Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Measure Of A Man"

One committed objective of this blog is to correct egregious misperceptions, one of which I am about to rectify today.

Vanity is not the exclusive monopoly of “The Beautiful People.”  Sorry, “Beautiful People”, but you do not control everything.  “Regular People” can be as vain as anyone.  In fact, “Regular People” have the incentive to be more vain, owing to the reality of a considerably narrower “Margin for error.”  “Regular People” are precariously “closer to the line.”  Making their behavior, on second thought, less “vanity” perhaps than “necessity.”

My overall point is:  Vanity is not confined to the “Runway Circuit.” 

It belongs to everyone.

I did not have to frame this post that way.  I could have instead taken a less personality embarrassing perspective, that being my discovery of an ingenious marketing strategy in the “Menswear” arena which I shall forthwith delineate. 

Feel free to go with either option.  Or, as I just did, with both.

I do not generally like “Brand Names.”  “Brand Names” invariably make items cost more without necessarily delivering a superior product for the money.  There are, however, also brand named products that cost more but turn out actually to be better, a situation leaving me irretrievably confused. 

I know there are unquestionably “Brand Names” out there that are cheesy and cheaply made, the result being that I am frustratingly confused about what to do – purchase “Brand Names” because they are worth the money, or avoid them because they’re a rip-off. 

Allow me to preempt you on this matter.  The most annoying answer in the world in such cases is,

“It depends.”

Anyway, there I am,0 in a shop specializing in a line of imported French sportswear, in search of a bathing suit, which I shall require for our trip to Turkey, as our tour itinerary has seemingly scheduled an inordinate amount of time during the proceedings for “Swimming.”  In the Aegean.  In the Bosporus.  Or the Sea of Marmara.  Or somewhere else I never swam before and probably don’t want to, even if I am informed that Alexander the Great took a dip in those waters in 334 B.C.

I select an overpriced bathing suit.  (And I have to say – although confining it to parentheses – that that bathing suit looks sensational on me.  However this blog post, thankfully, is not about bathing suits.  So – moving on.)

I also notice – wait, I have to tell you, this French sportswear shop is situated in a nearby hotel, and while I was waiting for Dr. M to try on a bathing suit, I made my way to an across-the-hall restaurant/bar and I ordered an iced tea… And they gave it to me for nothing! 

So, even though I had outrageously overspent on the bathing suit – hey, free iced tea!  The good mood from which sent me straight back to the French sportswear shop, where I bought something else that cost too much. 

I don’t know, you get free iced tea, and you kind of sometimes lose your mind.  Or at least I do.

I purchase a blue, short-sleeved sport shirt that I can not only take along to Turkey, I can also wear it to synagogue for the upcoming High Holidays.  (At the synagogue I attend, the dress code is “Casual” and the air conditioning non-existent.)  (Note:  This blog post was written before the High Holidays.)

And here, we somewhat belatedly reach the point.

The blue, short-sleeved sport shirt – that fits me perfectly – is an “Extra Large.” 

I am sorry, people, but I am not, nor have I ever been,

An “Extra Large.” 

(I am being journalistically accurate here, not vain.  Well, maybe a little vain, as well.) 

There was no “talking my way out of it.”  The “Large” in that shirt was undeniably too small.  I am quickly assured that this line of French sportswear habitually “runs small.”  But how small could it run?  I traditionally wear a “Medium!

And now I’m a frickin’ “Extra Large!

I felt crushed.  Which is perhaps exactly what those insidious French sportswear manufacturers were shooting for.

“We will overcharge zem outrageously and we will in the same transaction make zem feel ter-ree-ble about zer bodies.  (FOLLOWED BY AN MANIACAL FRENCH CACKLE)  ‘Freedom Fries’, mon derriere!



With my reliably tasteful daughter Anna as company (and for assistance), I am shopping at a trendy Venice clothing store for Dr. M’s impending birthday present.  I decide on a beautiful, I-could-not-tell-you-the-name-of-the-color-but-Anna-could sweater. 

While the sweater’s being gift-wrapped, Anna encourages to check out a place called Rag and Bone, the local outlet of which had only recently opened next door.  (So recently, we are offered celebrational chocolate bars.  Imagine! – free iced tea and  free chocolate bars in the same week.  What a country!)  (I won’t tell you what it cost me to acquire them.  It would tarnish “What a country!”)

Anna insists that I try on some casual pants.  I select a color I like in my size – a “36” waist, my unvarying “Waist Size” for decades – and I retreat to the Dressing Room to try them on. 

And they don’t fit!

Are they too small?


They are too big!

I have to hold them up with my hand!

I take back the “36’s”, and, with substantial resistance because I have been a size “36” forever, I exchange them for – “LOL” - a “34.”

And they fit perfectly.

I cannot believe it!  I have tried on a size “34” pair of pants and I can actually get into them?   For the first time since my Bar Mitzvah!

Something bizarre was going on. In a single, miraculous week, I am suddenly, and without warning,   

Bigger in shirts.   And smaller in pants.

Or, as I realized when the cooler portion of my head prevailed,

Am I the same size I have always been, but the French sportswear manufacturers made their shirts smaller, while, in a magnificent marketing coup, the Rag and Bone manufacturers made their pants deliberately bigger.

I mean, think about it.  Which store would you rather patronize – one that insists that your upper body has expanded to linebacker proportions?  Or one that, through its manipulative sizing scheme, steadfastly insists that you’ve lost weight?

(I mean, does anyone ever purchase an item and actually double-check the “Waist Size” with a tape measure when they get home?)

I am unlikely to ever return to that French sportswear shop.  But Rag and Bone,

Keep making those oversized pantalones,

And you will have me for life!


Zhen Zhou Ping said...

Were those French named stores pronounced Tar-zhay & Penn-ay? Insomnia can be so inspiring, at times, though this wasn't one of them. Alexander the Great may have taken a dip in many of those waters, but think of all the other "disciplinary" activities (as well as "biological") that also took place there and like me, you'll never go swimming, ever again. Even in your own over-treated pool.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The story is that as the Baby Boomers have gotten older they have also gotten wider, and in order to flatter them manufacturers have been engaging in "size inflation". Women's clothing manufacturers have been doing this for years (Size 0, anyone?), but in the last ten years men's clothiers have begun doing it, too. I can tell you categorically, because I have both 5yo and 25yo pairs of jeans, that Levi's 501s are now approximately an inch bigger for the same waist size than they were in the 1980s. That is: a modern pair of 30/32s are roughly the same size as a vintage pair of 31/32s. Given that Levi's actually make jeans with waist sizes up to 60 (yes: see if you do not believe me), this is clearly entirely *optional* on the part of the manufacturer. They just want to make people happy.

There was actually a lawsuit about this some years ago, because the customer was in the habit of buying the old-style "rigid" untreated, unwashed Levis, the ones you put on and shrink while sitting in a full bathtub until they fit perfectly. There is no way to try this on effectively in the store, and with no warning of size inflation, he had bought the wrong size, and was TICKED.


JED said...

I had forgotten all about Freedom Fries. A stupid idea about a misguided war from the idiots that want us to go back to the "good old days" when non-white, non-males knew their place.