A Small Order

"Short", "small", "slight", "petite", "dwarven", call it what you will, I am not a big fellow. There are many personality disorders associated with the vertically challenged, but I don't seem to suffer from any of the well-established complexes or neuroses. While most people I know think it would be difficult to be as short as I am, the truth is that I have no desire at all to be taller. I can stretch out in coach seats on airplanes, I never have to duck under low clearance areas, I don't even worry about reaching items on high shelves -- if there is nobody around to ask I use it as an excuse to climb the shelf and get the item myself. I really don't want to be any height than my actual height.

There is one thing, however, that makes being short somewhat difficult, but it is not what most people would suspect. The most difficult part about being under five-and-a-half feet is not being able to find clothes that fit. It is as if stores have decided that they don't want short people's money anymore. Several department stores (e.g. Filene's, Macy's, and Burdines) that I have been to don't even bother to order smalls. According to the managers, they just don't carry the size at all. Other stores do carry some smalls, but they never carry enough to cover their customer base. And the third variation on this discriminatory theme is that the store will regularly carry smalls, but the so-called "smalls" are much too big for someone my size (e.g. Eddie Bauer, Structure). Case study one: I have wanted to buy a nice dress shirt for well over a year. I have been to about a dozen stores looking for one, but the truth of the matter is that I simply can't find one to buy, regardless of price. I'm not really petite. Despite my height I have a medium build; meaning that my neck is pretty thick, and therefore children sizes won't do. But my sleeve length is about 30 inches. Most stores start with 32-33 inches.

The problem transcends shirts into every other clothing item. I wear a US size seven shoe. If a store does bother to carry any shoes that small, they are either only the most popular kinds of sneakers, or they order so few that they sell out immediately. I guess there are no small male Europeans because European shoes never go that low in American stores or online venues. My medium build is such that I usually like a 32 inch waist on my pants. Not quite husky, but not waif-like either. The best length for me is 28 inches. Anything longer and I have to wear jelly-rolls on the bottoms of my jeans whenever I wear my usual shoes (which anybody who has seen me already knows). Finding pants with those dimensions is so difficult that I bet Hercules would fail in the task. I can occasionally find Dockers and Levi's in those proportions, but it is an event less frequent than total planetary alignments.

There are specialty stores for those who are tall and (let's face it) fat. In fact, it is more common to find pants with a length of 28 inches with a waist of 40 than 32. I haven't done the numbers, but it seems to me that there must be more short people of standard builds than short obese people. Are we expected to get out clothes tailor made? I don't think so. My opinion is that this is another example of the suppliers having a warped perception of their customers -- an ailment that could be easily remedied if we all just had more information about each other. For them, the cost of collecting more information could be greater than the profits gained from selling some more small sizes. And for the afflicted (not-so-) few, I guess we manage to scavenge up enough clothes at outlets and thrift stores to get by, counting the days until the opening of the very first Short and Thin store.

ALB 2001

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