On Ethical Consumption. Or: what Made in America means

Seth and I had the extreme discomfort of being in Las Vegas a few weeks back. We immediately sought out the nearest Harley and escaped into the surrounding deserts to make these videos.

Seth and I had the extreme discomfort of being in Las Vegas a few weeks back. I hate Vegas. Sorry, World, I’m just not a Vegas girl. So, we immediately sought out the nearest Harley dealer, rented a bike and escaped into the surrounding deserts to make these videos.

Custom Leather Briefcase: How to Make them Last Longer then You.

Custom Leather Passport Wallet: Gorgeous and Functional.

Slim Leather Card Wallet: Super Tough and Just the Right Size

Custom Leather Wallet: For the Dudes Only

Unfortunately, for you all – the man is not for sale. But you can find his goodies here on Beauty and the Biker’s Etsy shop. We’re working on a ladies’ line. Stay tuned for that.


This morning I got up an hour or so earlier than normal, wondering what “Made in America” really means. I got dressed, made coffee and went out to the cars to look for the thermos I’ve been using for coffee this winter– found it for $1.99 at the thrift store. Totally bit it on the ice instead. One of those slow motion falls, where you know it’s coming, but you do all those fancy dance moves to prolong the idiocy keep from falling.

Thermos wasn’t in the car anyway. But my sweatshirt was. A black American Apparel hoodie. Made in America. Hmm.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Made in America or Made in USA means lately. Why made in America matters to me. Why made in America matters to so many of you. And what I’ve come up with is nothing new. There’s this idea of “Ethical Consumption” or “Conscious Consumption.” The idea of voting with your dollars. It’s an arranged marriage between conspicuous consumption (buying things as outward indicators of your status) and concsious consumption (the idea that resources are scarce and we need to be as mindful as possible when we consume them).

Typically, when people talk about the maker movement and buying local, it’s about buying directly from the person who made the stuff. They made the leather briefcase, you pay them directly. No middlemen… except the banks. But anyway. When you vote with your hard-earned money and buy one of my leather wallets, briefcases, or key chains, made in America by yours truly, it means you’re aware. You care about how you consume.

But I’d like to take it step further. Lost in that is the real truth: Stuff– even if it’s made in America– won’t make you happy. What you do with it will. You’ve worked hard enough, long enough, and smart enough to have bought your share of our awesome consumer-driven economy. And yet, here you are. Reading another blog post on a site that sometimes sells stuff. Looking to fill that hole. It used to be about buying leather goods and other things to show your peers you have arrived. That you are the shit. To show the opposite sex that you were a worthy mate.

But you’ve felt in your gut what researchers have shown in spreadsheets: stuff does not increase happiness. Past a certain, basic, level of stuff-having— enough food to survive, shelter from the elements, and a few creature comforts— marginal increases in self-reported levels of happiness drop significantly. In the US, it’s about $60k in annual income.

So, I’d propose the following: buy less stuff. Sometimes that means you’ll have a bigger up-front cost. Sometimes that means you don’t need that third pair of boots (I’m guilty of that!!). Instead, use your scarce resources and live your life.

How about a specific example.

Made in America: a Leather Briefcase by Beauty and the Biker

A Beauty and the Biker leather briefcase won’t make money appear. It probably won’t get you laid. But it will be the last briefcase you have to buy. So, check that off your mental to-do list… for the rest of your life. Now you can move on to other, more important things. Like spending time with your kids. Or riding your motorcycle. Or getting your better half some flowers. Buying this briefcase won’t make you happy. You know what will? All the things you’ll be able to do now that you never have to worry about your briefcase again.

That’s what Made in America means at Beauty and the Biker.

Don’t try to buy your life; live it.

2 Responses to On Ethical Consumption. Or: what Made in America means
  1. Patty Reply

    Honestly, I hardly stop here to read anymore. So many of the posts are just leather goods and other stuff for sale. I am not a huge consumer. I miss the stories about you and your family…

  2. seth Reply

    Patty- thanks for reading, though! And yeah, there are a couple things involved: one is Alaina is so busy running Cement that she doesn’t have the 2 hours or so it takes to write an interesting post with pictures very often; the other is that Beauty and the Biker is now also the brand for our leather goods. The leather business is growing, and to keep it growing, we have to tell stories about leather. There’ll still be stories about the trials and triumphs of life, the farm, and family (wrote one this morning, actually); there’ll just be stuff about leather goods too. Trying to find a balance.

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