to capture solar energy. I support the whole “going green” trend right now and believe that these technologies are a huge step in our future.

    In chapter four, I liked learning about another use for cotton… food. I thought it was so interesting that cottonseed oil is being used to fry chips and make chocolate banana bread pudding. I never even heard of cottonseed oil until I read this book. I am actually considering going out and buying this oil because apparently it is a good source for vitamin E and a fat burner. It is crazy that cotton, being used to make my jeans and t-shirts, is also being used to make food. Lastly, towards the end of this chapter, I read that other countries do not have the loyalty that Texas does in funding cotton research. I found this sad because the technologies in Texas are great and if the rest of the world had this, it could save people a lot of time and struggle. The end of the chapter also discussed hardships that the Reinsch family, and other countries around the world, had to face. Countries, such as India, even had more than 500 of their cotton farmers commit suicide because worms ate the last of their cotton. It is shocking how much cotton growing can affect people’s lives and the amount of stress they can be put under in the tough economy of today’s world.

  35. Reading the first four chapters of The Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy allowed me to understand more behind the fiber of a t-shirt, specifically cotton. I was also able to learn more about America’s history on cotton and the farms. The farmers are very passionate about what they do and it amazes me to know that picking cotton is more serious than I thought. Farmers have to be cautious of the weather and have to be aware of foreign competition. Also, in terms of the business side to things: the book explains how when machinery to to pick cotton was first rising, prices for t-shirts were lowering and demand was rising. This caused people to lose their jobs because no person could do the job as quickly as the machines could. Lubbock, Texas is actually what really makes the United States the top producer of cotton. I was shocked to find this out; I thought it’d be India because they are very well known for their textiles. The farms in Texas are very large and the workers and farmers are very knowledgeable and skilled for the job.
    Chapter 3 spoke a bit more about labor. At one point, Americans were having women and children pick the cotton. They were desperate. This led to many issues, which is why they decided to allow Mexicans to come into the country and work for them. Not only did they take the place of the women and children but they were really good at what they were doing! They made the Americans look bad because the way the Mexicans worked was almost like machines. Once machines were made, the Mexicans were no longer needed.
    Cotton picking became scientific as well. With insects and weeds, farmers went the scientific way and were able to kill pesticides and get rid of upcoming weeds. Cotton growers have learned a lot about herbicides and the best kind throughout the years, as well. There is also genetically modified (GM) technology that is used to reduce chemical inputs required in agriculture. This technology has been rapidly evolving. This is great for the cotton grower because it makes the process of producing and picking cotton much simpler and gives farmers more free time.
    Something that stuck out to me is that America has become very “green”. After unloading cotton from a truck, lint is left over. I was not aware that one is able to reuse and recycle that same lint. I also realized that farmers work extremely hard every day. It is understandable because producing cotton is how they make a living. Since the beginning of time when people began to produce cotton till today, technology has advanced so much and people have learned to work more efficiently. I believe the only factor farmers have no control or say in is the weather. It is amazing how specific weather conditions have to be in order to grow one’s cotton. They may not be able to fully control it but they have all they need in order to prepare for all conditions.

  36. After reading the first four chapters of “Travels of a T-shirt”, I have been given a completely different perspective on the cotton industry. I did not have much knowledge of this industry other than what I learned in TMD 303 with Professor Bide, but I had no idea that United States has always been and continues to be the leading producer of cotton throughout the world. Throughout this semester, we have discussed in class how much globalization has taken a toll on the American economy and how so much production of apparel and other products have now gone oversees due to cheaper expenses and a larger work force. I had no idea that we remained at the top of the cotton industry and that other countries may view us in the same way as we view them when it comes to other areas of production. One of the most interesting topics I read throughout the four chapters was the discussion of subsidies that are received by United States cotton farmers. I had no idea that farmers received money from the government so that basically in turn, they can sell their cotton a lower price, causing all manufacturers to want to buy cotton from them. I had never heard of a concept like this. Although it comforts me that in a time where so many jobs are being lost, there is still one industry within the United States where we are leading in, it worries me to think about how our actions affect other countries economies.

  37. After reading Part I of Pietra Rivoli’s “The Travel of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” I can tell that this is a very interesting and informative book. I like that the facts we are learning in class are put into perspective by the use of a novel. I first found it interesting that Lubbock, Texas is considered the “cottonest city in the world” and that the surrounding farmland is the leading birthplace of the world’s t-shirts. While discussing globalization and trade in class, I had no idea that America was the leading supplier of cotton or that Texas produced about thirty percent of American cotton.

    I enjoyed how the first couple chapters introduced real life people such as Nelson and Ruth Reinsch and how we learned their story growing up on a farm in Texas. Throughout the book, Rivoli did a good job at referencing Nelson and Ruth as he gave the history of cotton. Not knowing how cotton is grown exactly, I liked learning about the four stages of cotton and the graphs of figure 3.2 helped to visualize the information.

    While learning about the history of American cotton, I found it exciting to learn about how technology advanced cotton production throughout the years. I never knew that farmers used mules before they used tractors. It is fascinating hearing how farmers like Ned Cobb had an attachment to his animals and remembered each and every one of his mules. Also, the story about Adrian Gwin’s memory of picking cotton put into perspective how hard the labor was at the time and how technology advances helped change the industry each year.

    Not only did I enjoy learning about how cotton was made but I also liked hearing how cotton has been applied to new products. Cotton that was once wasted is now used as cottonseed oil, denim, etc. For example, the book explained how the Littlefield mill had started out producing basic blue denim with cotton, but by 2007 it was producing more than 200 styles of fabric. Along with this I was able to apply what I learned in textile science to how they tested samples of bale that were graded by computer for color, leaf content, fineness, strength, and length.

    Lastly, at the end of Part I, I liked how Rivoli brought up the concept of comparative advantage. After talking so much about comparative advantage in class and in the book, it was nice to see the topic come up again in the novel. Rivoli made a very good point when he said, “In trying to understand comparative advantage, the pie charts only tease us, giving us nothing at all about the how”. Rivoli helped explain why and how America is leading in cotton over other countries like West Africa. I am intrigued to find out more in the next upcoming chapters of the book.

  38. So far I have found Travels of a T-shirt to be very interesting and informative. We have been discussing a lot in class about how much we import so I thought it was very interesting to read that America exports the most cotton. I also like the historical background that was provided in the second chapter that touched on the technological advancements that brought us to a 25 percent increase in production from the 1790s where the U.S production of cotton could barely be accounted for. I also thought it was interesting to learn about how difficult and tedious it was to harvest cotton because of weather conditions and how delicate of a fiber it is. Although the U.S was becoming significant exporters of cotton, it did come at a cost. The profitability of these U.S plantations greatly depended on the planters ability to get slaves to provide draining physical labor at hours that they could not predict due to the weather conditions.

    I thought it was very interesting to learn that in Texas and Oklahoma which in the 1900’s to the 1920s was where cotton plantations were the most successful, was dependant on avoiding the market rather than competing in it. The example that the author used of the Taft cotton ranch was a corporation that basically forced people to give their lives not only their work to this company. They lived their, and went to school and church at this ranch just so they would be available at the unpredictable hours that harvesting cotton required. This was really disturbing to read and think about how there are still many poor working conditions today that people are subjected to in order to satisfy the high demands of our society today. I have enjoyed reading this book so far and am looking forward to learning more about the history of cotton production.

  39. As I began reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, I soon realized that it would not be anything that I first expected it would be. I assumed that it would simple depict the makings of a simple clothing item, such as a t-shirt, and what type of funding it takes to do just that. This book goes far beyond that, and has given me a more intriguing view on the economy of the industry I am most interested in. Normally, I would have felt overwhelmed at the discussion of politics of world trade, but this book made it so much more interesting and I felt as though I could relate to it in a real life situation.
    I was also pleased to realize that cotton farms are still relevant in our country! We always talk about globalization in class, and it was good to read about ll the farms in Texas that contribute so much to the entire world. I was under the assumption that our country had nothing to do with that anymore, and yet the Reinsches’ cotton farm produces over 1,000,000 shirts! The book explains how technology has also helped us advance further in the farming industry. I do however wish that the author could explain what the alternative would be if these farms weren’t in our country as much as they are. Quite possibly that may be what “Cotton Comes to China” will be about.

    1. politics is everywhere. Think about why the U.S. government would agree to give billions of support to the cotton farms? why not some other sectors, such as apparel manufacturing? politics is already involved here.

  40. I had always known that the majority of our clothing was made in other countries, China being one of the main producers. When I began reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I was surprised to read that much of cotton production takes place right in the United States in Texas. I assumed that this book was going to talk about the production and marketing of t-shirts overseas, so it was a pleasant surprise to see our own country’s name as a main contributor to the textile world.
    One part of this reading that really stood out to me was at the end of chapter 2 when the author Pietra Rivoli talked about how planters tried using monkeys and geese to help pick the cotton. I understand that technology was not advanced at this point in time, but using animals to do the work of humans just seems absurd to me. The development of better machinery that we read about later sounds more reassuring than training animals.
    I have heard debates in some of my classes and online about whether or not it is okay to use pesticides and other chemicals in the cotton farms to try to repel insects and weeds. In my opinion, as long as the workers are careful when working around these chemicals then I think it is fine to use them. Insects and weeds can be disastrous to cotton plants and if planters and pickers want to have any chance of a successful crop then it is almost necessary.
    Chapter 4 was my favorite chapter to read. I do not like any type of waste, so reading about the recycling that they do was quite reassuring. Also, I had no idea that cottonseed oil was used in many food products that I eat regularly. I am sure that if I told any of my friends that are not TMD majors they would be grossed out, but I find it very interesting.

  41. At first when I was getting ready to read the book I was far from excited. I thought it was going to be another text book that would just be firing out facts that students don’t really connect to. When I finally sat down and opened the book I was pleasantly surprised. I found the book easy to read and felt like it really held my interest. Chapters 1-4 really changed my perspective of the cotton industry. I had no idea the impact the US had on the cotton industry. The book stated that Lubbock, Texas is one of the largest cotton growing industries in the world. I found that to be very interesting because I think the way we look at trade in the US right now is negative. The faxt that the us used to have a city that was called, “the cottonest city in the world.” I found this funny because of how we are talking about globalization in class and the high percentage of job losses not only in the US but all over the world. Even though the US is still one of the leading cotton producers the number of cotton farmers in Asian countries like Indonesia and China range from 25000 to 4 million. I really found it interesting that the Reisch family had such a passion for growing cotton. Another thing I learned as the book went on is the elements that can jeopardize cotton growing. I think that that is not something that people think of. One of the most interesting things I think I read was in chapter four. The use of cotton in food. Never in a million years would I have thought that that could be a possible use for cotton. The fact that cotton can be used to fry chips is fascinating to me. I had no idea what cotton oil seed was until I read this book. I think that this book was really educational and surprisingly interesting. I do not think I will be as hesitant to read the next couple of chapters assigned.

  42. I was quick to judge a book by its cover when I saw “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. I was far from excited to read this book, but after reading part 1 I ended up learning a lot of interesting, valuable information. The first thing that really shocked me was that the “cottonest city in the world” was in Texas. I have never heard of Lubbock, Texas probably because there is not much else there aside from cotton fields, however the history the town holds is astounding. We discuss globalization repetitively in our class, and I’ve always immediately thought of clothing or technology and not fibers themselves. For over 200 years, the US has been the leader in the global cotton industry. I would have never guessed. I found the Reisch family’s story to be interesting as well. I would never think of people to be so dedicated to cotton and they’ve been in the business for many, many years now.
    The process of producing cotton and turning it into a t-shirt used to require so many people but with the invention of the cotton gin and other machinery, it only requires one. I find this ironic since we are struggling for jobs in our economy, yet this industry is trying to break down the amount of people that are needed for this process.
    As I head into the textile industry post-graduation I had expected most things to be exported to China and other countries. It makes me proud that our own country has a lot to do with the process of the clothing we wear even if it the garment itself isn’t made in the US.

  43. Before beginning to read this book, I honestly wasn’t very excited. I love the fashion industry but economics and the global economy have never been my favorite nor my strong suite. To my surprise, the book caught my eye pretty early on. I first liked the way that Rivoli writes, how he seems to be more objective than biased, which I feel helps the reader feel more relaxed.
    It was interesting to understand that even with what we hear about the global economy and what we have been talking about in class, it was surprising to find that the U.S., Texas more specifically, has done so well in terms of the cotton industry. I was also pleased with the fact that instead of plainly explaining how the production of cotton works, the author gave a story about the hardships that come along with growing cotton such as how the weather effects it and how much time is put into it, it made learning about it much more appealing.
    Reading about the history and the technological advances was also interesting. Knowing about the past is just as important than knowing of the present, to understand what something is, it is important to understand where it came from, where it began.
    Probably the most interesting part of the reading was finding out how many different things that the cotton plant is used for. Chapter 4 discussed the use of cotton in food, which was something that never came to be a thought in my mind. The fact that cotton has a part in big names like Crisco and Frito-Lay.
    So far, I’ve learned and sort of re-learned a lot from the book already, and I definitely will not be as hesitant to read the next parts of the book. I am excited and interested in finding out what the next parts of the book hold, and where the author will take this book and teach its readers.

  44. At first, I put off reading the first part of this book because I assumed it would be just another dry text book filled with confusing statistics and academic language that makes it difficult to read with any focus. But after reading the first 4 chapters of “The Travels of a T-shirt in The Global Economy”, I can honestly say my opinion has changed. I learned a lot more about cotton than I had thought I would just in these first four chapters.
    I was already aware that most of the cotton production in the world was still done in the US because of Dr. Bides TMD 303 class, but I did not know it was concentrated in Texas. I find it interesting that no one really knows this, which I think is because when people hear Texas I think they automatically hear oil and cattle ranches, not cotton. Because of how emphasized globalization is in our class and how prominent it is in our world, I am pleased to know that the US still has prominence in at least one aspect of the industry.
    What also struck me as intriguing while I read was how objective the author can be about the subject. Although Rivoli writes about the positives of the cotton production process and how it helps the economy, it does not read like American business propaganda because he also details the hardships and turmoil within in the industry. I was glad to see he used real life examples that readers can relate to, like the Reinschs and Ned Cobb, rather than dry statistics that might not get the point he was trying to make across.
    The cotton industry involves so many aspects and is the perfect embodiment of globalization, technological advancements, struggle and hardship, domestic production, and everything else that goes into the power struggle of an industry in today’s global economy, I look forward to continuing this book and learning more about what is arguably the most important industry in the textile and apparel world.

    1. good reflection. And cotton is just one segment of the much bigger “textile and apparel industry” –I hope through this course, students can have a big landscape of the industry in mind.

  45. To be honest, upon entering this course I was not very excited to read this book. But, now after reading Part I my opinion has drastically changed. From Part I alone I believe I have learned more about the cotton industry than I have learned in my entire life.
    To begin with, I had no idea the United States was still one of the largest manufacturers of cotton in the world, let alone Texas. For me, it was interesting to read about the evolution of technology in the cotton industry and how this evolution mirrored the movement of human rights in the United States. I also liked how Rivoli added in some of the unique ideas cotton farmers implemented to make up for the lack of inexpensive and on-demand labor farmers desired, like using monkeys and geese to pick cotton and trample weeds. I can’t imagine that actually taking place! It’s amazing to see how much of an impact the advancement of technology had on the cotton farming industry. For example, now farmers are able to battle pests and can control when the crop freezes so they can decide when they can pick the cotton.
    One aspect of Rivoli’s writing I appreciated was the fact that Rivoli decided not only to discuss the business aspects of the cotton farming industry, but to add in many of the hardships cotton farmers face. It allowed me to connect with the farmers, specifically, Nelson and Ruth Reinsch.
    Although, one aspect of the cotton farming industry in the United States that I do not understand is why do US cotton farmers receive such a large subsidy? I understand that the purpose of the large subsidy is to increase the supply of cotton grown in the United States and in turn decrease the world market price of cotton, but could there be another way? The fact that in 2003 the “average annual household income for cotton farmers was $142,463…double that of non-cotton farmers” (p. 60) was alarming to me. I suppose my question is why do they receive such a large subsidy compared to other farmers?
    So far, Rivoli has captured my attention on the cotton farming industry. It amazes me that it’s not just the apparel industry who benefits such a great deal from the cotton industry – like Frito Lay and Crisco for example. I look forward to learning more about the production of this t-shirt.

  46. “It’s amazing to see how much of an impact the advancement of technology had on the cotton farming industry”. How do you see the the impact of technology on the appare industry, especially in terms of job demand?

  47. As I start the first four chapters of “The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” I feel like I am getting a better understanding of the history of cotton and its start in the industry. Cotton factories started producing clothes that the poor good afford, the price of cotton lowered dramatically. This in turn created demand for textile mills. By the 1830’s, the American southern colonies became the leader in cotton production due to the cheap labor aided by slave until 1863. After an attempt to move west, they knew they needed a machine that would make it easier and more productive to remove the seeds from the Upland cotton which came to be known at the cotton gin.
    Even after the abolishment of slavery, America still had a way of continuing to produce large quantities of cotton known as sharecropping, which was loaning your land to another person. The farther they moved west, the larger the profits grew for Americans as well as created jobs. Tractors also started to be used to cut down the cost of feeding and caring or the animals that would usually be the ones pulling the machines in the field and also less work in the spring and summer. Another advancement would be the use of fertilizer which increased cotton growth.
    In 1942, with the outbreak of the civil war, a lot of men were needed for the army which cut down on labor. To compensate for this, the government allowed Mexicans to enter the US to work for short periods of time, and lasted till 1964.
    Weather was a large player in the productivity and location of cotton farms. A cold freeze, wind, hail, storms and rain would all be factors in making it a productive season. Scientist finally made chemical compounds that would turn the cotton plant brown and crunchy which allowed farmers to decide when and where to harvest their cotton. Herbicides was also used a lot after being invented around the 1970’s that would kill weeds and insects. In 1993 a large advancement was made to make cotton withstand the application of the herbicide. This allowed farmers to spray their entire crop with this herbicide and only the weeds would die, however, would never be able to use the seeds again. Following this a new seed was modified with a gene of a natural bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis in the cotton which killed the toxins that would actually kill the cotton plant.
    In reality, only 24% of the material brought to the gin is cotton. The 40% that is not used is mixed and fed to the cattle as well as the seeds with the Bacillus in it. Prices prohibit many other parts of the world to grow cotton. The book explained that American farmers are paid 3 to 15% more than the average cotton price. China is not a silent competitor even with their problems with pesticide/herbicide challenge and definitely should be watched.
    I enjoyed seeing the progression of the cotton industry because of all the similarities with the timeline of the fashion industry in even just the past 20 years with the change into fast fashion.

  48. I was unsure what to expect with this book; whether it would be excruciatingly dry or abundant with interesting knowledge. As I read the first four chapters, I discovered that it was the latter. The author presents the findings of her research in a way that makes the book seem more like a novel and less like a textbook.
    Prior to reading this book, I was unaware that Texas produced so much cotton! I knew that the American South was always known for the growth of cotton, but I did not know that Texas was still the leading supplier of cotton.
    “America’s early dominance of the cotton industry illustrates that commercial success can be achieved through moral failure, an observation especially relevant for T-shirts, which critics allege are produced under sweatshop conditions not far removed from slavery” (14). I found it particularly interesting that the author brought up the tendency of people to avoid markets rather than compete in them. She points out that this results in a power imbalance between the rich and the poor. I think that’s a really important point because it prevents the underprivileged from changing their situation. Money is power, and without the means to obtain power of voice, they will be stuck in their low-paying jobs forever.

    1. good comment. Why do you think the US can no longer produce ipad in a competitive way (so that the production is outsourced to China) but can remain the world largest producer of cotton?

      1. I agree with this comment. The T-shirt book reads more like a novel than a text book. The particular stories and personal insights make this book interesting to read. I noted that since Texas plays such a leading role in the cotton industry we can relate it to what we recently learned in class from our case study. The “crafted with pride in America,” case study can be related to America using its factories, particularly cotton ones, to create more garments domestically.

  49. After reading Part I of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author had written this book in a way to keep her readers engaged. I, along with my classmates, I’m sure, thought that this book was going to be boring and written in the form of another textbook, but I was actually interested in learning about the history of America’s cotton industry and wanted to continue reading. With that said, I learned a great deal about how technology has industrialized the cotton industry, and both the hardships farmers had to face upon the rising popularity of machines, as opposed to manual labor, and what they gained in return after giving into the modern ways of cotton farming.
    Being from New Haven County in Connecticut, I grew up taking school field trips to the Eli Whitney Museum and learned about the Cotton Gin. However, I had never known the whole story of how Eli Whitney had come to make this infamous machine, so I found it very entertaining to read about in this book. The author included excerpts from a letter Whitney had written to his father, one being, “I went from N. York with the family of the late Major General Greene to Georgia. I went immediately with the family to their plantation…with an expectation of spending four or five days…During this time I heard much said of the difficulty of ginning Cotton, that is, separating it from its seeds. There were a number of very respectable gentlemen at Mrs. Greene’s who all agreed that if a machine could be invented which would clean the cotton with all expedition, it would be a great thing for both the Country and the inventor” (16).
    For the author to then go on saying how Eli Whitney’s invention of the Cotton Gin was both a blessing and a curse in that it “solidified the slave plantation in the cotton South,” was an interesting point (17). No teacher or textbook I had come across before had mentioned anything but the great progress the Cotton Gin produced in terms of fast labor and good results. Upon reading further into the chapter, I then found out why. The author talked about America’s competitors being the British, India, and China, and why the U.S. was so successful and its competitors were not. She wrote, “while slavery allowed farmers to evade the risks of the labor market, it does not explain why other countries failed to seize the opportunities presented by the Industrial Revolution. The institutions necessary to support factory-style cotton production–property rights, incentive structures, what is today called ‘governance’–also had an important role to play. Governance still has an important role to play, which will remain the challenge for many poor cotton-producing countries. As we will see, all of the Eli Whitneys in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin often still have little reason to try” (18-19). I found this quote to exemplify why the South got away with having slaves pick cotton for so long and why Southern cotton had become “the world’s new economic order” (19). The Cotton Gin might have solidified slavery, but it also boosted industrialization in the cotton industry, allowing it to progress into a leading source of income for the U.S. during this time.

  50. When first starting to read the book, of course I as well as the others we’re not exactly excited or very interested. After reading the first section it wasn’t as bad because I realized I was learning a lot from it. In class we talked about how unfortunate the economy has been for quite some time and it makes a big difference in what’s going on with manufacturing. The production of cotton that is done is the US is something I never knew about. While continuing to read on I was interested in what I was learning so it became much easier. Another interesting fact was that although China was ahead of us in many other things cotton production was still something we were in front of them with.

  51. I will admit that I was hesitant to start reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” in fear of business jargon and uninteresting topics, but I was pleasantly suprised by the reading. It is a smooth and interesting read and it informed me about many aspects of the cotton industry that I had no idea about.

    For one, I had no idea that Texas is such a leading producer in cotton. To be honest, I assumed most of our cotton came from China and other undeveloped countries because that is where most of our other imports come from. I also assumed this because cotton producing is extremely labor intensive. In over 200 years, the U.S. has been the leader in the global cotton industry in almost every way possible. It is clear through the reading that this is unlikely to change and other countries, especially poor ones, have a little chance of catching up.

    I was really fascinated when Rivoli stated that “farmers in poor countries who are tradition bound rather than innovation bound, lose.” (Pg.7) I never thought of it in this way before, but that statement is completely true. Another statement I found interested was when he said “In the United States, the farms work, the market works, the government works, the science work, and the universities work, and all of these elements work together in a type of virtuous circle that is decades away for the poorest countries in the world.” (Pg. 7) I found this interesting because it’s remarkable how all different people and all different fields come together and contribute to each other.

    A part of the book the disturbed me was when Rivoli discusses slavery and its part in cotton production. What bothers me the most is how he described slaves working in fields picking cotton and how that isn’t very far or much different then sweatshop conditions. I never compared the two before, but I see factory workers and conditions in a completely different way now. Another aspect that bothered me was the fact that Eli Whitney’s cotton gin basically solidified the slave plantations in the cotton South. As I grew up learning about the cotton gin, it was always associated as being a great thing. I grew up thinking that the cotton gin was a great invention, but never thought about how it effected slavery. I am looking forward to reading more.

  52. Prior to reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy,” I had already preconceived an opinion. I anticipated another textbook, compiled of facts and vocabulary. I was relieved and even interested to find that this was not just another textbook on economics. Rather, this book is a smooth, easy read that is informative and factual, but it is not presented in a mundane fashion.

    One of the parts that really held my attention was how the book introduced the Reinsches family. It was interesting, as well as surprising, to discover that a single family with a single factory located in Miami, Florida is one of the main manufacturers for printed souvenirs. The author explained the various jobs of the Reinshces, as well as teaching me yet more new and surprising information. Prior to this reading, I was unaware of the large role Texas plays in the cotton industry.

    Of course the book included a lot of factual information, however I was happy to uncover that it was not going to be just another history lesson on the cotton industry and industrial revolution. The book brought out new perspectives and realizations, such as how revolutionary the cotton gin truly was. Not only was it a more efficient machine, it also solidified the slave plantations down south during the 1800s. There was some information on cotton that was repetitive to me, but it was a good refresher.

    The book pushed me to think about various questions concerning the cotton industry as well as the global economy. The ever advancing world of science and technology has made great strides for the industry, so I have to ask where does the cotton industry go from here? Is it possible for the machines to become even more advanced and faster, that they assume all of the roles usually held by people? Also, poorer and underdeveloped countries cannot compete with countries such as the United States because they lack money, education, and skills. So I ask, What is the future of these countries? Will they continue to be more labor driven countries, or will the machines and technology eventually make it to these countries?

    1. I like the questions you raised at the end! very good ones to think about. I personally have no doubt that technology and globalization will continue changing the way we produce many things and bringing both oppertunity & threats to our lives. With that, you can further think about the true value of higher education–it is not about a specific skills that you may use to get a job, but rather the critical thinking capability. If we focus on teaching you a specific skills, who can garantee when students graduate or after they working for certain number of years, these specific skills will still be useful? But if we obtained the ability to be a self-learner, to analyze problems, we shall never worry about the upcoming changes in our lives.

  53. The first four chapters of this book were quite interesting. I was not expecting to get such a brief yet thorough history lesson on cotton. For example, I was taught about Eli Whitney inventing the cotton gin years ago in elementary school, but was never taught more about how or why he invented it, or that he attended Yale University which is 40 minutes from my hometown. The size of the Reinsches’s farm is 1000 acres, which creates “500,000 lbs of cotton lint, enough for about 1.3 million t-shirts.” This blew me away. 1,000 acres sounds like a huge farm, yet the book mentioned even larger farms. I also did not know that part of beginning of the industrial revolution in the United States was due to the textile industry and textile cotton factories. From 1815-1860 cotton made up half the value of all US exports, and more than 70% of all American cotton produced was exported. Today, cotton is not even mentioned in the top ten US exports. However, I just looked up where cotton stands now and its export value has risen since 2011 by about 74%. Some top exports in the US today are machines, engines, oil, electronic equipment, vehicles, and aircrafts.

    So what exactly explains America’s ability to lead in cotton export as a commodity today? What I have inferred from the book is that American industries “compete with those in ‘like’ countries” such as US firms versus “Japanese automakers, German chemical companies, Swiss pharmaceuticals.” America is able to compete in the cotton market because our combination of climate and advanced industrial economy against some of the world’s poorest regions who are also producing cotton. According to the book, in 2003 the World Trade Organization ruled that US cotton subsidies violated global trade rules and unfairly tilted the playing field toward American producers. I do not fully understand how this issue is bias toward the American cotton industry. It would make sense if a global cotton fund was supply subsidies to only America and no other countries for cotton growth support, but if it’s our government and our money then we should be able to fuel one of our most valuable exports with it. Later in 2008, the subsidies were still in place. Does American government know they are being wrong? Or are we ignoring the issue so we can stay in the market?

    In the case of Nelson and Ruth Reinsch’s cotton farm, they are being open to technological advancements that are going to further their business. The book refers to their “open mindedness and forward orientation” as a comparative advantage. Adding a new piece of machinery can be costly and time consuming, but in the end it will be worth it. American cotton growers adapt their methods in response to supply and demand in the global market place, which is a key method for success.

    Harvesting cotton seems like the most tedious, mathematical, skilled, guess work that must be done on a large scale to deem prosperous. Demand dictates the supply, and Texas cotton farmers never backed down from attempting and succeeding to make due while making a profit. Chapter 2 especially made me look at the slave trade era from a new perspective. The cotton market and slavery enabled each other. Slavery allowed cotton farmers a way around risks within labor market and family labor constraints. “The cotton gin solidified the slave plantation in the cotton South.” Sharecropping, or tenant farming, means slaves are not paid in cash but offered food and shelter therefore binding them to the farmer’s land. The book mentions “paternalism, constant monitoring, and the negative and positive incentives” combine to complete the planter’s domination over their workers. This method os suppressing and avoiding the market rules rather than competing in them is apparently a viable business strategy. This can be compared to loopholes than enable firms to cut corners, for example, cheap labor in China is legal and effective but here would be unsuccessful. Morality, if not a principle but a belief, if only important when the firm is under pressure.

    1. I like to read your comment about the cotton subsidy. Remember the video we watched in class? obama blames China for providing money to its auto industry and Obama says such practice is “unfair” and “illegal” according to the WTO rules? Two issues here: 1) just like a game, international trade and competition also has its established rules (i.e. the WTO regulations–we will mention that in later part of the course). Every country is expecte to comply with the rules. Subsidy in general is prohibited under the WTO rules (especially for export purposes); 2)the current economic system is based on the principle of free market competition–which means the government shall not intervene in the market competition or “pick up” winners or loosers.

  54. Before the book “The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy” and TMD433 class lectures, I did not know a lot about the cotton industry and the travels that a single garment can make across the globe. From class lectures, I understood that clothing or a single item could have contribution from multiple counties. This book was an effective platform for me to learn about the cotton industry.

    I think it was interesting that while reading chapter 1 of this book, I realized the cotton t-shirt I was wearing is most likely cotton from Lubbock, Texas. I particularly appreciate items that are made or materials that come from the USA. Lubbock, Texas is the proclaimed “cotton city of the world” meaning Texas contributes to the USA’s exports. GDP growth rate measures how fast the economy of a specific country is growing. Since exporting creates a growing GDP, It is healthy for the US economy to be exporting cotton across the globe. The United States has historically occupied first place in cotton production, cotton exports, farm size, and yields per acre. Although the flat land may not be necessarily beautiful to all people, the cotton farms of the United States create a primary step in the creation of a beautiful garment.

    Chapter 2 states that the world’s first factories were cotton textile factories. The production of cotton cloth and yarns is what launched the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century Britain. Consumer demand creates the push and pull for world trade flows. I think it is interesting to know that cotton that is produced mainly in the USA played a key role in the Industrial Revolution. The cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separated cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for greater productivity than manual cotton separation. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which changed the output for world in the demand of cotton. A negative impact of the growing cotton production is the slave plantations. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin created a platform for slave plantation in the South where cotton was abundant. I believe the impact of the cotton gin and the industrial revolution brought many advances for the world. It also brought horrible working conditions and slavery.

    In Chapter 3, I read about the different stages of cotton production. By 1946 over 80 percent of Texas cotton production had reached Stage 3, which means tractor-powered land preparation and cultivation. I thought this related to the class lecture when we learned about the different stages of development in the textile complex. With each increasing stage, there is an advance that benefits specific production and effects labor.

    I did not know that cottonseeds are used to feed farm animals. Chapter 4 also states that cottonseeds contain high protein and their oil is found in many products such as Cheez-it, Teddy Grahams, and Pringles. Nelson does not throw away his cottonseed anymore. While his seed truck is sent to an oil mill, his cotton lint is trucked to the Farmer’s Cooperative Compress. Nelson receives a tiny dividend every time city folk spread peanut butter on their toast. It is interesting that every part of the cotton can be used and profit for the farmers that grow it.

    I look forward to reading and reflecting on the rest of this book.

    1. very glad to see you connect what we’ve learnt in the classroom (such as the stages of development theory) with content of the book. To me one important factor why the US remains one of the world’s leading cotton producers today is the natural resources. Just like why panda only lives in China, some areas in the world is simply not suitable for growing cottons. However, neither does it mean the US has to use all its resources to produce cotton. If some other industries can generate more profitable returns, there is no reason why we cannot save the resources to invest in sectors such as finance, airspace, biotech. This is behind the thinking of comparative advantage and stages of development theory

  55. After reading the first four chapters in “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” I was surprised to learn that there is a lot more to the cotton industry than I thought. Rivoli does a great job breaking down the history of cotton in an intriguing way. Right off the bat I learned that Texas produces a lot of the world’s cotton (and 30% of American cotton), giving it the name “cottonest city.”

    While I was reading the chapters, I kept thinking about how much times have changed. The progression from people doing this tedious task everyday, to the use of advanced machinery to gather cotton is an interesting concept. The development of technology plays such a significant part in every industry, including trade. This also connects to the need for education.

    I enjoyed reading chapter three and learning about the Reinsch family. I was able to get a better sense of how the machinery grew and changed the farming industry. The book talks about the cotton stripper and states, “The machine could pick 10 bales a day, the work of 25 men in the field…” This rise of these machines benefited the workers including women and children by relieving them of the harsh labor situation. However, some areas find it difficult to leap to mechanical harvesting. This chapter also opened my eyes to the fact that farmers have to be educated and know the business aspect of farming.

    Along with learning about the background of cotton and the growth of technology, it was also interesting to learn about how many different ways cotton can be used. I didn’t realize that cotton is also converted into briquettes, building materials, fertilizer, and ethanol, turning waste into revenue. I am interested in reading the rest of this book and learning more about the cotton industry and the production of this t-shirt.

  56. Later reading the first four chapters of “The Travels of T-Shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli, I gained a newfound respect for the United States and how we have earned to be one of the leading exporters for cotton. Being unaware of this achievement like most of our class, it gives me a sense of pride in our country to know America is not only an importer to foreign goods but a dominant producer for cotton. It’s nice to hear a family like Reinsches are still able to make a big impact on cotton farming today.

    What I found was the most interesting was Pietra Rivoli’s explanation for why the United States is dominant compared to underprivileged countries because many U.S. cotton farmers are collecting government subsidies to help aid their businesses. Cotton farms in West Africa cannot compete with farms that are getting help from their government. It is giving me a different way of looking at things when the United States has the means and resources to help their own businesses succeed while many countries do not.

    There is a part of this world, myself included, that shares a preconceived notion about how the United States does not work hard enough to make their products domestically. I think by reading this textbook it will enlighten me with a new opinion that I did not have before taking this class. I am looking forward to what this book has to offer and gaining a new perspective on how the United States fits in with globalization.

  57. I find it fascinating that we as a country are still one of the leading exporters of cotton in the world. Before reading this book, I thought the majority of cotton was grown elsewhere. The production of just one cotton t-shirt requires help from all around the world. The label may say “made in Bangladesh”, but the article of clothing was created with the help of many countries.

    I was surprised how quickly I read these chapters, because going into it I thought it would be like reading a textbook, but I was happy I was wrong. When reading the third chapter I was shocked to learn how time consuming stripping cotton is. I could never imagine myself working a fourteen hour day for a single nickel. With the technology we have today one machine can do the work of ten people. This may be putting people out of jobs, but I don’t think they are the type of jobs that people will miss.

    Other countries are not as fortunate as the U.S. and still have to pick cotton by hand. I have a newfound respect for Texas for how it stayed at the top in exporting cotton. The processing of cotton will never be an easy task, but with the technology we have, it makes it much more efficient.

  58. Reading this book has expanded my knowledge on how the cotton industry works. There were several things that were mentioned in the book that I never really knew about cotton. I had no idea that the U.S were so efficient in producing cotton, especially in Lubbock, Texas the “cottenest city”in the world! That U.S is in fact the leader in the global cotton industry.
    I realized how much time and work was put into the production of cotton. A big contribution to that is the climate. This is one of the reason why few advanced industrial economies cannot produce cotton at the same rate that the U.S can.
    Another reason why the U. S. are so successful in the production of cotton
    is how they deal with the sudden changes in demand and supply and are now “innovation bound”, meaning we use new technology and ideas to respond to the demand and supply of the industry; rather than in poor coutries who are “traditional bound”.
    Another statement that i found interesting was how the author makes a comparison about the cotton business; the “trade skeptics and the corporations need each other as well as the sweat shops.”
    Also what was really fascinating to me was the amount of government subsides given to the farmers and how it helped the U.S remain their spot on top in the cotton industry.
    When reading how america started with this industry and how it was believed that the U.S industry was successful over china and india due to the involvement of slavery was intriguing. I couldn’t imagine picking 300 Ibs of cotton a day in the heat and surround by bugs.
    Overall with the advancements in technology (GM) and pesticides the problems such as weather and bugs that affected the famers cotton plants are no longer an issue.
    It was an informative and interesting read and I look forward to reading the following chapters.

  59. When I first started reading the book I thought it was very interesting to learn about the history of cotton and how the industry in the U.S. has continuously grown. When I look at my clothes that say “Made in China” I would have never thought that my clothes started off on a cotton farm in the U.S. It was interesting to think about how production of cotton cloth and yarns launched the Industrial Revolution. This is also when the consumer class was born since clothes were cheaper with the new technological advances. Even since the 19th century, 70% of all American cotton was exported. I never thought about how dependent companies are on America’s cotton. It was interesting to learn about the cotton rating system as well, that way companies know what type of quality they’re buying.

    I also thought it was interesting how they compared the U.S. using slaves before the civil war to using labor in foreign countries. Factory workers obviously work for very minimum while big companies prosper and grow richer because of their cheap labor.

    It also talked about the tactic of suppressing and avoiding markets rather than competing in them continues today to be a viable business strategy not only in agriculture. It’s hard to break into a market and a company is well advised to pass on a particular market opportunity unless is has or can acquire the competencies needed to capture it. This is why it was in the past and still has been hard for other countries to compete with the U.S.

    I didn’t realize how labor intensive and climate dependent cotton was. I thought it was interesting how they tried to train monkeys to pick cotton, which obviously failed.

    It was also interesting to learn about how useful cotton is and all of its benefits. For example, I never knew oil from the cotton seed was in Girl Scout cookies, cheez-its, teddy grahams, and other very common and popular foods. I also didn’t realize, which most people probably don’t, that the processed oil is found in oils and detergents.

    It said that Levis once had four apparel factories within 200 miles of the Littlefield Mill, but today it has none and so all of the Mill’s denims is exported. This relates back to what we talked about with globalization. As much as companies wanted to keep their factories and work in the U.S., they were suffering and making significantly lower profit margins than companies who outsourced. For example, we read about how Apple now has all of their factories over seas. American Apparel prides itself on making its clothes in the U.S., but they are suffering financially. In this day and age more and more companies are out sourcing to find cheap labor. With all of the competition, companies focus on a low-cost strategy by trying to outcompete rivals on costs. They relocate high- cost activities and shift to lower-cost technologies and/or invest in productivity-enhancing, cost saving technological improvements.

  60. After reading Part I of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know very much about the cotton industry, especially within the United States. As I discovered in chapter 1, for 200 years the U.S. has been the leader in the global cotton industry and has remained number one in terms of cotton production, cotton exports, farm size and yields per acre. This made me wonder how the U.S. was able to get there considering there were other big countries to compete with at the time.

    My immediate thought as to how the U.S. was able to completely overwhelm their competition in countries such as India and China, was slavery. However, that is apparently not the case. As I learned in chapter 2, at the time both India and China also had a vast amount of people who were forced to work by cruel rulers. The real reason they were never able to catch up to the U.S. is because they never took advantage of the Industrial Revolution. Also, if they had decided to begin factory-style cotton production, they would have had to deal with property rights, incentive structures and governance, which both countries were not equipped to handle at the time.

    One thing I found interesting in chapter 3 was the discussion about herbicides. I knew that they weren’t great for the environment, but I had no idea the amount of damage they could do and that some weeds don’t even react to herbicides. I was happy though to read that there is a herbicide called Roundup, that was sold by Monsanto in the mid-1970’s, that is much more effective in killing weeds and is more environmentally friendly than most.

    The most fascinating thing I discovered in Part 1, was in chapter 4 where I read about the cotton production in Africa. I had no idea that West Africa had 18 million cotton farmers, a huge number compared to the 25,000 in the U.S. I also found it interesting that cotton is a key cash crop and export and that in West Africa, it produces more than one-quarter of export earnings for 11 countries. It’s almost kind of sad that because of the U.S.’s government subsidies for cotton, Africa doesn’t even stand a chance of being able to really compete with the U.S. in cotton production. As it is, cotton farms in the U.S. produce more than 400 times more cotton than an average African farm.

    I found out so many new and interesting facts about the cotton industry just in Part 1 of this book that I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll know next.

  61. When I first begun reading the T Shirt book, I really did not know what to expect. In part I, I found it very interesting that Texas was such a large producer of cotton. I had always thought cotton had come primarily from the Midwest and other countries around the world, not the South. It was also surprising to see just how much cotton is grown in the USA. Sure it is probably not assembled in the USA, but I still think it is intriguing that even with the higher price of labor for the farm workers, here in America, one of the biggest producers is here. This makes me question why more apparel is not constructed in the USA. Sure labor is cheaper overseas but with all the cotton right here, taking into account overseas shipping, trade fees, etc American made apparel could be more comparable in cost than we think.

    Also the cotton gin and the story behind it I found to be very interesting. The cotton gin is something I have known about for quite some time, we have been learning about it since elementary school in the industrial revolution, but there is so much more to it I never knew. Yes, this cotton gin brought many negative factors such as slave work but it truly helped to modernize the cotton industry. What I wonder is had Eli Whitney never created the cotton gin, where would the American cotton apparel industry stand today? I wonder would Texas still be producing all of this cotton if it could not be spun and made into clothing so quickly, or would they change their crop?

    I also thought it was interesting to hear about the hardships of the farmers and how their production works. It was interesting to also hear about how they find unorthodox ways to make up the cost of labor such as using animals.

    Another thing I found quite interesting is that part of the cotton plant is edible. I cannot believe its oils are used to make such common food items like peanut butter. Its really interesting how we can use so much of the cotton plant grown for two of the most crucial things, clothing and food which helps minimize waste and maximize profits for the farmers.

  62. After reading the first four chapters of “Travels of a T-Shirt” I feel very informed about the cotton industry. I’ve learned a lot of things about the industry that I was very unaware of prior to reading. This reading was not exactly what I was expecting because it isn’t written in a textbook format which allows for a much more pleasant reading experience.

    I was very surprised to learn that the United States is very abundant in cotton production. It is an industry in the country that we don’t really hear much about, so we don’t think about it. Machinery has changed the job entirely. Though still a job that faces many hardships, the labor isn’t as tedious as it once was. Machinery, as in every industry, allows for an increased cotton production which in turn leads to lowered prices. The low prices spurs the demand for the product.

    In the reading I was reminded that the entire cotton plant is used. Dr. Bide discussed this fact in Textile Science. The entire plant is profitable. I was however, very surprised to learn about cotton oil and how it is used in many food products such as peanut butter and candy bars. Comparing this fact to the Textile Science class, I am very surprised I wasn’t aware of this before.

    Thus far, Travels of a T-Shirt has been very interesting and very informative. From the challenges of rain, wind and hail that the cotton farmers are faced with to the profitability of the cotton plant, I have learned a lot about cotton that I didn’t know before. I am very eager to keep reading to see what other facts the book has to offer me.

  63. When reading this section of the book, I have really gotten the chance to realize how much travelling single items make across the world. When these items are being shipped to so many different locations, you think about where your items once came from and all the stops along the way they have made. I found it to be very intriguing to think that most cotton products are “born” in Texas. At one point in the cotton T-shirts “life” that I’m currently wearing, it made its way through that location- most likely- and I found that to be quite interesting.
    In chapter one when reading, “each summer they take on the … compete with cotton farmers from over 70 countries,” really stuck out to me. The fact that so many people are fighting to produce something that is so easily manufactured is insane to me. Most people don’t even think about where their clothes were made and sourced and after reading this, I find it to be interesting that there are so many people competing for this task. People just read the label on the back of the shirt or the inside that states “Made In China” and the thought process ends there. There aren’t many people who genuinely think about all the “pit-stops” their newly purchased came from.
    Chapter 2 was information that I felt like I have previously learned about. Knowing that the South used to produce so much cotton I feel is something that I have definitely thought about in the past when learning about the times during the Civil War. But reading about the facts of cotton not being able to be picked in certain conditions really puts a toll on the processing of it and how much can be produced in a certain time frame. I did like reading the part titled “Where Was the Competition?” because I was unaware of the amounts of cotton that Britain was creating.
    I especially was taken back by page 29 with all the graphs and stages. I did not ever realize the certain seasons that it would be produced during and all the tasks leading up to the events that made it possible for the cotton to be cultivated and grow.

  64. In the beginning I was not too excited to read this book because I thought that is was going to be another textbook by just telling us facts and statistics about the cotton industry. But, I was proved wrong after reading the first part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.” I was able to understand more information about the cotton industry and the history of cotton through this first part of the book.

    They mentioned that the United States is still one of the largest manufactures of cotton in the world. I found that interesting because everyone has clothes that say “Made in China.” I would have never thought the cotton started here, in the United States. In order to produce to more cotton so that it can be shipped over seas to produce more clothing machinery and technology were developed to pick up the pace of things. The increase of the cotton production leads to having lower prices. Even though the machinery helped them produce more cotton the farmers faced many challenges. The challenges that they faced were the weather like rain, wind, hail, and etc. These challenges cost some farmers to lose the cotton, which means lose money. Famers tried to train monkeys and geese to help with the cotton picking because that did not last very long, since it did not work.

    When reading I found that technology started to become a large part of the cotton industry just like technology is a huge part in our lives today. Without technology of machinery the cotton industry would not be where it is today. I am look forward to learning more interesting facts about the cotton industry.

  65. After reading the first part of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, it has given me a broader understanding on how much Texas has ruled the cotton industry for 200 years. Just like any other business, they had their ups and downs. Also it becomes apparent of how much entrepreneurial creativity and activity there has been and continues to be in the United States. After so many competitors have come and gone in the cotton industry, it is astonishing how the United States still dominates this field even today. An interesting quote is, “In the United States, the farms work, the market works, the government works, the science works, and the universities work” (page 7). But, why do all of these elements fall short of coming together in every other country except the United States?
    In Asian countries, you have to wonder why initiatives were not taken when they clearly could. But, they did not have the resources, improvements, foundations, or even a direction from leaders. They could not benefit from producing an enormous amount of cotton like the United States could. I never thought the relationship of production of cotton and slavery were what began and soared victory for the United States even though China has millions of people who worked close to nothing and why they could not produce at the efficiency that the United States could.

  66. Even from reading the prologue, “The travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy had me thinking. When Peitra saw the Made in China label on the t-shirt form Florida, she wanted to know where exactly in China the t-shirt was made. It makes you wonder where exactly the clothes we wear was manufactured and how many countries it travel to. I thought it was ironic that even with a Made in China label the cotton was made in Texas in the “cottonest city” in the world.

    Since China is such a dominant country in the textile and apparel industry, it was a surprise to me that the United States can compete in cotton production and “dominate the global cotton industry for 200 years”. I always knew that the south was known for making cotton but it was interesting to know that that cotton was made and then shipped to China to be produced into clothing than shipped back to the U.S.

    It was also interesting to learn how the production of cotton changed through out the past 200 years. How it moved from the south to Texas and how the U.S. is so advanced compared to other countries because of our technology in cotton production, especially recently with genetically modified cotton. Even with increasing technology the cotton industry always had its variable factors including the weather, weeds, and pests, which only means that dominance is temporary. But it was still very surprising to see how much cotton the U.S. actually produced, it was much higher than I assumed. It makes sense though that we can produce more than poor countries that might not have the same technologies. Even though these technologies replaced people’s jobs, I think it will be a while before these poor countries catch up. I’m excited and interested to learn more as I continue to read this book.

  67. Before taking TMD 433 and reading “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” I had little knowledge on cotton production nor did I realize how much American was involved with it. It was very interesting to me that Texas does a large cotton business I always thought it was primarily in South Carolina and Georgia regions. America is the largest cotton industries as stated in the text because they are up against underdeveloped regions. However it seems almost like a monopoly by the United States because none of those countries have a chance to compete. They do not have the capital or resources that America has. It was stated in the book that in 2003 that it was brought to the attention of World Trade Organization but negotiations got stalled (6).
    Producing and creating a single product takes more than just America or China to produce. In class lectures it has made me realize that the item may be assembled in one place but the materials and designs can be produced in many other places. This book I feel will give me a better understanding of how a single product like a T-shirt is made worldwide. In a way it seems outsourcing has caused countries to work together as one. It is a little strange to me that people are so up in arms about products being manufactured overseas yet we still have a part in the design and production process of the items. From what I’ve taking from class so far and this book is that we do have a part in the production and we tend to make the most profit from the items created anyways.

  68. Before reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I have to admit I was a hesitant to pick it up. I thought that the book was going to be hard to understand and not a good read. As I started reading the first chapter I realized I was completely wrong. There were many facts that I knew prior to reading this book and there were many things I did not know before reading this book. The book helped me realize that fashion is not a simple process and it comes from places that I did not even know existed. This book has important information that every Textile Merchandising and Design student should be aware of.

    In the first chapter the part that stood out to me the most would be how they used a factual family to talk about how they grew cotton and how hard the family worked to be successful. This to me was the most interesting part. The author kept referring back to the Reinsch family, which was great to read about. In the book it stated that: “The Reinsches 1,00 acres can produce 500,000 pounds of cotton lint if fully planted, enough for about 1.3 million T-shirts.”(P. 4). Also, the book states that: “There is a very good chance that my T-Shirt—and yours—was born near Lubbock, the self proclaimed “cottonest city” in the world.” (P. 4). After reading the full chapter I can also honestly say I did not know Lubbock, Texas played an important role in the fashion industry. In chapter three of the book, the author gets into more detail about harvesting cotton on the Reinsch land. I thought that it was extremely interesting to see the steps needed to even produce cotton. I did not realize how much work it was for cotton to get to how I have it in my draw! As stated in chapter four, it is interesting to see how other countries want in on receiving cotton from the Reinsch’s land. It is also interesting to see the steps being taken for it to arrive there and the agreements that undergo.

    Another part that stood out to me was when the author talked about slavery and how when they worked with cotton they had to separate the seeds by hand which took so much time away from actually sending the cotton off. I learned about this in other textile classes so it was very interesting to read about. I also thought it was interesting when the author talked about Eli Whitney. The author used a letter that he wrote to his parents and I thought that was important for the reader to understand. He played an important role in the cotton industry so it was great to read about the story behind how he created it. One negative thing that I had never noticed about Eli Whitney’s invention before was that it “solidified the slave plantation in the cotton South.” (P 17) This was something I did not learn before reading this. This meant that in order for cotton to be produced successfully they needed to keep slaves. These way plantation owners can make money.

    In all, I did enjoy reading part one of this book and learned a lot of new informative facts. I did not realize how difficult the process is to produce cotton and get it to where we have it today. This book has important information that many Textile students should know about. I look forward to reading the rest of the book and retaining new facts that I did not know before.

  69. After reading the first four Chapters of “Travels of a T-Shirt” I discovered that it was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Learning about the process that a simple boll of cotton goes through from growth to harvest made me think about how much harder the process for making clothes was before the invention of the cotton gin and other innovations. The invention of these machines have changed many aspects of how clothing is made and how long it takes to make it. For example, if the cotton gin had never been invented, people would still have to remove the sticky seeds from the Upland cotton by hand, creating only 3 pounds of cotton per person per day. This in turn would limit the amount of cotton that could be sold to mills to create clothing, which would mean much less clothing for you and me.

    Thinking about the production of this seemingly simple plant makes me realize how important it is to people. Without cotton, what would the majority of soft goods such as sheets and towels be made out of? The vast majority of our clothing would have to be made from manufactured fibers such as polyester instead of part of them being made from soft cotton. The selling of cotton is also very important to the U.S. since most of the world’s cotton is made here. Not being able to grow cotton here would diminish our economy, and others as well who use it to manufacture products. In conclusion, the first four chapters of this book made me understand the process for harvesting cotton, and informed me of the history of this small but hugely important plant.

  70. I enjoy reading books like “The travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy” while still in school because I feel that the learning and examples I can take from them relate to so much of the work that we will be doing in the industry. I think it is important to understand these processes, information, and the history of other companies before we graduate.

    Although books like this one tend to start of slow I always find myself really enjoying them. And as I said before, I can usually take a lot away from them. I always believed that most cotton caeme from the south but was unaware that it came mainly from Texas. Where clothes come from and the travels that they take have taken before it reaches the consumer is something I’ve thought about often since taking the supply chain management in the textile industry course last semester. It is not something we all think about every day but is so important, and can clearly have so much impact on the economy.

    It was surprising for me to learn that the U.S is a driving force in the cotton industry due to all of our technological advances. When initially reading about and learning the facts of this I was thinking how great this must be for our Country. However we learn that because of the technological advance we do have it has made production so easy that we can produce it in large amounts for very little. Which will heighten the demand for the product but the price is very low.

    I feel like Part one touched on different topics I thought I knew a little about but after reading it realized there is so much more to be learned. I am very interested to learn more from this book in the other chapters. They say its good to know a little about a lot and I think by reading these types of books that touch into the little parts of the industry and the economy that we might not always think about will be invaluable to us when we all enter the work force.

  71. After reading the first four chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” it took me a good hour to process all of the information that had been thrown at me. I found the history of cotton production to be very interesting (a lot of info), but it only took one sentence for me to realize the book would be worth reading.
    This is one statement that will absolutely stick with me through my entire career and life.

    “Commercial success can be achieved through moral failure.”

    This statement is completely true in so many aspects of the industry and in every day life.
    In the book they use the example of cotton demand and sweatshops. Yes cotton t shirts will always be in demand and the industry will continue to grow; but what does that mean for the thousands of people working in sweatshop conditions? It is morally wrong for these people to work long hours in less than desirable conditions.
    Factories may not let us into their work rooms but we all know that people are working in these conditions for other commercially successful companies like Apple, Walmart, The Children’s Place, etc. There really are too many companies to name.

    So I ask you…
    Is the success of a company or industry (like cotton) really more important than the well being of the people doing the labor (picking the cotton, creating the t shirt)?
    I think a lot of people would answer yes to this question, but I am one person that questions human character in this situation.

    Another thing I found interesting was the description of how cotton must be handled.

    “When we consider the risks that a cotton boll faces on its way to becoming a t shirt, it is a wonder we have clothes as all”
    The cotton cannot be too hot or too cold, it is susceptible to both too much and too little water, and it is very delicate. It cannot survive heavy wind, rain, or hail.
    I find it funny that something so cheap and so readily available has to be handled so gently. The people in the US working with cotton are putting so much more care/ work in than we actually realize.
    I am guilty of throwing a cotton tee in the trash after wearing it 3 times… That is the mentality of many people in America. When something is so easily available to them, they take advantage of it.

    I look forward to reading the rest of the book and connecting it to real life situations. I definitely think it will be beneficial to my career after college.

  72. After reading the first four chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I learned a lot about the cotton industry. I thought it was interesting to read, that a city named Lubbock, Texas is considered the “cottonest city in the world”, this shows that although we (the U.S) is not the highest exporter of clothing we are still the highest growers of cotton.

    Cotton is fiber that one can not escape, it is in almost every article clothing we buy, in fact it is the most used fiber in the world. Considering this fiber is in every article of clothing I own I always thought the process of cultivating it was easy, however after reading these chapters I discovered that is not the case at all.

  73. Prior to reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I was not very excited about this assignment. I had thought that learning about different characteristics and background information on fibers in Textile Science was rather boring. But, after reading these four chapters I was pleased to find out it was more interesting that I had thought. I really liked how the author added depth to the book by talking about the protests and explaining about the role of slavery. I also liked how he was very un-biased because I feel that it created a more comfortable feel for the reader.

    I’ve never really given cotton too much thought other than memorizing the characteristics. But, now I realize just how important cotton is to our global economy. The fact that the first cotton textile factories were cotton textile factories shows how important it was in the development of technology of factories and provided many jobs. Cotton is also very important to our economy because of how cheap it is. For the price of cotton, it is very soft and can be used for a variety or products across the apparel spectrum.

    The fact that Texas has one of the largest cotton corporative and the largest cottonseed oil mill, and the region produces nearly 30% of American cotton is very interesting to me. I never had any idea that we as a country were really important factors in the cotton industry. The fact that Texas can still compete with international markets is very impressive because of the fierce competitors across the world with cheaper labor and more flexible schedules. I also found it interesting that most of the world’s cotton is grown here in America. I feel as though I am always seeing that jobs are being outsourced to different countries for cheaper labor, but it is promising to see that a lot of cotton manufacturing is still done here in the United States providing jobs and relief for our economy.

  74. I thought reading this chapter was very interesting. When I think of the textile and apparel industry I automatically associate it with China, because so much clothing is produced there. But I learned that the US is a huge contributor to the industry.

    I was shocked to find out the US is the leading cotton producers. I never realized how time consuming the production of cotton was, and that so many factors contribute to either having a good or bad crop. Weather is a huge concern when growing cotton because it needs to be grown is a warm and very dry areas in order to grow. I now know that the reason we are so good and producing cotton is because we have the land and natural resources available to expand production. Other countries like China don’t have enough land necessary to grow a sufficient amount of cotton because there too populated and urbanized.

    Our country has also been brought up to farm and produce goods necessary to survive, and those traditions and skills get passed down to many generations giving our farmers an advantage. Cotton producing has advanced dramatically since its begun by having machines do the majority of labor, but farmers skills and knowledge are still needed in order to maintain and protect the crops. I also like that farmers use the garbage parts of the cotton for oils and other products because it gives the US another target market to sell to, which produces more money for our economy.

    China is one of the biggest buyers of cotton because they cant produce as much as us. If the US was not so well at producing so much cotton the textile and apparel industry would have a significant decline because cotton is one of the top fibers used and bought today. So even though China and other countries make the products the whole reason they are able to so is because of the US exports.

  75. After starting to the read the book “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” it made me think about how much of the clothing that is sold in the U.S. is outsourced to other countries. A majority is made in China. The book starts with the history of the cotton industry. They bring up a good point on how the US used slaves before the civil war for labor in the cotton fields. Today we have workers in China that live in conditions that could be considered almost slavery. People are paid a small amount of money to live in difficult conditions and work a ridiculous amount of hours. This is why Globalization has become such a demanding factor in the apparel industry. If we didn’t have globalization we wouldn’t be able to afford a majority of the items that are outsourced to other countries.

    The book discusses about how labor intensive and climate dependent growing cotton is. But it is just one part of the apparel industry. The US grows more cotton than actually producing the clothing. The US is now extremely efficient in producing cotton. Lubbock, Texas is the “cottenest city” in the world and The U.S. is the leader in the global cotton industry. This is because The U.S. has far advanced technology and the right climate to constantly be able to produce cotton. Without these machines today, cotton farming could be still as labor intensive as before. These new technological advancements have continued to keep The U.S. successful in the cotton industry.

  76. When I started reading “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I was not looking forward because I thought it was going to be another boring book about the cotton industry and the economy that just spits out facts and figures. However, once I started reading part one there was a sentence that really grabbed my attention: “In the United States, the farms work, the market works, the government works, the science works, and the universities work; and all of these elements work together in a sort of virtuous circle that is decades away for the poorest countries in the world.” This is basically saying how the united states is truly a power house and excels in everything while the rest of the world is far behind such as West Africa. In the rest of the chapter there are many other facts that show United States dominance in the economy such as the great success of cotton growing. I never really realized how powerful the United States are and after reading this it makes me feel lucky to be living here.

    Another quote that I found interesting was, “Americas early dominance of the cotton industry illustrates that commercial success can be achieved through moral failure, an observation especially relevant for t-shirts, which critics allege are produced under sweat shop conditions not far removed from slavery. Although we are extremely successful and a leader in the cotton industry, it is unfortunate that the only way to get there is through immoral tactics and shoddy conditions. I wish there was another way to be so prosperous that didn’t involve such cruelty.

    Something that struck me as interesting and also ironic is the section about bureaucrats and sharecroppers. The New Deals agricultural policy was the agricultural adjustment act, which “… introduced government price supports for agricultural products, and also introduced a concept of paying farmers to take land out of production.” This was ironic because this pushed farmers like Ned Cobb to give up because they couldn’t read or right and therefore could’t fill out the government papers. Also many farmers used their government payments to buy tractors which caused the small share croppers to lose their jobs, this was known as being “tractored out”. I find this to be unfair because with the government paying people based on their amount of land, people with a lot of land would be getting more money while the people with smaller land would end up being out of business.

    Chapter 4 is all about cotton making its way to China, and how China is even more important today. “During the past several years, I found that it was impossible to get more than one or two minutes into a cotton conversation anywhere in the world before someone mentioned China…” I find the cycle fascinating of how Americans want cheap clothes from China, and in order for China to do so, they need to purchase more cotton from America.

  77. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive to begin reading this book, in fear that it would be one of those typical boring works filled with facts and no storyline. However, after reading the first part, I was proved wrong and surprisingly, I find the book extremely intriguing. Rivoli has a great style of writing and manages to create just the right balance of fact, with a storyline that grasps the reader’s attention.

    When thinking about our economy many years ago, we remember the success that was exemplified throughout various industries especially the cotton industry in the south. However, I think we tend to lose sight of the fact that this world still exists in today’s society, particularly in Texas. After talking about globalization and out sourcing in our class discussions, it gives the impression that China is a stronger industry and has a better economy than the US, and that the American industry relies on them to be successful. However, the United States is still the lead cotton producer.

    I found it interesting to learn about how much aid our farmers receive from the government to assure that they remain competitive in the industry. It also is amazing to learn of the new advances that have been made in the cotton industry like machinery and the GM technology. What I didn’t realize before reading this book was how many different everyday objects wouldn’t be possible without the cotton industry. One may think that cotton is mainly grown for fiber usage and the textile and apparel industry. However, you never really think of the left over seeds, or “garbage,” and what it is used for. It was interesting to learn that a huge profit could be made from these left over pieces if they are used for cotton oil in objects such as peanut butter or popular brands such as Frito-Lay. In retrospect it certainly opens up my mind and provides hope for the American economy.

  78. Before reading this book, and taking this course I wasn’t aware of how extensive of a process making an article of clothing could be. I had assumed that one item is produced from start to finish in the same factory overseas. It did not occur to me that part of industrial globalization is that several countries work together to create a product. Reading this book has been interesting, as it has increased my knowledge of the history of cotton. I was also surprised to learn how big of an impact Texas has had and still holds in the cotton sector of the textile industry.

    Many countries play a role in the globalization of cotton. For the United States, our role is to produce the cotton and ship it to countries where garments and other items are made. We play a very big role in the global market of cotton, and it has been helpful to our economy. I am surprised, yet happy, that this market has stayed here in our country, and that we are still so important in the production of a staple good such as cotton.

    While I think it is a positive thing for the United States to be the home to such a powerful item, it also raises some questions and concerns for me. While the book talks about how in the history of the cotton industry slaves were used in the cotton fields, I think of the current working conditions in other countries where cotton goods are being produced. The working conditions that I have learned about are mind boggling. It is sad to think that in 2013 people are still working so hard for such little pay and in such horrible environments.

    As the global economy continues to grow, I think that the market for cotton will remain strong. I am hopeful that cotton growth will stay in the United States and that we will continue to have such economic strength in this market. I am also hopeful that the working conditions in developing countries where cotton products are manufactured will improve.

    1. very good thinking! As long as developing countries like China needs US cotton, then I am pretty sure US can remain the world largest exporter of cotton. However, that depends on whether US will continue allowing foreign countries (especially developing countries) to export apparel to the US market. It is a cycle and everything is connected. This is called globalization. If you expect everything to be produced domestically, as we discussed in the class, this reflects “merchantalism” thinking~

  79. Rivoli’s “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” brought about interesting points about the cotton industry that I was vastly unaware of. She takes an informative stance on the cotton industry. I have little to no knowledge about the cotton industry. As a TMD major I think its important to know where your apparel is sourced from and how it affects the economy. Rivoli mentions how the United States was the leader in the world for the cotton industry. I didn’t expect that to be the case considering so much of the apparel produced is manufactured outside of the United States. I agree with Rivoli’s belief that a majority of the United States is unaware of the importance and size of the cotton industry within our own country. I don’t think that we consider the cotton industry to contribute to our economy as much as it does. There is almost no focus placed on it.

    I was pleased to see that Rivoli commended the cotton growers, such as the Reinschs, entrepreneurial abilities. I feel that the owners of these farms that manage all the growing do not receive enough praise. They are taking an enormous risk by forfeiting a full time job to invest in growing that is out of their control and as Rivoli mentions, can be altered or destroyed entirely by weather conditions, pesticides, or any act of God. Without these growers, there would be no product , therefore there would be no profit. I think we must remind ourselves of the growers’ importance in the role of the apparel industry.

    I felt that Rivoli delved a little bit too much into the Reinsch family. At first, I found it interesting how she used the family as an example to display the life and duties of cotton growers however I think she went too far into their story. In chapter 3, it became a little too personal. It became too specific to their family and a general overview of a grower would have felt more relevant.

    Overall, I enjoy how Rivoli evenly covers the history of cotton growing, the economic effects currently and previously, and its globalization. I particularly enjoyed how she even went into detail to explain the product, cotton. Her description of how the seed can eventually become fabric was really interesting. I had no knowledge of gin trash or cotton seed oil prior to reading this book. She has covered a lot of ground and manages to jump from topic to topic with smooth transitions. She explains the industry well to a reader with little background knowledge and does so in terms that the reader can easily comprehend.

  80. After reading the first four chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli, all I can say is wow, who knew there was so much to learn about cotton. LIke several others have mentioned, nothing seemed intriguing about this book, but after reading the first part, you realize Cotton has more of an importance than you thought.

    Reading about the Reinsch family’s dedication to cotton growing, I couldn’t help but be interested to read more. Partly because it is so amazing to see that people can still be so passionate about one thing for so many years, when today people get over their new toys after a week. Also what kept me wanting to read more, was that Mr. Reinsch’s story of having his father building up this “business” and then having his son take over is very much relatable to my grandpa and dad.

    Besides the Reinsch family’s dedication and love for cotton growing, the book also touched base upon slavery and the cotton gin, reminding me of the brutal hours of manual labor people had to go through. Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin had revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States. Slaves spent long hours out in the fields handpicking cottonseeds before technology advances. Another factor that had effected the growing process of the cotton at times, was mother nature.

    Rain, wind, and even hail sometimes was natures way of hazarding the growing process of cotton. Insects as well as weeds also sometimes altared the growth of the cotton. In so many ways the US is made out to seem like we take and or need everything from everyone else, but who knew the US was the number one grower of cotton?

  81. Before I started reading this book I figured it would just tell us the basics of where our clothing comes from, but I soon realized that was wrong. The book tells us experiences from the farmers that grow the cotton and how things have changed in the cotton growing industry over the past century. I have learned from past TMD classes like textile science as well as our textile markets class that the components to produce our clothing comes from many different countries. It was really interesting to me how the author first learned about the topic while listening to a speech and did years of research to write this book. In the preface to the second edition of The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy I learned that a lot of cotton that is used to make our t-shirts is grown in Texas, but then shipped to China to be produced. It seems so crazy that the cotton is grown right here in the United States but then shipped to China, only to be sent back here to the US to be sold at stores. From other globalization lectures we have had in our textile markets class I have learned that it is easier for companies to do this because in the end they can make more profit by having the labor done in another country where it costs less and more can be produced.
    America has always seemed to dominate the global cotton industry. They were the first ones to make growing and harvesting cotton more efficient, where for some time they did not have that much competition. The cotton industry was sometimes unstable for cotton farmers because the work force and the cotton market were sometimes unpredictable. Weather also played a big part in growing quality cotton. Plantation owners in the south started buying slaves or giving them incentives to harvest and grow the cotton on their land. They would give room and board to the slaves and in exchange the slave would tend the fields harvest their land. Slavery had made it possible for farmers to grow more cotton than before. But even with that farmers still found it hard to end up with a finished bale of cotton to be shipped off. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1792 that helped solve the problem of getting the sticky seeds out of the cotton. The world demand for cotton increased significantly after this. Since farmers could now grow and harvest more and then use the cotton gin to get the seeds out this pushed the slaves into worse conditions where they worked all the time and got treated poorly and were given no rights. Things needed to change and after a while slavery ended. Cotton was now highly demanded by other countries and the United States seemed to be the only place it was coming from, because the modern market worked so well here and smaller under developed countries could not handle that yet.
    I really enjoyed how the book talks about the Reinsch’s and their cotton farm. Their story really shows how things have changed in the cotton growing industry. It shows how they once relied on many extra workers to help plant and harvest their crops to more recently when it was just Nelson Reinsch and a few machines that could do all of the work. It took a while for most of the cotton growers in Texas to switch over to a more modern way to grow and harvest cotton instead of by hand or by mule. But things have come a long way since then. The government also stepped in and helped farmers. When too much cotton was being produced they would pay farmers to not grow anything. Things like the weather and pests were always a big problem when growing cotton and now they have created genetically modified seeds and pesticides that take care of some of that. With new pesticides brought new problems that are not helping the environment.
    Today there is not much waste that is left over when processing cotton. The extra branches, and bits that were stuck in the cotton are used to make feed for livestock and fish. Cottonseed oil is also produced with left over remnants as well. I had never realized how much food is made with cottonseed oil. Recycling and reusing as much of a product as possible has become very important in our world today and it was really good to see that even in the cotton industry this is possible. This book seems a lot more interesting than I had originally expected. I never realized how much hard work and labor had gone into producing cotton, and how difficult it was sometimes for the farmers. I have learned so much about the cotton industry that I did not know before reading the first four chapters. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this book.

  82. Before reading “ The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy”, I was skeptical to think what this book might be about and how it has had such a great impact on the textile community. It is crazy to think how one single garment can travel globally and change the lives of many.
    I found it extremely interesting to think that in Chapter 1 it was discussed that most of the cotton was from Lubbock, Texas. It is nice to see the US making contributions on a global scale. Lubbock, Texas was noted as the “cotton city of the world” making the US a major exporter, producer, and expert. It was also interesting to learn how we can connect a family with the cotton industry. The Reinsch family’s life has been impacted by cotton, so impacted that on Thanksgiving they wouldn’t take a break from growing and picking.
    The book also noted that cotton production led to a high increase in slavery. Slaves picked and cleaned the majority of the cotton so that it could be sent off to be used for manufacturing. Slavery was a very large part of American history, and through cotton we are able to better understand United States history as a whole. The beginning of the book has given us examples of how the cotton industry has taken over on a global scale and how it will continue to do so.

    1. I agree with your statement about the US contributing to the apparel and textile industry globally. I was surprised myself to see that we had such a strong presence in the T&A industry. I actually had no idea that Texas was the main cotton source.I think that we should emphasize our cotton presence in the US more since we mainly focus on the negative aspects of the US T&A industry such as its decline. Hopefully we will be able to maintain this strong cotton presence in Texas despite the industry decline in the US. I also really appreciated the idea of the family business in the cotton industry. I thought it was great how the made the comparison in the text to the concept of a family business within the textile industry in China to that of the US. Even though we vary so much economically, it was interesting to see the similarities within the family businesses.

  83. I enjoyed reading the first four chapters of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli. It was interesting to get more information on the history of the cotton industry. I liked reading the parts that were about the Reinsch family. It gave me a good idea of what it has been like over a long period of time for a farmer in this industry. It was interesting to hear that Texas is still the main spot for cotton production. I had just assumed that as time has passed production had moved into other countries, so it is great to see that it still has a place here in the US.

    Right away, I read that Lubbock, Texas is one of the largest cotton growing regions in the world. The Reinsche’s 1,000 acre farm, alone, can produce 500,000 pounds of cotton which is enough to create 1.3 million t-shirts. Chapter 1 informs readers that one of the reasons why the U.S. cotton industry has been able to thrive for so long is because they have received subsidies from the government. In 2004, the U.S. trade negotiators admitted that the subsidies were unfair and agreed to end them but 4 years later the subsidies remained in place. Another reason for American cotton farmers’ success has been their ability to adapt to the unpredictable and constant change in supply and demand of the global market. It will be interesting to see where the cotton industry goes from here, not only in regards to future technological innovations, but also the new roles the cotton plant will play within the food, pharmaceutical, hygiene, and textile industries.

    Before reading this book I had a negative perception of genetically modified products. GM cotton reduces the need for pesticides that are harmful to the environment and the farmers. This means less fuel consumption needed to apply the pesticides as well. GM cotton also uses less water. If these are the benefits of producing GM cottonseed oil then why do European countries put a restriction on GM products? What is also interesting to me is that many of the T-shirts we wear might be “Made in China” but the cotton may be grown in the United States. This shows that there is much more that comes into play when a product reads “Made in China.”

  84. Before reading this book I had no Idea how difficult and time sensitive cotton growing is. The cotton industry has evolved over the decades and only seems to be improving more as time goes on. It is amazing to know that Nelson and Ruth Reinsch truly care so much about their cotton farm and the product they produce even after all these years. Although I enjoyed reading everything in the first four chapters there were two things that I found particularly interesting. Texas being one of the largest cotton producers has many secrets behind its success besides having good weather.
    Texas Tech University was founded to help the cotton industry flourish which I found very compelling. I personally have not heard of a University opening in order to help a particular business sector although it has probably been done before. This University is involved in top notch cotton research which benefits cotton growers in Texas. “In many years of thinking about international trade, I had never thought of tradition-bound and loyal university alumni as the basis for comparative advantage. But there it is: Tech looks after cotton, cotton looks after Tech, and Texas cotton is still winning in the global marketplace”(p.49). Having support from the community and powerful businesses such as Texas Tech allows for the continued success which leads to Texas’s comparative advantage over other cotton growers.
    Cotton seeds before the 1900s seemed to have little use other than to replant and grow more cotton. It was realized that the seeds could be used for fertilizer and animal feed which is something I never knew before. Also cotton seed oil is used in the production of many food products such as candy bars and CRISCO shortening. I love cooking and had somehow never heard that cotton seed oil was used in so many products. It is a healthier oil with no trans fat and is great for frying things like chips. It is amazing to know the variety of uses one product has. I have learned many new things from reading the first part of Travels of a T-shirt and really enjoyed the way it is written.

  85. I read previous comments on this blog before I read the book to get a feel for how the book would be. I noticed that many students mentioned how they weren’t looking forward to reading the book or how they thought the book was going to be boring. Their minds completely changed after they read the first chapter so this made me look forward to reading the book.
    I never would have thought that the U.S. was such a big contender in the cotton growing industry. I thought that the cotton industry in the U.S. was being lost to countries such as China and India, but it seems like the U.S. is still very successful. I knew that cotton growing was historically a major industry in the U.S. but I thought it barely existed in the U.S. today. As a watch the news and learn more about globalization, it seems as if many industries in the U.S. have moved to countries in Asia. I was pleasantly surprised and happy to read that the cotton industry in the U.S. is still thriving despite globalization. I was surprised to read that a farm owned by the Reinches’ in Lubbock, Texas, has 1,000 acres that produces half a million pounds of cotton lint which can make 1.3 million t-shirts. That’s from one farm! How many t-shirts can all the farms in the U.S. combined produce?
    I found it interesting that the U.S. is said to have a comparative advantage because of government subsidies. I think that due to the status of the U.S. economy, it’s a good thing that the U.S. cotton industry is doing so well. On one side, I don’t understand why other countries would make an issue about it. On the other side, I think that people in the U.S. would be just as angry if a country such as China was to greatly succeed due to government subsidies and negatively effect the U.S. cotton industry. I believe that the U.S. cotton industry will continue to flourish and that makes me feel more confident for the U.S. economy. I’m enjoying reading this book and look forward to learning more about a topic that I find is beneficial to know as a TMD student and as I get ready to graduate and work in the textile industry.

    1. great thinking about subsidy! the argument is whether government should or should not pick up “winners and losers?” For example, why the cotton growers can receive government subsidy, but not the US textile mills and apparel factories? If textile mills are to receive subsidy, why not retail sector? And where is government’s money coming from at the beginning?

  86. I was excited when I was about to read “The Travels of A T-shirt in the Global Economy”. I was curious about if it’s from the t-shirt’s perspective. I also love reading. I was sorely disappointed. I feel as though it was poorly written and they could’ve spoke about it in a less dry manner. I feel like we spent too much time and detail when talking about the picking of cotton in Texas. As important as it is, and as good as it is to represent what our country contributes, there was only so much I want to read about it. The book went through a lot of the history of cotton, way back when slave plantations were relevant. It was a lot of information that’s very been there done that. I learned this from past history classes and from the Apparel Production course.

    I did, however, enjoy how they made it a little more personal by adding the Reinsch family anecdote. It made it more of a story rather than it simply being an informative text. It was also giving credit to the average family where credit is deserved. It really showed that we should appreciate the hard work from people like them for the clothing that I’m currently wearing.

  87. Before I read, “Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I thought it was going to be a lot like a book I read for another class. I thought it was going to be very dry and dull. Instead I think it is very interesting and I love the way the author wrote the book, it is like a story to make it more interesting but still very factual at the same time.
    I was very surprised, like most people, that cotton was such a big industry for the United States. I thought that most cotton came from places in South America and the Middle East. I think most people view our country as very technologically advanced and think because of that we do not have very many farms. Little do they know the amount of advanced technology being used in the cotton fields making it a lot different then what most people think of traditional farms.
    My favorite part of the book so far is when it talks about the Reinsch family. I thought it was so interesting to hear about their life and the history behind the industry. I also thought it was crazy the way they use the left over parts of the cotton plants for things such as food products. This book also makes me think a lot about how almost everything that says “made in China” can be created in different places without the general public knowing. I think China gets a lot of credit for creating a great deal of products when it is a lot of different countries together.

  88. At first I really was not interested in reading the book “Travels of a T-Shirt” but the moment I started reading I was interested in learning more. It’s the way the book was written that made it so interesting. It draws the reader in with interesting facts and details. I’m very glad that it was written this way instead of being boring and uninteresting. But the author manages to intrigue the reader with being able to relate to the reader and keep the reader interested in the history of the U.S.. and cotton.
    I did not know that the US was still a lead manufacturer in cotton. I was pleasantly surprised to know that our T-shirt material sometimes begins in the United States. I originally thought that most of the Cotton was imported from Central America and Under developed countries because I thought they would have more space to grow this crop. I knew from previous history classes that the US did grow Cotton centuries before. But I just assumed the country evolved to become more technology oriented and forgot it’s cotton growing roots. Luckily it didn’t. I also did not know that the cotton plant was a very delicate crop. Cotton is prone to wilting because of intense heat, cold, hail and insects. This crop seems like its very time/money consuming to care for and also takes a lot of money to grow.
    The author made a good choice by adding the Reinsch farm family to made the novel more personal and less informative. By hearing the family’s experience it makes the reader understand from a less textbook perspective what it was like to work on a cotton farm.
    The “Made in China” Label sadly does not give credit to the other countries that helped in the process or growing/weaving/fabricating the garment or product. The final assembly country is the only one that gets recognition. This was probably a contributor to the reason why I automatically assumed the US no longer grew cotton. Maybe they should but more information on the label. Educate more people about what our country still proudly grows!

    1. Truly, I feel “made in USA” or “made in China” has much less meaning today than in the past because of globalization and the phenomenon of global prodcution. Why China does not insist “made in China” cotton and restrict cotton imported from the US? Because such measure will raise the cotton price in China and harm the competitiveness of finished apparel products made in China. What will happen if US restrict apparel imported from China? China probably cannot produce as many apparel as today and its demand for US cotton will also decline. So, when talking about promoting “made in USA” products to replace imported goods, we have to think about: is it in the best interest of the US?

  89. The first section of the book grasps my attention because I was not familiar with the processes of growing cotton. It is also amazing to hear real life stories of how people grow old doing the same job. Now thanks to advanced machine the process is more efficient. It is also a step back into history about slavery. The people who once owned plantations with slaves managed very well profits because they did not pay these slaves for the tedious job of picking cotton to remove the seeds. To imagine running in the fields before the rain poured down just so that the cotton would not stain, must have been a horrible job. It was great to hear of the family story that is now still growing cotton. They started with hand picking to now machines. What stood out the most about this book are the facts backed up with resources and stories relevant to the issue. It is amazing to hear that the cotton t-shirts we wear now, which claim to be made in china, were at some point began in the States.

  90. “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” included a lot of the behind scenes work and labor that went into the raw material for T-Shirts. Part one of the book focused on the raw material, which is cotton in this case. I read some comments that were posted by students from previous semesters. It seems like they were reluctant toward the book, but the title of the book caught my attention right from the beginning. Upon reading the author’s preface and prologue, I got really curious about how my T-shirts are made and where it have been.
    Prior to reading this book, I did not know that the U.S. is still a cotton industry giant. From developing countries’ point of view, it seems like the U.S. Government are trying to keep the cotton industry going by introducing different subsidies programs. However, there are more aspects to the U.S.’s cotton industry than just simply accepting help from the government. It was all about good timing and the availability of the labor market at the right time for farmers, in this case the U.S. had slaves.
    Part one is a well-rounded summary about America’s cotton history up until now. I love how the author painted a vivid image for its readers so they could understand the back-breaking labor and time it requires for a seed to turn into what we want. Most shocking is that, “Out of the 22,000 pounds of cotton…only about 5,300 pounds is the white lint that will be turned into T-shirts” (50). Luckily farmers no longer burn the non-cotton lint; instead there are many end-uses for it. I’ve seen cottonseed oil on some food packages, but I was shocked to see the products which contain cottonseed oil on page 53. Besides for food, cottonseed oil is made into soap and they are meals for farm animals and aquaculture.
    The author also included the obstacles they faced when they were farming with mules and when technologies came into the scene. The introduction of technologies could be evil to environmentalists, but to farmers technologies made many aspects of the cotton industry much better and easier. The development of GM cottonseed created more jobs in the research side and it eased the workload of farmers by changing the genetics of cottonseeds. As technologies improve, so will the cotton industry and the U.S. economy.
    The author mentioned, “cotton story of bales that arrived from China or India…reveal one unhappy surprise or was dirtier…that never happened…with American cotton” (58). As developing countries’ economy and living standards are improving, consumers would want quality over quantity and this will be another factor which will help strengthen U.S.’s cotton industry and economy in the future.

    1. China is both the world largest grower and consumer of cotton. US is the second largest grower and the 1st largest exporter of cotton. Of course, China is a leading export market for US cotton. If the US no longer import apparel from China, China probably won’t produce as many apparel as today and China’s demand for US cotton will also decline. This is the so called interdependence in the globalized era~ hope you will enjoy reading the second part. Not sure if you are familiar with the “Hukou” system

  91. After ordering this book through Amazon.com I read brief reviews from newspapers such as The New York Times and magazines, including CIO Magazine, in which Pietra Rivoli has received after sharing her experience of revealing ther truth behind the travels of a t-shirt from harvesting to the end user. In the opening paragraph I instantly learned that, “there is a very good chance that my T-shirt – and yours – was born near Lubbock, the self-proclaimed ‘cottonest city’ in the world” (4). The first full paragraph on page 5 goes hand-in-hand with and verifies the lectures/discussions we have had in class. The first sentence reads, “history shows that almost all dominance in world markets is temporary and that even the most impressive stories of national industrial victories typically end with sobering postscripts of shifting comparative advange,” which sums up the answer we have been contemplating over, when it comes to why countries’ production and output are constantly changing over time.
    On page 10, in the second paragraph I was shocked to read that “…in 1791, the U.S. share of world cotton production was almost too small to be counted.” I always had it in my head that the United States was always the leader in the cotton industry. It was an incredible turn around for the United States when they were able to increase their production by 25 times in the following 10 years. This definitely gives me a new kind of appreciation for my country that I had never had before.
    On page 35 under the subtitle, “Machines that Don’t get All Discouraged,” I thought Rivoli made a good point when comparing the marketing and promotion of how glorious cotton products look in advertisements to the hard labor of handpicking “fluff by fluff” performed by workers in cottons fields. Companies advertise that handpicked cotton is superior to machine picked cotton, which I believe there is no real difference and it is unfair for the handpicking workers. I found the section, Designer Genes, to be very interesting because I learned the background story of how genetically modified (GM) cotton came about in the United States and the ease of this new invention. The section titled, Back to Nature or Forward to the Future?, sparked my interest because I am very concerned about the environment and the harm that is caused to it by products such as pesticides. I do agree with the fact that going back to farming organically would be more beneficial for our land, but we would miss out on opportunities for scientific advancements to reduce the harmful side effects of pesticides.
    I was pleased to read that, “cotton growers have also shown an astounding ability to coax value out of cotton production by throwing nothing away and finding somebody, anybody, to eat it or buy it” (50). I’m impressed that cotton is not wasted and that it has multi uses, such as cattle feed. Under the section, No Lipstick for Africa, on page 62 I learned that cotton in West Africa earns over one-quarter of their exports and is one of their major cash crops. What is also an interesting fact is that “African cotton farmers can produce cotton at significantly lower cost than Texas growers” (50) which makes sense because labor is cheaper in Africa.

    1. good comment! My advisor told me that if I can fully understand what’s going on in the T&A industry, I can deal with any other sectors in terms of globalization, international trade and trade policy. I think it is very true! Personally I hope T-shirt book can be adopted as a general reading book for the whole university campus. Hope you will enjoy reading the next part~

  92. The machines that are now used for cotton picking definitely competes with people for jobs. Due to the new technology and how it makes cotton picking easier, there is no need for people to do the labor when the machines can easily and do it in a simpler way. Bowen Flowers, a cotton farmer, uses a John Deer app to help with where to pick cotton and where the cotton pickers are in the field. Also, these machines will drive themselves through the cotton field picking the cotton, which makes this job even easier. American cottonseeds are made in a lab to make it pest resistant, which help with the cotton and the fields. Technology is helping in every way with the cotton business, which is great, but not for those who have lost their jobs due to the technology rising in this industry. These inventions are why the U.S. is remaining the cotton king still to this day. Everything is not simpler, quicker, and easier. In just one field in Mississippi, 9 million t-shirts can be made. That is a crazy amount for just one field!

  93. I had no idea that the United States was a leader in cotton production. I knew there were some cotton farms around, but I had no idea how abundant cotton was, or that the U.S. was the leading producer. It really surprised me that the book began in Texas. I was expecting every part of the t-shirt process to be outside of the country, so that really surprised me.
    I also did not know that so much went into the process of growing and harvesting cotton. The cotton industry has gone through so many changes throughout the centuries. I never thought about how time consuming it is planting and harvesting by hand, and how tractors make it so much faster. It makes a lot of sense that the U.S. would be ahead of other countries in cotton production, because we have a lot of equipment that unfortunately some other countries cannot afford.
    I found this part of the book to be very interesting, because I learned a lot I didn’t know about the first step of the process when making a t-shirt. I didn’t know much about the cotton industry at all, and it was very interesting to learn about.

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