Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Sign of the Times

Every now and then, I venture out to go shopping at mainstream chain clothing stores.  Although I find it onerous, there are certain things I can't get at thrift stores.  For example, I can never find nice jeans.

The last time I set foot in these stores was about two years ago.  It was tough to find pants my size at that time-- many stores simply didn't sell pants with a 30 inch waist.  This year, it was even harder, since some of the stores that formerly carried 30W pants no longer did.  I managed to find my usual 30W 30L size in two stores, but I had a bizarre experience in both cases.   I put them on, and they were falling off my waist.  Since my waist size hasn't changed in two years, and my old 30W 30L pants of the same brand still fit the same as they did when I bought them two years ago, I have to conclude that both stores have changed their definition of "30 inches".  My new size is 28W 30L, which is tough to find these days.

I know women's clothing has been doing this for a long time, but the difference is that men's clothing is ostensibly sized in inches, an actual objective unit, rather than an arbitrary number like women's clothing.  

I have naturally thin hips, but they aren't abnormally thin.  I have no trouble finding pants that fit in France for example.  In the US, leanness is no longer normal in the statistical sense.  Clothing companies are adapting to this new reality.

77 comments:

stefan said...

Esquire did a story on this last year.

Paleo Phil said...

My experience is similar. I buy 32-32 size pants with a "classic"/"straight-leg" fit, but the last couple manufacturers that were still selling those largely discontinued the narrower sizings in my area, so I basically have to buy whatever's left that fits, regardless of price, if I'm to have any pants at all (short of paying a tailor, which I expect I'll eventually have to do). It used to be easy to find many pants in my size years ago. Americans must be getting fatter and fatter.

Burn said...

I have such a hard time finding clothes to fit me... When I was in Italy last year, everything fit me like a glove, it was amazing. Damn obesity epidemic.

Melissa said...

You should shop at American Apparel. I wear a medium there and everywhere else I wear a S or XS. Of course then you have to tolerate AA's hipster garbage.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

I wear Levis 514 slim cords 31/32 ordered directly from Levis. They seem to run pretty true and are pretty high quality. Basically the same pants I wore in high school in 1977 with a bit lower waist.

However, a few times I've tried to order slacks - cords, chinos or jeans - from mail order outfits that market to an older demographic- the Tommy Bahama age range of say, 40 to 60. Orvis, LL Bean, etc.

These pants usually have 32w as the smallest nominal size and even if I try that size, they are as much as 2 inches large in the waist.

Speaking of Tommy Bahama, see the hilarious bits in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Russell Brand is slagging on the Tommy Bahama shirt she gives him in the movie. Wine splashes on the front of the shirt...

"Oh no! Not the Tommy Bahama!..."

LMAO

Long before I saw the movie I would see all these 60 year old guys in those gaudy shirts. I told my wife:

"That shirt was invented and sells like hotcakes specifically to hide the abdominal fat of golf-playing older americans who are ALL TOO FREAKING FAT to wear tucked in sport shirts anymore."

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

Forgot to mention Patagonia.

Started out marketing to climbers in the early 80s.

I would wear L or XL in jackets and shirts 15 years ago. Now it must be M to fit me and I am bigger in the chest and shoulders than I was back then.

Rudolf Wegener said...

Huh. I mostly hear complains like these from obese folk. They whine that clothes are getting tighter and smaller every year - when they are actually getting fatter.

That said, where I live, clothe shops also cater to anorexics it seems, I have no trouble finding pants that are waaayy too small/tight for me. And I have 32 inch waist..

Ashley said...

My fiance is in the same boat. He's 6'1", so finding the 29 x 34 is very hard. BUT - we have had success at American Eagle Outfitters. Hope that helps.

Jamie Scott said...

I feel your pain, Stephan. Trying to find jeans that cater to narrow waists, and a cyclists/weight lifters butt and quads is damn near impossible, particularly with the current skinny leg fashion. I'd normally take a 32W, although in recent times 32's hang off me, but I can forget trying to get my arse and legs in a 30. G-Star Raw do a nicely cut Radar Low loose, which I find a good fit. And I just have to suck it up with dress pants and be aware of the fact that I have limited movement when wearing them!

Ordering cycling clothes from the U.S. invariably sees me ordering either a small and occasionally (if available), xs. Many of the women who order through the States (athletic women at that), take a size 0. Crazy.

taw said...

It's just as bad in UK.

American Apparel (for hipsters) and Uniqlo (for Japanese people) are the only two chains that sell well fitting clothes for healthy-sized people. Everywhere else it's only baggy clothes.

It's not as bad with pants which have double sizing so I can get W32 L34, for tall people like me it's far worse with single sized items like tshirts and hoodies where I'd need "length L, width S/XS" for something that fits well. Most M just feels horribly baggy, and occasionally I've seen some S tshirts that were way too big.

Princess Dieter said...

Well, vanity sizing for women is nuts. I remember what sizes were at what weights back in teh day (40 years ago, 30 years ago), and it's definitely changed.

Men's: Since ditching gluten and going organic and more veggies/fruitss, hubby has ditched fat. His waist is now 31. He wears shirts in small. He has trouble finding stuff to wear. He's tall 6'1, and he fits back in his high school tees (the ones he saved). But shopping means he has to hunt down 31w/32 or 34L pants (he's got long legs).

Yes, lean is not the norm.

Whereas for me (121 lbs lighter), finding stuff in "large" is easy. I can shop normally...when as an obese woman, shopping in normal stores just didn't happen. Now, Sports Authority and I can be pals.:D

Happy pants-finding.

kkrev said...

The web is littered with complaints from lean guys in decent shape saying they can't find pants that fit. See styleforum. I've a 31" waist, lift heavy, and cannot get pants that fit both the waist and thighs/ass. Apparently if you have a 31" waist you must be a scrawny "slim fit" twink. The only solution seems to be a tailor.

This pants complaint is now common enough that I think a niche web retail opportunity might exist. It's interesting to hear pants in France might fit. I already pay an extra $25 to get the waist taken in. Might as well pay an extra $35 for a pair that fit in the first place.

For jeans the best solution I have found is levis 501 shrink to fit. Buy them just a tad loose at the waist and then shrink them down with hot water and the dryer so they fit everywhere.

RobR said...

@Kurt

For fun involving Tommy Bahama shirts watch the first two episodes of this seasons "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".

WoLong said...

Like Kurt above, I also wear Levi's 514 slim fit 30/32. My wife does the shopping for me and she does complain that it's difficult to find my size and so if she does find them, she'd buy a few pairs at once. But there's no way to find proper dress pants here in Canada, so I do that while I'm in Europe or Asia.

Alex said...

You guys just aren't looking in the right place. The right place is the internet. Bonobos makes pretty good pants and they have a ton of stuff in a 28 waist:
http://www.bonobos.com/pants-shorts?pants_size_numeric_waist=185
Outlier makes stuff for a different kind of hipster, the rich hipster. Their pants are phenomenally expensive but very well made and they come in all kinds of skinny sizes. They are also waterproof, stretchy, non-iron and totally impossible to stain. They last forever I have two pairs and I wear them far more than anything else I own, almost every day actually. Website here:
http://shop.outlier.cc/shop/

I've always thought of myself as a skinny guy, but conversations like this remind me of how big I actually am. Paleo has brought me from a 38 to a 35 waist, and I don't think I'm going to get any skinnier. When I lived in Brooklyn I could never find pants that fit me.

Chuck said...

@kkrev

i have the same problem. i can find something that fits in the waist but it is always tight in the butt/thigh/crotch region. it almost seems normally proportioned people are going to have to get csutom clothes made.

Stephen said...

Try Lands' End.

You can order up clothes in any size (true size) you need.

Clumsy Coyote said...

I've had the same experience with jeans. Any brand of 30x32 jeans seems to flucuate in fit for me. 28s fit me for some brands, but not for others. My big complaint is the sizing for t-shirts. I use to where mediums comfortably, but a couple of years ago a tried by mediums, and had to take them back because I was swimming in them they were so big. Now I have to wear small. Buying small doesn't make me feel very manly.

Paul said...

I shop in the female section of acne. :D
They fit perfect on me!

Topman, H&M and youth clothes in general look so much better and are very affordable.

Jack said...

I also wear 30/30. Ross and Kohls. Game Over.

-Jack Kronk

Aaron Blaisdell said...

This is why I love clothes shopping in Hong Kong. Cheaper clothes and designed to fit me perfectly.

bentleyj74 said...

Welcome to the party! It only matters if you want your pants to be flattering :P. You can get pants that are baggy, saggy, ill fitting, and poorly cut with shoddy fabric just about anywhere.

spughy said...

Learn to sew - or hook up with a partner who can already do it :-)

Men at least have the advantage of more uniform body morphology than women, with fewer indents and bulges (sorry, "curves"). When you take into account breast, waist, and hip differences and then add in overall height difference, and proportional (leg, back) lengths - it's a miracle any woman every finds any clothes that fit.

I alter nearly every piece of clothing I buy. And I have to alter every pair of pants or skirt purchased for my daughter, too. I am so, so thankful I learned how to sew - it's one of those "old-fashioned" skills that saves you TONS of money over the course of your life.

Unfortunately, jeans are one of those things that are really hard to alter - but there are some tricks you can do.

chargrill said...

Same here. Though since I've recently lost weight, I hate to think what my waist used to actually measure. It seems at Banana Republic my size is 29x30, while at Gap (owned by the same company!) I need a 28x30. Very frustrating, given that I was recently measured for a tux as still having a 30" waist...

mccollums said...

Having the same problem. This summer I needed to buy shorts and I ended shopping at Pac Sun. I'm 38, and it's funny that I have to shop in a store that targets 14-18 year olds.

I ended up loving the shorts though.. light and thin - perfect for summer.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

Echoing Jamie and others here, I would point out that I wear 31/32 with a BELT.

My actual waist size measures about 29 1/2. ALL pants that fit well at the waist are too tight in the thighs, even though I am not a cyclist with classically large quads.

I think this is part of having a physiologically normal body habitus with little visceral fat and a relatively favorable hip to wast ratio.

I would speculate that even the small waist pants are optimized more for a skinny-fat vegan hipster than for someone with a healthy fat distribution.

They are not going to make their master templates by recruiting from the local crossfit box, are they?

Once again I refer you to "forgetting sarah marshall"

Russell Brand is seen shirtless in a sarong. He has skinny thighs but his waist is bigger than his hips (love handles) and he has that typical "soft" look that skinny fat vegans have, with no muscle definition. Also has subtle man-titties. Soy, anyone?

I believe he is a vegan, in fact.

The other solution, which I have used successfully and is easily learned, is to hand sew darts next to the rear belt loops of jeans or cords. Then you have pant that do not expose your ass crack, yet you can sit down in them without ripping a seam....

Deirdre said...

From a public health perspective, vanity sizing is a dangerous trend. Two-thirds of the adults in this country are overweight or obese, and I would imagine that to most of them, the scale is not their friend. So instead, many people use their clothes sizes to monitor their weight.

But it's more than just that. Because the accumulation of abdominal fat increases our risk of heart disease, it's important that we have an honest perspective of our waist circumference - especially if it's growing. If manufacturers keep moving the goal posts on waist sizes to "flatter" consumers into buying their brands, it could unknowingly be putting them at risk.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

Just like to say I for one am enjoying turning a science blog into "Hints from Heloise"

d said...

Ha! I work in an ER, and I can tell you orthopedic supplies no longer fit today's population either. Rocket socks for ankle sprains fit athletes, nobody else. Knee immobilizers fit athletes, nobody else. Fitting people for crutches, forget it. Most are too fat and immobile to be able to use them. Even our wheelchairs are all extra huge sized. The family chairs in the patient rooms are double sized as well. We routinely can not send patients through the MRI (Cue Dr. Harris) because they are over 350lbs, same for many CT scans. We also have a special bariatric ambulance. It's really getting ridiculous.

Roberto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bentleyj74 said...

Any movie that casts Jason Segel as the average Joe and Rusell Brand as the sexy hipster rockstar...opposite Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis of course...knows who it's audience is :)

Roberto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberto said...

"He has skinny thighs but his waist is bigger than his hips (love handles) and he has that typical "soft" look that skinny fat vegans have, with no muscle definition. Also has subtle man-titties. Soy, anyone?"

Hmm. That looks must have evolutionary advantages in a reproductive sense. He has probably lost count of the drop dead gorgeous women he slept with before he married Katy Perry (AKA Venus incarnate).

But I bet he'd trade it all to be an obsessive-compulsive orthorexic with a waist thinner than his hips though.

bentleyj74 said...

"Hmm. That looks must have evolutionary advantages in a reproductive sense. He has probably lost count of the drop dead gorgeous women he slept with before he married Katy Perry (AKA Venus incarnate)."

So the evolutionary advantage then presumably is that unattractive men can sleep with attractive women if they are wealthy and especially witty. Thanks for the newsflash ;p

bentleyj74 said...

Here's an example of a guy with the same unfortunate body shape as Russell Brand who actually did something about it and looks just fine and dandy now [through diet and excercise...psssst I hear he's a crossfitter]

Maybe he'll tell us where he buys his pants?

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0391326/

MaryS said...

I have had the same experience as Dr. Harris and Jamie that clothing is not designed for people with favorable body comp.

I am tall and thin (5'8", 130), but my thighs and rear end still do not fit into size 0 or 2 pants that fit my waist. What can I say, I really like squatting. Banana Republic has a cut of pants for 'curvy women' that I can wear in the smallest size possible.

Travis Culp said...

Same here; I too would usually wear a 30x30 but have to dip into the 20s now. My actual waist measured in the correct place under the ribs is 27", though my hips where my pants actually sit (and should sit for most in this century) is 32". Because pants have moved off of the waist and onto the hips, I suppose the measurement is inaccurate in the other direction. I'll have to actually measure some of my pants at home with a tailor's tape and see.

beanathlete said...

Funny, my major objection is shirt sizes. I like a fitted look - but it's hard because smalls end up being short, while mediums have a better length but don't fit as well through the chest and shoulders.

DogwoodTree05 said...

Had no idea that vanity sizing was distorting men's clothing, too. I am the same height and weight I was in high school back in the early 80s: 5'3" and 116 lbs. Back then I bought mostly size 7-8s. Now it's mostly 4s and increasingly 2s in brands that cater to middle-aged women.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

I agree with beanathelete's comment about shirt sizes. Shirts from Hong Kong (where my wife is from) fit me well around the chest and shoulders (I guess it's the Asian part of my Caucasian heritage showing through), but the sleeves are too short. I rarely buy long-sleeved shirts in the US, however, because they tend to be too baggy on me.

Darya Pino said...

This explains why I wear the same size now as I did when I was 11. Obviously I'm not the same size as I was then.

Something I've found even more disturbing is that I can't find underwear that fit except in Victoria's Secret's kid store, Pink. And even there I'm still an extra small, and I do not lack curves. Makes me feel totally weird to shop there, but I don't see any other choice.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

@MaryS

My wife favors Athleta pants for the same reasons.

Sanjeev said...

the men with tiny waists and huge glutes (mine are from deadlifting, which precludes the tiny waist) and quads (15 years of hard cycling) should try REI and look for the gusseted jeans.

Kuhl are great, I really don't like a drawstring on my jeans otherwise I would wear gramiccis.

All that is a stopgap though ... we should all all out paleo.

Loincloths all around. We could use the hides of the animals Sisson kills for his protein powder ; ) ... real paleo man used the entire animal after all, so it's a shame to see those protein powder-denuded hides go into the garbage.

Mark could expand the "Grok" like with the "Stephan" line.

Sanjeev said...

> we should all all out paleo

We should all go all out paleo.

(except for some of those really, really pale Brits ; )

(And the TV repair guys (and gals, we're equal opportunity groksters here) )

Joe Villa said...

Hey Stefan,

I just went from a 36 to a 34. Stop depresseing me!!!

Marc Brazeau said...

I've tried to get in the habit of saying "healthy weight" rather than "normal" and obviously "average weight" has a different meaning and connotation these days.

Morris said...

@all
I would appreciate comments from the posters here who are oviously not overweight on their caloric intake ie not on a reducing diet. My average intake is 27Kcal/kg (50kcal/lb). I am weight stable male at BMI 22 (never >23). My clothing size has shrunk from medium to small overn the years with some mismatch in shoulder/chest vs waist fit. BTW I have experimented with caloric intake up to 80% higher over a short time (1 month) with very small weight (fat)change.

Deirdre said...

Strange detour. Looking forward to returning to all things neuro ...

Johannah said...

It would be nice to have such problems.

Homer said...

There should be truth in labeling. If a pair of pants is size 32 it should measure 32 not 33, 34 (Brooks Brothers, Lucky Brand) or 35. I should not have to carry a tape measure with me. And shirts should not be tents (Brooks Brothers).

Ned Kock said...

I have the same problem, and found a solution at Academy.

Unknown said...

My W30 size was a problem until I went to Banana Republic. They carry actual size W28-30 on many styles of pants online. They have "slim fit" and "regular fit." Shirts are not tents. Decent quality and prices with traditional yet updated styles. Highly recommended.

/\/\ikeB said...

Totally feel your pain Stephen. I'm also a 30x30, although sometimes I find the 28Wx30L fit me fine these days (but I've gained weight in the past year?). Its even hard to find 30x30 in Mountain Equipment Co-op, here in Canada. And Mountain Equipment co-op caters to more outdoursy, fitness-oriented-type customers.

Sanjeev said...

> hard to find 30x30 in Mountain Equipment Co-op
_______
The only place that seems to carry gusseted pants in Canada, but yeah I had this identical conversation a week ago, i was looking for 30x34

"you're all out of this ... "

"We don't stock much that small"

"uhh ... seriously? It's not like your average customer is a Walmart customer from Houston ..."

He put it down to a comfort thing, even those who should get a small going for large because they think it's more comfortable to carry around the extra baggage

Stabby said...

So true, I'm 30x30 and it isn't impossible to find pants in Canada, but it seriously reduces the selection.

That's why we must fight. We must fight for reasonable pants-sizes to be the norm, and we must tackle the problem at the knees. Right behind ya, Capt!

Sara said...

are we talking about CLOTHES? Woohoo! All that science stuff is too much thinking sometimes. Women's clothing is equally nutty on the sizing. Being in NZ we get imports from all over the place and I can be anything from a '0' to a '12' or 'xs' to 'L' depending on where the clothes come from. Singapore is the most depressing place to shop, for the opposite reason to your issue. As I'm a giant there (5ft 3), they usually take one look at me and say 'ah, extra large'. You should make a trip with an empty suitcase and stock up for the rest of your life.

lindagdd said...

This is seriously one good..

Zetia Drug

Pieter said...

Ooh, try to find a 31 (32 will do mostly) width and a 36 in length! Not that easy. G-star usually has got some. And I agree with Kurt Harris: some pants are too wide around the hips, but too tight around the quadriceps! Who can fit those??

AaronF said...

Yeah, try hunting down 30Wx32L or even 34L. I have always been skinny but am a little less lean than I used to be. Last time I went to GAP I had to get the 29x32 Skinny Leg cut. The 30W were falling off. WTF?

Sara said...

To continue this interesting discussion.. I understand that when you are giving something an arbitrary value like 'Small' or 'Medium' that this might change. But surely 33 inches is INCHES. It says something about the psychology of overweight that manufacturers choose to lie to their customers (no, really, you are smaller than you think..). Maybe a customer would be inclined to buy from a company that tells them they are not fat. It's not how fat you are that matters, it's being able to say 'I'm wearing a 33 inch'. So you buy from the company that calls you skinny.

Donald Kjellberg said...

After losing 130 pounds and getting tired of thrift store pants, I stopped by my local Levi's jaunt. I managed to pick up 3 pair of 514 selvedge jeans.

They are TTS, dark indigo, and fit and look great! I would try a few pair of selvedge if you can. They are better quality denim made on looms built in the 1950s (we shipped them to Japan after WWII).

I got mine for 50% off since the store is going out of business. I am afraid that selvedge has me spoiled and I won't be going back to regular jeans in the foreseeable future (which reminds me of your OP shopping experience).

IMHO, You are better off paying a premium for high quality denim that will bring you many years of satisfaction than purchasing what is sold as jeans these days.

Good luck

Alan said...

buying clothes off-the-rack in Singapore? But tailor-made is sooo cheap!


Just be sure to get away from the tourist strips and head out to a local's residential neighborhood.

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comrade_stalin said...

28W 30L? That's awesome!

It clearly indicates you have single digit body fat percentage.

Your personal accomplishments greatly enhances your credibility.

It would be nice if you would provide your readers a description of your personal diet and exercise regime.

ivat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ivat said...

I can't get too concerned over the difficulties the slim bloggers and nutritional types, the types who these days are suggesting we eat more potatoes, have in finding pants that fit. But measure the trousers with a tape measure and I suspect they'll be the size it says on the label: otherwise the label would be illegal.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

"I can't get too concerned over the difficulties the slim bloggers and nutritional types, the types who these days are suggesting we eat more potatoes, have in finding pants that fit. But measure the trousers with a tape measure and I suspect they'll be the size it says on the label: otherwise the label would be illegal."

So you are saying we are not credible because we are slim.

In fact, we are so non-credible that we are actually really as fat as our pants say we are.....

And our tape measures are less accurate than our pants labels..... Because it is ILLEGAL to mislabel pants...

That's hilarious!

ivat said...

I took the precaution, before I made my last post, of measuring my trousers and jeans, which are size 36. Some are tight on me and some are loose, so I was surprised to find they all measured precisely 36 inches after all. I don't know how that works, but it's a phenomenon I suspect may be at work in the matter of Stephan's complaint.

On the other hand, when it comes to science, at least, both you and Stephan are laudably keen on careful trials and the objective interpretation of evidence, and so I don't rule out the possibility that deliberate mislabeling is going on in America. I can't see how that would work to the manufacturers' advantage, however; for a start, it would make buying clothes online impossible.

On potatoes, you are both credible. So much so that I introduced them to my diet for a spell, only for a rapid weight rise to ensue. To be fair, in our response to food, we are all different; but there's no glycaemic index for trousers--inches in = inches out.

Exceptionally Brash said...

DH used to go to the big and tall stores, but somewhere along the way they turned into stores that carried clothing only for men who were big AND tall. In order to get a shirt where the sleeves actually went to his wrists, he had to settle for the shirts ballooning out at the waist. That's when he started buying the "European" cut at the more expensive boutique stores.

bound4er said...

I have a tough time finding pants to fit me too - my waist is 32" and my inseam is 35". Most of the time I have to special order from online retailers.

Ron Kelley said...

Dr. Harris - Can you be any more clever? Comment gold. I love it when you come up for air to write. Your wit is just as valuable as your dietary advice.

musclegeek said...

Go to Express. All their cloths are geared towards thinner males. And the sales are usually pretty awesome. I'll get a handfull of t-shirts at a sale for 3 bucks each.

Peter said...

Living in the Northeast US (where social norms are more weight conscious than other areas of the US) I'm built like a high school student rather than a middle-aged man.
When I go to France, Belgium, or the Netherlands, I no longer feel unusually skinny. I also really like their food. Go figure.
I wear Gap jeans, "1969" style, 30x32. They fit perfectly.

J said...

Check out Mountain Khakis. A little more pricey, but built for distance.

Unknown said...

Just yesterday I went to buy a running hacket/hoody online. So, normally, I am a "Small" (which is already a little ludicrous considering that I'm 5'9 and weigh in the 130s). This being a virtual purchase,though, I went ahead and checked out the manufacturer's size chart and discovered that their "Small" is actually an estimated size 6-8. Huh: according to that, I would need to buy "X-Small." I am slim, but not mini!

So what do the actually little people out there buy??? Kid's clothes???

I don't mind being smaller than everyone else -- I don't care, really -- but what really annoys me is that if I grow, the clothing industry will not be helping me realize it! I noticed today that I can roll down the top of my 27 jeans -- but maybe that's because they are fake 27s...

tk said...

it's hapenning at the upper range of clothes, too. in the last 12 months, my waist has stayed the same size, 44 in, but my pant size dropped to 42, then 40, in the same style of Levi's jeans.

I just measured the waist of my jeans, directly out of the dryer. 44".

buddyglass said...

On the plus side, you can probably get your pants really cheap. Whenever I shop in the "clearance" section it's almost entirely populated by "really small" or "really big" sizes.