More Than A T-shirt: UCSB Reads
by Terrenz Vong


The UCSB Reads program has set out to engage students and the Santa Barbara community, for the second year, to address important issues with the help of a selected publication. After UCSB Reads 2007, which brought the community’s attention toward Global Warming, the program focuses on Globalization for 2008. In Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, readers follow the author and her journey in search of the origin of a randomly selected T-shirt. Through this journey Rivoli reflects on historical and political related issues in globalization, through examining “the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade”.

Pietra Rivoli’s search takes her to Texas, where the cotton for her shirt was harvested. As she becomes familiar with the process of cotton production, Rivoli reflects on the history that relates back to slavery and why farmers tend to avoid entering the labor market. From Texas, Rivoli is taken to China, where the cotton is spun into yard, knitted, cut, and eventually made into a T-shirt. Through this process, readers are introduced to factory conditions of workers in Third World countries and how the T-shirt ends up in a used clothing market in Africa. Rivoli also guides us on a tour through the positives and negatives of globalization and how it has kept the United States at the top. Here innovation and creativity became the key to surviving in this industry has technology continuously advances. Rivoli’s T-shirt ends its journey by making its way back to the United States.

The history and politics of following a single T-shirt around the world may sound uninteresting, but The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy is not at all a difficult read. Rivoli makes the trip intriguing by balancing the significant issues, making it easy for anyone to understand. UCSB Reads has the incentive to bring the awareness of globalization to a wide range audience. This book is perfect for achieving just that, especially since many of us never think beyond where our clothing is made. To further emphasize the importance of this book, there are several future events to look out for, including a lecture from the author at Campbell Hall. Readers can also help out by participating in a T-shirt drive held by the library. The collected T-shirts will become part of an art project lead by Kim Yasuda in the near future. Remaining T-shirts will be donated to charity, so clean out your closest and allow others to take this trip.