Fear of the Fat Man’s Pants

by Bill Brenner on September 9, 2010

The Esquire Magazine Style Blog has a fascinating read on pant sizes that brings back a lot of fat guy memories. And though I’m not nearly as heavy as I was at the height of my binge-eating disorder, this tale of fat man’s pants still resonates.

Mood music:


The author, Abram Sauer, recounts a painful moment when he tried on a size 36 pants and found them too tight. He did some digging and found that not all pants’ sizes are as advertised, and how it opens a can of worms in terms of a person’s perception of their own body and how they might act going forward.

fatman.jpg He writes:

I’ve never been slim — I played offensive line in high school — but I’m no cow either. (I’m happily a “Russell Crowe” body type.) So I immediately went across the street, bought a tailor’s measuring tape, and trudged from shop to shop, trying on various brands’ casual dress pants. It took just two hours to tear my self-esteem to smithereens and raise some serious questions about what I later learned is called “vanity sizing.”

The pants manufacturers are trying to flatter us. And this flattery works: Alfani’s 36-inch “Garrett” pant was 38.5 inches, just like the Calvin Klein “Dylan” pants — which I loved and purchased. A 39-inch pair from Haggar (a brand name that out-testosterones even “Garrett”) was incredibly comfortable. Dockers, meanwhile, teased “Leave yourself some wiggle room” with its “Individual Fit Waistline,” and they weren’t kidding: despite having a clear size listed, the 36-inchers were 39.5 inches. And part of the reason they were so comfy is that I felt good about myself, no matter whether I deserved it.

He concluded:

The mind-screw of broken pride aside — like Humpty Dumpty, it cannot be put back together, now that you know the truth — down-waisting is genuine cause for concern. A recent report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men with larger waists were twice at risk of death compared with their smaller-waist peers. Men whose waists measured 47 inches or larger were twice as likely to die. Yet, most men only know their waist size by their pants — so if those pants are up to five inches smaller than the reality, some men may be wrongly dismissing health dangers.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/pants-size-chart-090710#ixzz0z1QCV5Ma

A few thoughts on this:

–I’ve always hated clothes shopping because of the blow the experience would inevitably land on my ego. My hips are always wider than my waist, no matter how thin I am. So the right waist size is still too tight in the hips and legs. Buying pants isn’t as traumatic now that I’m some 80 pounds lighter than I once was, but I’d still rather wear pants full of holes than buy a new pair.

–Finding the preferred size too tight never encouraged me to stop binge eating. In fact, the anger and shame led to more binge eating.

–Finding a pair of pants that were looser than advertised did indeed leave me with the false perception that I’d cheated the odds with my eating behavior. The result was more bad behavior because, well, I had cheated the odds.

–I don’t blame clothing manufacturers for taking liberty with the sizes. For one thing, their job is to sell pants and keep the customer happy. I doubt these guys ever met someone who was happy after peeling themselves from a too-tight pair of pants. If they are making so-called vanity sizes, it’s because the customer demands it.

–The measuring tape never lies. Pants may lie, but when you put the tape around the waist or hips, what you see is the truth.

In my case, I’ve learned not to let the fit of new pants get in the way of reality. The only thing I care about is what the food on my plate weighs. I use a small scale to determine that. If I keep weighing the portions, the smaller pants are going to fit. It’s stupidly simple.

Clothing manufacturers can play all the games they want with sizes.

If you have a binge-eating problem like I did, there’s no limit to the lies your brain will spin about your own body perception. I’ve looked in the mirror many times as a fat man and saw a thin man because that’s what I wanted to see. I’ve looked in the mirror as a much thinner man and saw a fat guy staring back at me because that’s how I felt that day.

Clothing companies may play games. Fast food restaurants may play games with the amount of fat and chemicles they stuff into their food.

But in the end, the real enemy is ourselves. We see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe.

And we are more than happy to have accomplices.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Erin Brenner September 9, 2010 at 3:01 am

It’s been happening in women’s fashion for decades; just try on a bridesmaid gown. I do blame the manufacturers. I don’t know that consumers demanded it first, but even if we did, that doesn’t mean a responsible company gives it to them. That’s just giving in to all our greeds to make a buck. That, to me, is wrong and irresponsible.

Another way to avoid knowing your true waist size is to wear the modern-cut pants, the ones that sit at or below your hips. I can wear a size smaller if the pants don’t go up to my waist.

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