You Think Buying Clothes is Hard?

There are innumerable lists to be found throughout the depths of the internet about how terrible it is being tall, because people ask if you play basketball, or make stupid comments about the weather. While those things are absolutely terrible, largely because it forces you to talk to people. And people suck. Mostly because they constantly comment about how tall you are. So, I guess those lists are pretty understandable. But, there’s worse things than being asked to get things off the high shelf. For the purpose of this discussion we’ll be discussing men over 6’3″ and women over 6′ and we’ll start with how buying clothes is a nightmare.

Despite what popular culture says about all women being shopaholics, in my experience most humans don’t enjoy shopping for clothes. And women, being human, don’t usually enjoy the process of hunting through racks of clothes in search of something that fits, flatters, and is affordable. If your proportions aren’t “average”, finding clothes is even worse, often requiring hours of dedicated work to find acceptable accoutrements. However hard it is for you to find clothes, I’m pretty sure it’s easier than it is for the very tall.We’ll start from the ground and work our way up, with shoes. A normal human can walk in to just about any shoe store or department store and be reasonably confident that they’ll find something acceptable to wear on their feet. In fact, they can walk into just about any shopping mall with the knowledge that they’ll have a number of options available to them in a variety of styles, at least some of which they’ll be able to afford. Being tall usually comes with having big feet. And you know what they say about somebody with big feet: they can’t find shoes!

Most shoe stores only stock shoes up to a size 13 men’s. A very few stores will carry a few pairs in 14 and maaaaybe a 15. When you wear a larger size, you don’t walk into a store and browse. You immediately find someone who works there and ask them what they have in stock, usually in your actual size and the one below. About 90% of the time the answer will be a dumb stare followed by an apology, but they’re quite sorry that they don’t carry anything that would fit a sasquatch. Maybe you’d like to just wear a pair of boxes that a normal-sized human’s shoe’s came in? The other 10% of the time the employee will disappear into the back and come out with somewhere between 3 and 6 pairs of shoes covered in dusty boxes that more often than not look as though they’ve been placed in stacks and used as NFL tackling dummies. And those boxes will always contain the ugliest shoes you’ve ever seen.

It’s worse for those with big feet in a half-size. The largest half-size any major manufacturer makes is a 12.5. So, if you’re measured at a 14.5, like me for example, your shoes never actually fit right. You find a size 14 that runs wide and can stretch or a 15 that runs a little small, and use insoles to fill in some of the extra room. Being between sizes like that means you have to always try on at least 2 sizes of any pair of footwear to see which is closer to actually fitting. Neither ever will, so it’s all about getting as close as possible.  The internet has actually made things more difficult, instead of less, since a lot of major retailers who would once have carried a few pairs of large shoes will no longer stock their stores with any, instead referring customers to their websites. Thanks internet.

From the feet, we’ll move to pants, or trousers if you’re from a civilized nation. Have you ever seen a pair of men’s pants in a size 34″x38″? Not too many people have. In fact, Casual Male XL, probably the best known “big and tall” shop in the US carries 2 styles. One of them costs $328. Big and tall stores and departments put a heavy emphasis on “big”. As a result, most tall men perpetually look as though they’re prepared for a flood. When the treehuggers’ predictions of global warming come true the giants will have the last laugh with our dry pants that don’t quite fit. Luckily, for me, I filled out a bit in my 20s and now have the generous proportions of 36″x38″, so I can choose from a variety of styles I’d never wear.

The ladies have it a little easier finding things that will “fit”, thanks to the social acceptability of wearing skirts, but have a hell of a time staying in fashion. A mini skirt designed for a woman of about 5’5″ on a woman of 6’1″ can look like she’s wrapped a scarf around her waist. One of those skinny fashion scarves, not, like, a thick and practical Canadian number.  A “long” skirt will often just look awkward at that weird length 3/4 of the way between knee and ankle for that look that was so risque’ and fashionable in pre-Prohibition metropolises.

Which leads us to shirts, which are not as awful as the preceding categories, because short sleeves and tailors exist. Many folks of gratuitous height have a wardrobe consisting largely of T-shirts simply because they fit. Buying button-downs is always a challenge. Good luck finding a shirt with an 18″ neck and sleeves long enough for a 7’+ wingspan. The usual solution is to buy a shirt that fits at the neck, which is the standard measurement at which men’s shirts are fitted, is to roll up the sleeves. This has the added bonus of making you look like you’re always hard at work! Men’s jackets are nearly as bad, but at least they measure at the chest and shoulder, which is slightly better. Women have an even more difficult time than men thanks to breasts. That might be the closest I’ll ever get to saying something bad about boobs.

To bring this all into perspective, I’ll relay a personal anecdote. When I was married last year I chose to wear traditional Scottish dress. My plan was to have a kilt made in my family tartan, buy a new pair of shoes, and rent the rest of a Prince Charlie outfit (the equivalent of a tuxedo) from a local shop that specializes in such. I wound up having to buy each piece, because they didn’t rent in my size. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even normally sell the Argyll jacket (a less formal look, more akin to a suit) in my size, and I had to have every last piece made custom to my measurements and shipped from Scotland. You’d think that a kilt would be the perfect answer for a man who has a problem finding pants in his size, but they have standard fall lengths, and I’m a bit outside the norm. I even went to a custom tailor to have a shirt made, since I was going formal and didn’t own one with French cuffs. Luckily, since I work in Manhattan, there are a few places I could go to, and I chose one that had been relatively well reviewed. They had a standard pricing matrix based on what fabric you chose. I chose based on feel and color, and it happened to be around the middle of their price offerings. Then the gentleman who’d taken my measurements input them into his computer, looked confused, reloaded his screen, and proceeded to tell me that my shirt would cost about 10% extra. He apologized profusely and told me that he’d never seen a surcharge based on size come up before. In the end, what I wore cost more than my bride’s dress. The only 2 pieces that were not specifically made for me were my hose (which is just a fancy word for socks, and a funny choice for a culture constantly trying to convince people that their national dress doesn’t make them sissies), my tie, and my cufflinks (Aperture Science logo FTW).

Remember this the next time you wish you could reach the top shelf without getting on your tip-toes. Does the cost of a step stool for you kitchen offset the additional time and money spent in the search for a pair of freaking comfortable cargo pants? If you’re not convinced, don’t worry. I’ll share more of the joys of being “vertically blessed”. Topics you can look forward to:

  • The bathroom is a terrible place.
  • The world is more dangerous.
  • It’s really hard to enjoy a show.
  • Travel sucks.
  • AND MORE!
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One thought on “You Think Buying Clothes is Hard?

  1. Pingback: How Much Do You Think About Sitting? | Thoughts from a Gaelic Hero

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