There has been a lot of support recently for plus-size women (which is wonderful!), but I keep thinking to myself: What about men?
With a large amount of the population suffering from obesity, why is it so difficult for us to find clothing in some of our favorite stores? Today, I want to speak up for plus-size men. Specifically, the struggle we have when shopping for clothes.
I'm 36 years old and for the last 10 years, I've fluctuated in weight from 290 pounds to 330 pounds. I currently wear a 3XL shirt and 30-inch-length pant, and have a 46-inch waist. Honestly, I dread going shopping for clothes because I can't find anything I want in my size. It makes me depressed even setting foot into a clothing store.
I typically find myself searching online, but even then, I'm disappointed when shirts or pants aren't available in my size. One of my favorite stores is Eddie Bauer because I know there's a particular shirt I like. I own four of those button-downs in the same style in different colors — it's really the only thing I wear.
Noticing the monotony of my closet, I decided it was time to face my fears and see if anything has changed since I last shopped as a larger man.
To start my experiment, I went to the doctors office to get properly weighed and came in at 332 pounds. I then visited my local tailor to get my measurements. Even though I was measured at 51.5 inches, I still fit comfortably in my 46-inch waist jeans from Wrangler.
The next step was the hardest: visiting my closest shopping mall. First stop was Abercrombie & Fitch, which I fully didn't expect to have my size. The images of young, skinny men plastered throughout the store pretty much gave me that impression. As I ventured through the perfume-saturated racks, I couldn't help but feel people staring at me wondering, "What is this big guy doing here?"
After trying and failing to find jeans and shirts in my size, I attempted to ask a salesperson for the largest size they offer. "The largest shirt we have is XL and waist size in jeans is a 38[-inch] waist," the salesperson said. "You can find 2XL shirts online."
I moved on to American Eagle Outfitters and to my surprise, found 2XL sizes in shirts and up to a 40-inch waist in jeans, but even then, only a small amount. I also asked a salesperson where I could find their largest size and was met with a strange tone before being directed to shop online for more options.
Next up, Macy's where I found very few options scattered around the store, from a 42-inch waist in pants to 2XL shirts. I was given a surprising amount of attitude when I asked for the largest size and, you guessed it, directed to shop online.
After feeling frustrated and not welcome to shop, I left the mall defeated. But just before I reached the exit, I spotted a custom-printed shop with some T-shirts. I happen to love T-shirts, but often can't find any that fit me. I can't even get swag at a concert or event because they typically don't make shirts larger than XL. I walked in, asked for their largest size and was elated to learn I could get T-shirts in sizes up to 5XL. I was so excited that I decided to get two custom-printed T-shirts on the spot.
After leaving the mall, I ventured over to Old Navy where I used to be able to purchase jeans when I had a 44-inch waist. I was shocked to see that they had very few jeans above a 40-inch waist and very few 2XL shirts. I was kindly directed to shop online for larger sizes. (Starting to see a pattern here?)
Now you can see why I don't dare enter a clothing store anymore. A big guy like myself is clearly not welcome outside of the comfort of his own home.
I noticed a Target next door and went in to find plenty of options including jeans and shorts that go as large as a 46-inch waist. I ended up buying two pairs of cargo shorts.
There is one store where I know I'll feel comfortable: Casual Male XL. Their store is filled with 3XL to 6XL shirts and plenty of pants or shorts options from a 44-inch waist to a 60-inch waist. I was able to find some nerdy T-shirts and a few patterned short-sleeve button-down shirts that I can wear to work. I instantly connected with the salesman in the store, expressing my frustration at how limited my options were throughout the day. He said he felt my pain as a fellow plus-size man and agreed that more of us should open up and share our experiences.
In the end, plus-size men are made to feel equally as uncomfortable shopping for clothes as plus-size women. But for some reason, men don't speak up about it. I really wish more of us would bring attention to this problem and band together as women have.
Many may say, "Well, you should just lose weight." I admit that I'm not terribly comfortable with my current weight, but even if I whittled down to a few sizes smaller, I would still have trouble finding appropriate clothes in brick-and-mortar locations. I just want the freedom to be able to see clothes in my size, try on my favorite brands, and walk home with a shopping bag instead of feeling ashamed and forced to order them online.
At the end of this experiment, I find myself saying: There's no justice for the fat guy.