My first day at The Economist, I was treated to a lavish leftover lunch from some editorial meetings, and the sight of Hernando De Soto strolling casually through the office with a shopping bag in hand. As I walked through the door that evening, my father asked "How did it go?"

"Hernando De Soto," I told him excitedly, "shops at Rochester Big and Tall!" That being where my father bought many of his clothes . . . from which you may infer where I get my own magnificent height.

I was telling that anecdote to someone the other night (I can't remember why, and no, my life is not as spectacularly dull as this makes it sound). Suddenly it occurred to me to wonder why clothing for . . . er . . . the larger man . . . is almost always found bundled into "Big and Tall" stores. My father, who is quite slender, doesn't need extra accommodation around the waist; he just needs clothes that are long enough to cover his endless inseam. I wouldn't think there would be much overlap between the customer base.

The even deeper puzzle is why this is only true of men's clothing. The only women's clothes I can think of that are sold jointly to tall women and plus-size women are pantyhose (and I wish they weren't, as I need stockings that are longer, not wider).

But otherwise, plus-sized women have their own stores, and tall women have . . . well, frankly, a few mail-order places and the occasional "tall girl" boutique which, when you find one, is generally stocked with all manner of grotesquerie, presumably on the theory that women with few options will be glad to find a pair of orange-and-chartreuse bellbottoms as long as it covers our ankles . . . I'm sorry, are you still here? What was I saying?

Ah, yes . . . why the difference between Lane Bryant and Rochester Big and Tall? If there's some logic to bundling outsized men's clothes in one convenient location, doesn't it apply equally well to women?

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