One hundred years ago this month, Henry Ford shocked the business world with his decision to pay his workers $5 an hour and limit their work day to eight hours. At the time, nine-hour days were standard and the average wage was just $2.40 per hour.
But Ford was radically automating his operation, which (a) made the work far more tedious and (b) greatly increased the number of cars he could produce, which in turn meant he also needed to figure out some way to manufacture more buyers. His solution was the $5 per hour wage. It made a boring assembly line job tolerable and also turned Ford employees into potential Ford customers. (The Model T cost $440 at the time.)
What does this have to do with Michael Bastian? In a 2009 NYT piece, Bastian exclaimed, "I can't even afford my own clothes." Two years later, Esquire reported that "Bastian found that he often couldn't afford to buy his own clothes."
In this month's Details, however, we see evidence that maybe the economic outlook really is improving, and not just for Chinese robots. Here's Bastian on what he looks for in gym shorts: "I have a hard time finding gym shorts that aren't too long or baggy or over logo-ed, so I really like the fleece ones we make in our own line."
How this news failed to make it into President Obama's State of the Union address we can't explain. But once again, America is a place where designers can afford to buy their own clothes! In our own bid to make 2014 a "year of action," we are following Bastian's lead, giving ourselves raises, and buying ourselves cashmere belts.