I’m delighted to have a guest author today! David Jester, author of the BDN blog, To New England…and Beyond, and firefighterwithapen, shares a frustration that anybody whose body isn’t a clothing industry standard shape and size, and who has tried to find clothing that looks good and fits well, understands.
Men’s big and tall
– by David Jester
I have grown since I was 18 years old. I was a lanky, gaunt teenager, and stayed this way for most of my teen years. The one thing that hasn’t changed is my height; I have remained 6’ 4” in stature. I may fluctuate in weight, but I stay pretty athletic. In other words, I am not thin, nor am I large. Why does this matter, you ask? Why should you care about my body size? Because I am about to take you down the rabbit hole of mens clothing.
In 1999 I attended the University of Maine in Orono. I was as tall then as I am today, and was 175 pounds. Excited about joining the ranks of the adult world—or so I perceived—I needed a new wardrobe. Fresh off summer vacation, and with cash in my pockets from that post high school job, I hit the mall and surfed all the stores, hungry to find my own identity through fashion.
17 years later, and I still have some of those clothes. Really, I do. Some hit the rag pile, some disintegrated from too many washes, others, well, lets just say, at the time I didn’t know you shouldn’t put wool sweaters in the dryer…on high…for an hour. Whatever the reasons, some vanished, and others, they are still with me today. And those that survived fit me better than newer clothing today.
Finding clothes has become a trying task. It has become this daunting trial to discover a clothing line that fits a tall man, or is made for an ADULT male—I know, first world problems. Let me elaborate. Men’s clothing today has shrunk. The categories for mens jeans are typically, “slim, skinny, ultra slim, tapered slim, and relaxed.” When I am lucky to find relaxed sizes, they might as well be loose burlap sacks tied to each leg. There seems to be very little in-between. When did men become so thin, that the only option is slim or skinny? What about the rest of us with meat on our bones?
Pants used to be sized according to the actual mens waist size, that is not always true anymore. There is no rhyme or reason to it. If you’ve had a pair of 36 waist jeans for years in a specific brand, try on the same brand and size today, because in all likelihood, they are larger than they used to be. In other words our wastes are growing, and the manufacturers acknowledge that, but don’t want us to feel self conscious. So, they just pad the number a little bit.
Some clothing companies have taken notice. Lines that cater toward an adult male—in fashion and size—overtly advertise this in their description of their clothing. One clothing company describes their jeans as, “The fit is designed for a man’s frame.” While this is very exciting that a company recognizes not all men are twigs, one other component is usually lacking, the inseam.
As if it isn’t difficult enough, then you cut me off at the hem. Most clothing magazines have begun offering 32” standard on pants, with no other options. So I am stuck with high waters or tight pants. This does not bode well for tall men. And these are just pants.
Shirts have shrank, sweaters are shorter, and sleeves are catastrophically impotent. I put on a sweater from 1999 the other day. It is a Large. The sweater is long, covering my torso, and the sleeves go to the middle of my hands— in other words, it still fits. I recently tried on a new XL sweater from the same company, and the sleeves are too short, and it is no where close to fitting—imagine sausage casing. So what, just buy the next size up. Right?
This is where it gets odd, becomes frustrating. The jump between XL and XXL is staggering. It is like a black hole, a vortex. The article of clothing swallows the body, leaving no discernible shape. I am awash in a see of flannel, adrift in an ocean of chambray. Again, when sizing my shirts, I fit into a Large chambray shirt I purchased in the early 2000s, yet those sold today are so petite, I look like Lou Ferrigno turning green—you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Let me impart a lesson to the tall man, who is in search of clothing that fits him. Go for classic looks, not current trends and fashion, we are doomed in that category. If you find what fits you, and you like it, buy as many as you can, because you will probably never find it again. I horde pants in my closet, jeans fill drawers, and shirts are neatly folded on shelves. The tall mans curse, I can reach anything on the top shelf, but my shirts can’t reach my wrist.