Skip to content

Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

This is the first installment of a two-part-unless-I-think-of-a-third-part series, Numbers Are Meaningless.  To read the second part, click here.

I didn’t think this would happen.

I didn’t think I would ever have to face this.

I thought that, if nothing else, I could always count on my good old friend, basic math.

But I have some bad news: numbers are officially meaningless.

It’s over.

I wish I didn’t have to, but I’ve decided that I must direct you to an Esquire article by Abram Sauer.  In the article, Sauer explores one of the most important issues facing our nation (world?): Pants.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “I can easily foresee how an article about pants would fundamentally alter my understanding of how basic mathematics is treated in our society.”

But just in case you need further explanation:  Mr. Sauer, with the help of tailor’s measuring tape and the stomach to spend an afternoon measuring cotton fiber seams, finds significant discrepancies between the advertised size of waist measurements (“the presented reality”) and the real measurement (“the actual reality”).  His fundamental discovery is that clothing manufacturers finally have developed a complicated answer to the generations-old, mind-bending riddle

“How many inches is 36 inches?”

According to these manufacturers, “36 inches is equivalent to any amount of inches other than exactly 36 inches.”

More specifically, 36 inches is 37 inches (H&M).  It is 38.5 inches (Calvin Klein, Alfani).  It is 39 inches (Gap, Haggar).  It is 39.5 inches (Dockers).  It is even 41 inches (Old Navy)!  Such a wide array of numbers, and the only thing consistent about them is that they are all a size other than what is actually printed on the tag.

As it turns out, clothing stores have a coy you-made-us-do-this! euphemism for what seems to be a pretty straightforward case of “outright lying.”  They call it vanity sizing.  The theory is that labeling things smaller than they actually are encourages potential customers to believe they are thinner than actually they are, which in turn creates a moment of inflated-ego-induced bliss and weakness where one suddenly believes that buying pants from Old Navy is a fantastic idea.  In other words, you say “tomato,” I say, “I don’t need no stinkin’ tomato — I have the same waistline I had in high school!”

I’m not fundamentally opposed to marketing and I’m certainly not opposed to having my ego stroked, but I’m not sure when corporations got into the business of mislabeling products for ‘our’ mutual benefit (they get sell the pants for a profit, I get to feel better about myself before eating an entire pizza).  That there seems to be an unspoken collusion among major retailers to intentionally mislabel a whole class of products is not okay.  Not only because it is literally wrong (measurements are objectively knowable facts), but because individual consumers have so little power in the marketplace that they should at the very least be allowed to reasonably rely on what seem to be straightforward facts provided by the manufacturer/seller.

Now, I know women have been dealing with this kind of sizing misinformation for quite some time.  They are not even provided the decency of (albeit fake) length and width measurements when pants-buying!  And maybe it’s true that women are simply immune to this kind of data because they are used to being lied to about the number of inches in an item being offered to them and have thus internalized this issue as something that society does not have to power to stop.

But just because you’ve been lied out of your pants does not mean you should also be lied into them.

It is possible that there are females who will read this and say, “Now you know how it feels to be lost in a sea of lies!”  To those people, I say: not only should the “numbers actually mean something” sizing be perfected (re-instituted?) for mens clothing, it should also be made available to women, tradition notwithstanding.   And yes, I do understand that women have many more objective considerations besides “waist and length” when buying pants (e.g., ass-depth, whether-whatsherface-owns-them, skankiness, bedazzle-coefficient, etc.), but hey, it would be a start.

You have suffered long enough!

This careless implementation of our precious number system is not just bad news for dudes trying to buy khakis: it’s bad news for everyone.  When we as a society allow “36 inches” to mean anything other than “actually 36 inches,” we are probably at the point where we are willing to allow just about anything.

%d bloggers like this: