Your Pants Are Lying to You

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Don't ever say that investigative journalism is dead: Esquire's Abram Sauer has uncovered the near industry-wide practice among brand-name clothing companies of producing men's pants at a larger waist size than they are labeled. The practice, known as "vanity sizing," is allegedly meant to target your wallet by way of your vanity. Esquire provides a frightening chart showing the actual versus advertised waist sizes. Sauer explains the practice, which he says is effective:

The pants manufacturers are trying to flatter us. And this flattery works: Alfani's 36-inch "Garrett" pant was 38.5 inches, just like the Calvin Klein "Dylan" pants — which I loved and purchased. A 39-inch pair from Haggar (a brand name that out-testosterones even "Garrett") was incredibly comfortable. Dockers, meanwhile, teased "Leave yourself some wiggle room" with its "Individual Fit Waistline," and they weren't kidding: despite having a clear size listed, the 36-inchers were 39.5 inches. And part of the reason they were so comfy is that I felt good about myself, no matter whether I deserved it.

The practice is presumably a response to the rapidly increasing obesity rate in the U.S. However, by helping consumers to deny that they are getting fatter, are clothing manufacturers complicit in the nationwide problem and its estimated $344 billion toll on the economy? Sauer says that clothing companies, which see their profit margins rise with their waist-size increases, will never change without formal regulation. "Vanity waist sizing is so entrenched, it couldn't possibly be changed overnight, at least not without a government mandate," he writes. Now that health care reform is out of the way, could President Obama pursue pants reform legislation next?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.