Clothing Makers Sue The Government Over Gender-Based Tariffs

Several clothing makers, including Steve Madden, Asics and Columbia Sportswear are suing the government over discriminatory gender-based tariffs. For example, Congress levies a 28% tariff on men’s bathing suits, but only a 12% tariff on women’s bathing suits.

If the clothing companies prevail, they could reclaim close to $1 billion worth of tariffs based on gender differences. For example, the lawsuit claims that the government earned $2.5 million last year from discriminatory tariffs on underpants (penalizing women), $93 million for cotton shirts (penalizing men), $16 million for silk shirts (penalizing women) and $71 million for shoes with leather tops (women again).

Tariffs are the quiet cousin of taxes; you seldom see a charge for tariffs, though they are factored into the cost of a wide array items manufactured overseas. To make the suit moot, the government may equalize tariffs at the higher level, which would hurt clothing makers and consumers alike. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

In Apparel, All Tariffs Aren’t Created Equal [NYT] (Thanks to Sacha!)
(Photo: huxleyesque)


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  1. KevinQ says:

    My understanding of tariffs is that they’re not generally passed as a whole, but individually as situations arise. This means that there is likely to be a valid reason for each tariff. (If you’re likely to accept a valid reason for any taxation.)

    Moreover, if the tariffs were always one-direction, e.g., always higher on women’s clothes, then there might be a better argument. But since this seems random (overall), they’re unlikely to have a discrimination argument.


  2. Hoss says:

    Sexy subject — but seems to be that tarriffs theoretically are set at a level that balances trade. So probably at one time imported men’s bathing suits were cheaper (versus USA made) than woman’s suits. If they allow an unfairness argument — why not say that bathing suits should not be taxed higher than shirts?

  3. He says:

    Men or women can wear whatever garments they please. It’s simply different styles that are taxed differently. Nothing keeps women from wearing men’s underpants or vice versa.

  4. Lordstrom says:

    Tariffs are just as disgusting as taxes. When tariffs are put on imports, all it does is raise the prices, and the people whom the tariffs are supposed to protect end up paying more anyway.

    Tariffs have always been disasterous and lead to depressions. The McKinley Tariff and Smoot-Hawley are two prime examples.

  5. heller01 says:

    Maybe this will be an excuse for the gov’t to increase the women’s clothing tariff instead, making women’s clothing an even more outrageous price!

  6. asherchang says:

    this doesn’t make any sense…. are they making claims of sexism? it’s not like differences in tarrifs would affect them in any way… unless they want to be able to sell more female bathing suits…

  7. strathmeyer says:

    “To make the suit moot, the government may equalize tariffs at the higher level, which would hurt clothing makers and consumers alike.”

    Or they could equalize tariffs at the lower lover, helping both clothing makers and consumers alike.

    But then everybody would be happy, and why would our government want that?

  8. rugger_can says:

    No, it would hurt female consumers. Women purchase considerably more clothing then men. Because of this higher consumption their is a need to keep prices down so more can be purchased.

    For example explain to me why a pair of ladies jeans can cost 15 dollars and a pair of mens jeans cost 40?

    Because a man will purchase 1 pair on avarage and women will purchase 3.

    I find it funny that the clothing industry would shoot themselves in the foot like this when its done intentionally to keep women purchasing more, If trends where changed that would negitively impact volume of sales thereby upsetting this balance.

    And people always say men have it easy.

  9. SexCpotatoes says:

    THAT’S IT! I’m making all my own clothes from now on!

  10. BareFeet says:

    @rugger_can: 15 dollars for jeans? Oh my god, I wish. Speaking as a lady type, I haven’t been able to find well-tailored, American-made jeans that make my butt look good for under seventy-five bucks in years.

  11. cde says:

    @rugger_can: 40 dollars for jeans? You obviously look at brand names in brand name stores :P A pair of Levi’s at Modell’s or even Marshalls are 20 bucks, sometimes less. Besides, most men’s jeans use more material both in size as well as thickness.

    @BareFeet: Tariffs only apply to foreign made clothes. (Or atleast a full tariff for clothes wholly manufactured outside of the US and any country that does not have a trade agreement that reduces tariffs from that country to 0. There are still a couple of loop holes involving making all but one part of the item and then shipping it as unfinished goods, hence a lower tariff. Prime example, jeans made in Mexico but label Made in the US because they sewed the size label on the US to avoid the finished goods tariff.)

  12. g4lt says:

    Well, when they stabilize retail prices and quality between men and women, I see they might have a point. Failing that, my advice to them is to suck it, since THEY made the problem. I constantly advise my lady friends to get mens socks because they actually tend to last on the average of 10x as long. As far as mens pants being more expensive, yeah right. Mens clothing is invariably cheaper than womens for similar quality items, and in some cases, the gender difference in the clothes themselves is so small as to not be noticeable. For example, precisely what is the difference between a mens T-shirt and a womens? Now look at the pricetags, are they the same? Cry me a fucking river, clothing manufacturers.

  13. For example explain to me why a pair of ladies jeans can cost 15 dollars and a pair of mens jeans cost 40?

    @rugger_can: Because you’re in the wrong store?

    I can’t recall ever getting a pair of jeans for $15.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Insidious protectionism! Who’s letting this stuff through? Next we’ll be coming up with our own version of imperial preference…

    @lorddave: Did you seriously just name-check the Smoot-Hawley Tariff? I think I might love you, in an internet sort of way.

  15. cde says:

    @g4lt: Women t-shirts are cut for boob-age…