I recently received a question from a reader who wanted to know if he should be buying “slim”, “ultra-slim” “skinny” or simply “regular” jeans.
Basically he was curious as to why there were so many different terms for clothing sizes outside of the basic, numerical measurements.
What’s the deal with all this confusion in sizing!
His problem was a common one: when a guy’s looking to expand his wardrobe, he generally knows what his waist and inseam measurements are, or at least he can figure it out pretty quickly.
But these days most men’s trousers come with those two numbers and a written description. Some brands might have five or six different “fits” in the same product line and the same waist/inseam sizes.
Below is the video I made to answer his question. It’s sponsored by Kirby Allison over at The Hanger Project, a great guy who runs a great site selling high-quality hangers for your suits and shirts, as well as shoe care products, handmade socks and ties, and other luxury items.
For those of you that prefer your content written, or that want a little more detail than the video provides, here’s the basic answer:
Sizing is about sales.
Example – the labels on jeans are designed to sell jeans. Make it flattering – make you feel good – and you’ll buy it.
And here you thought it had to do with measurements
All joking aside – sizing isn’t stuck to measurements, it’s not monitored, and it’s not regulated. There are no rules here.
“Skinny” or “regular” or “classic” can all be whatever the manufacturer wants. They don’t tell you a thing until you’re familiar with the brand and its product lines. Even then the fits are subject to change without warning, so that one year’s “classic” fit might be great for you, and the next year’s will be hanging off your butt.
(You’ll actually find that most things in the clothing industry are only loosely regulated. “Made in the USA,” for example, generally just means that the final product was assembled in the United States — the cloth or other materials that go into it could come from anywhere.)
Companies know that you’re not going to buy clothes that make you feel guilty or negative about yourself. So there is no “loose” or “baggy” size — there’s “classic” or “regular,” and then a smaller size called “slim” or “skinny,” and so on. It’s all just there to make you feel good about buying the clothes.
So how do you find the right size in the midst of all those meaningless words?
Two key pieces of advice:
1. Know Your Measurements
Take the half-hour or so you need to grab a measurement guide and get your measurements written down — all of them, not just the waist and inseam.
If you know what you need in your seat, crotch, and thigh as well as your waist and inseam, you can quickly test any pair of pants with a flexible tape measure (less than $10 at any crafts store, and easy to stick in a pocket). Save your measurements on your phone, or on a slip of paper in your wallet, or just mark them on your tape measure itself, so that you’ve always got them with you when you go clothes shopping.
That’ll let you quickly triage most clothes out of the way without ever bothering with the changing room. It helps with online shopping too — more and more brands are starting to list specific measurements beyond the basic waist/inseam pairing for their online sales, to reduce the amount of returns they have to process.
The nice thing about using your body’s measurements is that they don’t change much. Vanity sizing may make clothes harder to judge, but once you know the length of your seat or your crotch, that’s not likely to change much. An inch or two with noticeable weight gain is about all the variation you’re going to see.
2. Measure Your Best-Fitted Clothing
Everyone’s got at least one piece of clothing that’s an old favorite with a perfect fit. If you’re lucky, you’ll have both a pair of pants and a shirt that fit the bill (no pun intended).
Check the measurements on those garments, both the ones on the tag and the actual, physical measurements as taken with a tape measure.
Make sure you know the waist, inseam, crotch, and thigh measurements of your favorite pair of pants, and the collar, sleeve, and chest measurements of your favorite shirt. If you’re shopping for things that are at least in the same neighborhood as those measurements, you’re much more likely to get a fit you like.
Well if you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about dressing your best, make sure to check out my home-study course A Man’s Guide To Style. I spent years assembling this course so you can take my hard earned lessons and save time and money when building a professional wardrobe!