Van Andel Global Trade Center

The Life of a T-Shirt

Date: December 6, 2013

It may seem like just a t-shirt that you are wearing, but it has a life and a story behind how it was created. 

Plant Money set out to track the life of a t-shirt and it is fascinating! 

The Giant Book That Creates And Destroys Entire Industries

"There's our ship!" says Officer Lisa Sacco.

We're standing at the Port of Miami, where Sacco works for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Our ship, the Hansa Kirkenes, left Cartagena, Colombia, about a week earlier carrying all 6,078 of the Planet Money women's T-shirts.

A crane lifts the container carrying our shirts off of the ship and drops it at our feet. Boom: The shirts have arrived. And yet, in a sense, the shirts aren't quite here yet. It's like that moment when you get off an international flight and you have to wait to go through customs. That's where our T-shirt is now: in legal limbo.

Our shirts have just traveled from Colombia to Miami. Yet it's not drugs or even terrorism that's most likely to get our shirts stuck in customs. "The only thing I can think of is a trade violation," Sacco says. "Trade is a huge issue."

Protecting U.S. trade means following an incredibly elaborate set of rules spelled out in a giant book that's more than 3,000 pages long. Michael Cone, a customs and international trade attorney in New York, calls it "the book of everything." Its official name is the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.... READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

Interactive Documentary

PLANET MONEY MAKES A T-SHIRT: The world behind a simple shirt, in five chapters

PLANET MONEY MAKES A T-SHIRT: The world behind a simple shirt, in five chapters


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