In Fugitive Denim, Rachel Louise Snyder follows jeans to high-fashion designers in New York, to textile factories in Italy, and all the way to cotton fields in Baku. She explains how pants labeled "Made in Peru" may actually contain cotton from Texas and may have been weaved in North Carolina, cut and sewn in Lima, and washed and finished in Mexico City.
Her book -- subtitled "A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade" -- demonstrates that while it may take a village to raise a child, it takes a world to make a pair of jeans.
Why do so many countries take part in piecing pants? Laws, tariffs, NAFTA -- they all have a part, and Fugitive Denim explains how and why.
Snyder points out that the anti-pollution laws that the industrialized world takes for granted may not be in effect in places like Baku and Cambodia.
While cotton only accounts for about 3 percent of the world's farmland, Snyder notes, it uses 10 percent of the world's pesticides and 25 percent of the world's insecticides. A disease known as byssinosis or "brown lung disease" -- caused by inhaling cotton and dust with all those pesticides -- is just one of many hazards that affect the world's cotton laborers.
But Snyder doesn't merely point out all the negative aspects of the mass manufacturing of the world's favorite trousers. In her book, you meet some of the amazing people who make our pants. You meet the women of Baku who do all the cotton picking because there it's considered "women's work." You meet a couple, textile manufacturers in Italy, who are struggling to care for their expanding family while having to accept the fact that their trade will soon move to China. Finally, you meet a disabled seamstress in Cambodia fighting to unionize her fellow laborers. Fugitive Denim isn't just a book about the ills of global trade; it's a book about the people behind the pants.