Finding apparel made in the US can be tough for many reasons. Consumers have been trained to look for low cost garments, especially at discount retailers such as Target or TJ Maxx.
Classic US brands have gone out of business or have off-shored manufacturing. Brooks Brothers, for example did make its men’s suiting in Massachusetts; in fact, the manufacturer is located in the next town over from where I live. The company filed bankruptcy in 2020 and was then purchased by Simon Property Group. Not Your Mother’s Jeans moved their operations off-shore several years ago. (A sad day indeed. I used to own a pair with a tag that read, “Made in the USA.”)
And, mills have closed as well – mills that are often the “last of” a manufacturer to make a specific textile. In 2017, for example, Cone Mills shut its White Oak plant in Greensboro, NC. It was the last selvage denim mill in the United States.
In continuous operation since 1905, the mill was hit hard by waning demand for shuttle-loomed fabric due to customers turning to cheaper fabrics abroad.
Thankfully, I was able to have a pair of jeans custom made using the last of this denim. They’re one of my most valued garments. The quality of the denim is unmatched with anything I can buy in the store today.
Due to the downgrading of quality garments, off-shoring, and mills closing (to name a few things), less than 3% of apparel is made in the United States today.
It’s Dean Wegner’s mission to change this scenario. Dean is the Founder & CEO of Authentically American, a company specializing in providing high-quality, American-made branded apparel to individual consumers, as well as businesses, charities, colleges, and other organizations.
Their product offering includes polos, tees, hoodies, and much more.
Everything the company sells is made in one of 11 contracted manufacturing facilities across the US; tees in Texas, polos in California, socks in North Carolina, etc. Everything is made in the USA by American workers – “No exceptions!” says Dean.
From the Army to corporate to making a difference
After graduating from West Point in 1993 and serving for seven years as an officer, helicopter pilot, and Army Ranger, Dean began his corporate career: first a stint at Procter & Gamble Co. and then another at Mars, Inc. And while he was successful, his desire to make a huge difference kept knocking at his heart.
“My experience at these companies was fantastic, but they’re also like machines,” he says. “If I were to leave, the next guy in line steps right up and the machine doesn’t skip a beat. I really wrestled with, ‘Am I truly making a difference if I’m that easily replaced?’”
Dean, and his wife Kelly, have been married 27 years and have been blessed with four amazing children; their youngest son adopted from Ethiopia. By the time they arrived in Nashville, TN in 2010, it was move number 10. It was a good move because it’s also where Kelly grew up.
“I was at Mars. I could see another move in my future and knew if move number 11 happened, I was going by myself and no one in the family was coming with me!” Dean joked.
Dean’s desire: Creating American jobs
When asked what experience he had in apparel, Dean laughs. After spending 18 months researching his options, he purchased a government contractor who had a history of making thousands of dress uniforms every week for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
As a government contractor, however, it was a bidding process, which made Dean realize the business didn’t actually create jobs; it was more of a job transfer.
“What I really wanted,” he said, “was to build an iconic apparel brand that is truly American made – with the same brand recognition of a Nike, Polo, or Under Armour. If we’re successful, we’ll create a lot of jobs and leave an incredible legacy.”
The global apparel is an $861.5 billion industry, according to IBIS. In the US alone it’s $300B. Within this industry, you have many sub-industries: women’s apparel, men’s apparel, children and infants, sporting apparel, etc.
You also have logo apparel – think college or sports teams as well as branded corporate polos – the type sales people wear manning the trade show booth or participating in other corporate events.
“Logo apparel,” says Dean, “is an $8 billion industry and one where I believed we could get a good start.”
Building brand awareness
The target audience for Authentically American is someone like you or me: people actively seeking products made in the US. It’s why brand awareness was initially Dean’s biggest challenge.
“I learned while at P&G that building a brand from scratch requires a ton of money. When P&G launched Swiffer in 2002,” he says, “their marketing budget in year one was $100 million.”
So, the first time he was interviewed on Fox & Friends in September 2018, he brought in some socks and handed them around, including giving a pair to Pete Hegseth, one of the show’s hosts – who wore them the second time Dean appeared on the program the following year for Small Business Saturday.
Pete gave his on-air testimonial without being prompted, “They’re my favorite pair!” he said, and then began asking Dean questions about how and where they were made.
“And that,” says Dean, “is when sales at our e-comm store exploded. It was like an earthquake hit. It was amazing!” (View the show clip.)
Today, the company directly employs 11 people, mostly in sales, marketing, and customer service. Dean’s goal is to double the business.
As part of his mission to make a difference and give back, Authentically American intentionally donates 10% of profits to Veteran and First Responder charities as a way to honor our American heroes.
“The journey has been great,” says Dean. “I’m able to live to my priorities: God, family, and country, and make a huge difference in so many people’s lives.”
SPECIAL OFFER for Keep It Made USA readers!
Dean is offering his personal Founder’s Discount. Purchase your Authentically American items and use the discount code FOUNDER to get 25% off your total purchase (one-time purchase only).
Use Dean’s special Founder’s Shop Link (non-affiliate).
Or, visit the Authentically American website at: www.authenticallyamerican.us
I’m not paid nor asked to write about Made in the USA products or the companies that make them. Any links or videos in this piece are “free.” My mission is to keep manufacturing jobs stateside and this blog is my way of giving back. We like to think a “small” choice, such as purchasing something made in the US by American workers, won’t make a difference. It does.