Monday, December 13, 2010

Culture: Growing T-Shirt Sizes

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the annoying things about living in Canada is the lack of availability of retail items compared with the United States. If one prefers men's pants with an odd-numbered waist size in Canada, for example, forget it. Almost no retail stores will stock these sizes, and not many more on-line retailers will allow special ordering. Compare that with the United States, where even the most basic discount store will have these sizes. Apparently human waists only vary in two-inch increments in Canada; either that, or the belt manufacturers have some unusual hold on retail distribution.

What's really surprised me, though, is that sizes seem to be getting bigger. Canadians used to pride themselves on not being as physically large as their counterparts south of the border, but in recent years that difference has been decreasing, and now it seems that this reality is being reflected in sizes.

In the United States, I used to buy undershirts that were labeled as "large" size, 38-40. That might seem a bit big for someone my size, but considering that undershirts tend to be all cotton, they shrink to an appropriate size for me in one washing, and then last a very long time. After moving to Canada, I discovered that undershirts here are rarely sold in numerical sizes, but simply small, medium, large, and extra large. Figuring that all my stock from the United States said "large," that's what I bought.

However, the Canadian large is significantly larger than the 38-40 to which I was accustomed. They're definitely too big, perhaps the size I might wear on an outer shirt, but not as an undershirt. That purchase has been relegated to layering in the winter months. So, not too long ago, I decided to try the Canadian medium. Again, it wasn't marked with a numerical size, but I figured if the large was too big, the odds of medium being appropriate would have to reasonable.

Wrong. The medium-labeled undershirts were not significantly smaller that the larges I had purchased a few years before. Even after washing, they still were bigger than the "large" shirts in my collection, some of which are now nearly a decade old, that I had purchased in the United States. The only possible explanation is that the sizes are getting larger in response to average body size here. It's a very good thing I didn't try to buy "large" again.

In the interim, I had taken to buying undershirts while visiting the United States. I may return to this practice, as at least as of a couple years ago, the US "38-40" large was still the same size it had always been. The weakening US dollar also encourages this practice; the last time I bought undershirts in the US, the loonie was worth more than the US dollar, and that may happen again soon. If Canadian retailers want my business, they need to start selling my size--or at least keeping their sizes the same.

No comments: