A Hundred Low-Wage Jobs Won’t Save Detroit (UPDATED)

shinola shoe polish

When former president Bill Clinton—said to own more than a dozen Shinola watches—dropped by, he propped it up as a homespun model for the rest of the country: “We need more American success stories like Shinola in Detroit,” he said.

[Shinola founder] Kartsotis contemplated buying the dust-coated park, turning it into a model for sustainable living, and using any proceeds to support nearby Native American communities. But as he and his family were packing up to leave, a friend who had caravanned with them made what seemed like an outlandish proposal: “If you want to do something to help,” he said, “you should go to Detroit.”

[Source: The Real History of America’s Most Authentic Fake Brand]

In terms of “taking down” Shinola, this article is interesting for two conspicuous blind spots:

  1. It says nothing about the watches themselves—which watch folk have criticized for years as nothing special.  A decent watch, sure—a solid Swiss movement in a nice Chinese case, assembled in Detroit—and basically worth the money as an intro-level luxury watch, but nothing to shout about, really.
  2. Fully accepting that Shinola founder Kartsotis came to Detroit “to do something to help.”  Shinola pays $12/hr.  While that’s above Michigan’s minimum wage, it still hovers between a living and poverty wage in Detroit.  There are a lot of things an incredibly rich white man could do to “help Detroit.” Adding 100 low-wage jobs is pretty fucking minimal.

shinola knifeIn the interest of full disclosure, I should note that none of this is to say that I’m above the allure: I’ve been walking around with a Shinola(-branded Bear & Sons) pocket knife for a couple years. I’m still a sucker from Metro Detroit; I just have small wrists and a thin wallet.