30 is the new 33

And skinny is the new slim.

For years, whether they were jeans, dressy trousers, or chino types, I bought waist size 32-33 pants.   Men’s pants, and clothes in general, measured true, or almost true.  A 32 inch waist measured up to 32 3/4 inches (to include a small tolerance).  Depending on the brand, or the pant itself, sometimes I’d buy 32, others a 33, but the size never varied beyond that range.

Then around 15 years ago, we decided to grow our sizes, or shrink them depending on how you look at it.  In an effort to feel better with our size, tolerances have increased.  A marked size 32 became an actual size 34 or 35.  The result is, retailers have helped convince us that we are smaller than we actually are.

I’m no smaller in height, weight or bone structure than I was when I was younger, yet I’ve gone from buying size large in both casual button-down shirts and tee shirts to size small.  Yes, the fits have changed and we tend to wear trimmer, less boxy clothes, but still, we’ve over compensated with smoke and mirror measurements.

When I first started in the apparel business, I spent time in garment factories with quality engineers who showed me how to measure garments.  While women’s waist measures change according to rise, how men wear pants has not varied much over the years.  We still wear them on our hips (for the most part).

I first started noticing the change about 12 years ago when I tried on a couple of premium “made in Italy” jeans styles at Diesel’s exclusive Soho boutique and size 32 was too large.  Magically, 31 was evidently my new waist size.

Several years later I bought a couple of twill pants at Banana Republic and again, size 31 waist fit me perfectly.  I bought two again at the same store this week and presto, 30 is my new size.  I got no smaller in the meantime.

These size 32 pants measure the most true, just under 33

These size 32 pants measure the most true, just under 33

The measurement around my hips is just under 33 inches, if I exhale, maybe 32.  It’s impossible that I’d measure any smaller because the pelvis bones are the limiting factor.  There is no way I’m a size 30, but across the board, apparel brands have grown garment sizing and are telling me that I’m now a 30.

I tried on pants this past week from Scotch & Soda and from All Saints — two boutique chains.  In both, 30 was my size.  I therefore decided to do a random sampling at various other stores.  So armed with tape measure and note pad, here is what I found in men’s pants:

  • Sand (brand from Denmark) size 32 measured 34
  • Old Navy khaki trouser size 34 = 37
  • Old Navy slim jean, size 32 = 35
  • Old Navy jogger, size M = 35 (relaxed elastic waistband)
  • Banana Republic chino, 30 = 32 and 32 = 34
  • Banana Republic skinny jean, 30 = 33 and 31 = 34
  • Zara skinny jean,  30 = 33 and 34 = 38
  • J Crew chino, 32 = 35
  • Gap straight leg denim, 36 = 39
  • Gap skinny denim, 34 = 37
  • Scotch and Soda skinny, 30 = 33.5
  • All Saints skinny, 30 = 32.5

All samples were picked at random and measured the same and had the same rise (fit on hip).

One exception, although I bought them a few years ago, a pair of city riding pants from a brand of exceptional cycling clothes from the UK called Rapha.  Their size 32 fits me perfect and measures just under 33, as true to size as there is in the market.  And in all fairness, I picked up a 3/4 length short from Uniglo this week in size M and it too fits fine, although I need a belt even though it has a full elasticated waistband.

I have a jacket from a European brand in size Large, which fits like it should.  And another from Uniglo, a Japanese brand, in size XS which fits about the same.  L = XS??

I know a woman who I consider a size medium, but she swims in size S and must buy XS or petite.  J Crew offers size triple zero for women’s.  Triple zero?  We no longer measure like it is, rather we tell ourselves we are smaller than we actually are.

Put another way, in the face of an obesity epidemic brewing in the USA over the last couple of decades, our waist sizes have suddenly reduced two to three inches across the board.  That makes a lot of sense — in the land of milk and honey.

super skinny or toothpick, they are just damn skinny

super skinny or toothpick, they are just damn skinny

In addition to sizing, we’ve gone description crazy.  As we described gasoline for our cars from regular and premium grade to super and ultra-premium, in clothes we’ve gone from slim and slender to skinny and super-skinny, and even toothpick.  Some brands demurely call their extra slim fits “tailored slim” or “modern slim.”

Bottom line, even if your didn’t want to, or didn’t know you did, be happy you got smaller.  No matter your size, you’ll fit a skinny.