Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vanity Sizing

The other day we visited some friends that were having a garage sale. My buddy’s wife had ransacked his closet and had a lot of very nice clothes out for sale. Figuring that I would get the friends and family discount, I dived right in. It was at that moment that I discovered perhaps the most disturbing and diabolical issue facing America today.

I was amazed by the variety of different brands of clothing that they were selling. It became obvious that our friends shop for clothes at higher-end retailers than I do. I get all my clothes from Costco and Target. This was my chance to score some good quality clothing at rock-bottom prices! The problem arose with the sizing.

The pants were OK, because all pants are sized in inches with a waist measurement and an inseam measurement. I know my numbers for those. I wish I could buy my pants as “large” or “XL,” but I understand the need for having a true measurement system, what with all the short, fat men and the tall, skinny men, and the short, skinny men, and the medium-sized slightly overweight men out there. The waist/leg discrepancies are widely varied.

Men’s torsos, on the other hand, come in six general sizes. Small, medium, large, XL, 2XL, and NFL linebacker. If you want to, you can get a lot more refined than that if you are shopping at one of those stores that have people that actually help you. They have shirts that use numbers, just like the pants. Shirts that are only sized in numbers might seem like a logical way to go for all shirts, but that would really be adding unnecessary complication. I would then have to remember my shirt numbers. I think I’m a 46 with a 17 neck, but I’m not really sure. Long or regular? Come on! I already have to remember my pant numbers, as well as my address, my zip code, and my phone numbers. That is plenty. I can’t have my life get any more complicated.

I wear an XL shirt, and I have since high school. Up until this point, if the shirt said XL, it fit me just fine. Not so, however, with the higher-end shirts at the garage sale. I pulled out one of my buddy’s golf shirts that had “L” on the collar. Normally I would have passed it right by, but it looked like the right size. Sure enough, it fit great. Hmm… That’s weird. I pulled out another one that said “XL” on the collar. Normally I would have bought it without trying it on, because I am a man, and we don’t like trying on clothes. This XL, however, looked more like a medium to me. I pulled it on over my t-shirt and sure enough, it was tiny.

I remarked at how small the “XL” was, accusing them of selling it because they had accidentally shrunk it in the wash, when I was corrected and told that it was actually a result of vanity sizing.

Vanity sizing!?! For a men’s golf shirt!?! Come on! For dudes?

As limited as my fashion knowledge is, I have actually heard of vanity sizing for women, and in their case, I can almost understand it, based on their seemingly endless preoccupation with their dress size. They don’t seem to mind that they are anywhere from a size 2 to 14 depending on the brand. That is probably due to the fact that they love to try on clothes. Men, on the other hand, do not love to try on clothes. We don’t even like to try on clothes. Actually, we hate to try on clothes. We don’t even like being in the store.

I don’t even understand the concept of vanity sizing with men’s clothes, since apparently, the change in sizing goes both ways. Some companies are catering to men who want to seem smaller than they really are. We will call that group the wo-men. Others brands are catering to men who want to pretend they’re bigger than they really are. We’ll call them the gro-men.

This must end. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you corporate clothing company executives in charge of this sort of thing, I implore you, please stop. Whatever small percentage of wo-men and gro-men are out there that you are trying to garner favor with by messing around with sizes in some crazy plan to stroke their egos by making them feel either smaller or bigger than they really are, you need to think about the rest of us. The rest of us are actually grown men, and as I’ve stated, we hate trying on clothes.

We had a deal. We expect a “large” from your company to be the exact same size as a “large” from your competitor. We expect to be able to buy shirts and jackets out of catalogs and online, because we are not always near a Cabela’s or an L.L.Bean. We expect to be able to take a blue shirt off the rack, because we need a new blue shirt, and if the tag says “XL,” to be able to proceed immediately to the register and buy it in order to get out of the department store as fast as possible. If the sleeves are a little longer or shorter than our other shirts, we’re willing to live with that in exchange for not having to go into a dressing room and try it on. Provided, that is, that you kept up your end of the bargain and made the torso part of the shirt the size you said you did.

The common sizing rules are what knits this country together. When you start messing around with that covenant so some yahoo can feel good about buying one size smaller or larger than he actually should for some God-only-knows-why idiotic reason, the system starts to unravel. Darn it, if you keep this up, the very fabric of our society will be hanging by a thread! (Note to the general public – Sorry for all the clothing-related puns there, but I was trying to use language that fashion people would relate to. It seamed like a good idea at the time.)

Maybe, instead of punishing the rest of us by messing around with the sizes, you could keep the sizes the same and market a high-priced line of fake size labels that these ridiculous hyphen-men could iron into the collars of their shirts. You could market these tags in whatever magazines these wo-men and gro-men read. I’m assuming Vogue and Soldier of Fortune, respectively, would be a good start.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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