I’m a fairly tall guy. Six feet four inches tall to be exact. Above average. Height has no doubt afforded me a few advantages in life, such as being able to see at concerts and sometimes curry favor with women who would be otherwise out of my league.
When I am in public height does not factor into the myriad of thoughts running through my mind, such as should I undo one more button on my shirt, and am I staring too hard at that guy’s neck tattoo. I am usually of equal or greater height to anyone in the room. Perhaps this is why I don’t think about it. When I am in the company of someone taller than me, however, I get suddenly antsy and get the feeling they are going to lick the top of my head or sucker punch me for some reason.
This is why I know guys think about height, because I do too when confronted with it.
I also get this feeling because guys routinely ask how tall I am. They don’t just ask though, they undershoot it and force me to correct them. They say, in a casual, appraising fashion, head tilted back, what are, you about six two? When I answer they often want to get into an argument about it, as if I just walked up to them and made an unsolicited proclamation to them.
Of the hundreds of times I have been asked this, not one guy has overestimated.
I’ve also noticed guys lie about their height. From the dwarfish Tom Cruise on up to Kobe Bryant. I’ve stood next to Kobe, he’s the same height as me, six four. He is listed at six six. This is the industry standard in the NBA, to exaggerate one’s height by two inches. If the members of maybe the tallest professional organization in the world feel the need to do this, then clearly the subject weights heavily on the minds of men.
Between six four and six six is the sweet spot. While you still reap many benefits of height, nobody’s asking to take a picture with you at the airport. Sitting in a coach is uncomfortable, but it does not require hypnosis or sedation.
Once when I was sixteen years old some friends and I went through the Burger King drive thru. As we pulled around to the window a woman casually handed us our bag, and through the little opening, we saw something lurking in the dank kitchen, bleached out by the sun. Behind her head, at ear level, was the shadow of a guy’s belt and the back of his trousers.
He was funneling fries into the little cartons.
Move out of the way, we demanded of her.
How tall are you, we quizzed this ogre, as he bent at a ninety degree angle to poke his orange afro out of the window.
It has been estimated that about 17 percent of American men seven feet tall or over and between 20 and 40 years of age have, or will, at some point play in the NBA.
That’s not a bad gig. Flying private. Getting in a good workout every night. Making a fantastic salary. Adored by fans. Some groupies. Think of it as the world compensating you for all of the inconveniences. All of the times you slammed your head into the buttress of a staircase. That time you sunk the paddle boat and ruined Labor Day. All those chicks who just wanted the conquest, or the profile picture.
Imagine being seven feet tall and working at Burger King. On top of the minimum wage, you can’t peacefully hide in the kitchen without a brood of shit ass teenagers subjecting you to a physical.
What are you, about six four?
Tall people face a host of problems you’ve probably never considered.
You’ve probably taken for granted the liberty of being able to fit into a Porsche, or to walk into a department store and pick something off the rack.
Six four is about the cutoff for being able to shop without making special orders. Often times, however, you’re just out of luck.
Ashley Graham might have a gripe about heavy women not being able to find clothes at Saks, but what about the plight of tall men? I can’t even set foot in a Fred Segal. Certainly not all women are runway models, but not all men aren’t twinks either.
(The difference being I’m not writing letters demanding Nutz & Boltz in Boys Town carry a pair of culottes that fit me or Kristaps Porzingis or face an onslaught of backlash on Twitter.)
It’s a matter of simple economics. Men six four or taller make up about one percent of the US male population. It is not in the best interest of the manufacturer to cater to any small market, nor is it in the best interest of the retailer to stock items which may not sell because there are few potential buyers.
Tall people often find themselves relegated to the Big and Tall store, yet herein lies another matter of simple economics: There are way more big people than there are tall people. Hence, the Big and Tall stores are not for tall people. They’re for big people.
Ever see a really big fat dude wearing gym shorts and a Jose Cuervo shirt to Morton’s and thought, Jesus, what a slob. He might be, but it also might be the case that he simply can’t find anything else that fits him. Ever made fun of the lanky and gawky tall kid at the high school dance because his shirt sleeves run up to his elbows and you can see his socks when he’s standing up? He doesn’t not know how to dress. He’s just buying the same stuff as the place kicker, whom it fits nicely, because it is made for him.
If you’ve never been to a Big and Tall store there are basically two types: Those that still have Babe Ruth’s head shot on their wall and sell wool socks and those that sell novelty items knocked down from clearance six years ago. Sweet The Strokes T-shirt, do you have one in 7XL by chance?
Most tall guys realize upon their first visit that the Big and Tall stores are not for them. Again it’s a matter of basic economics: One percent of American men are over six four. About a third are obese. It’s unclear what percentage are both, but The Undertaker can definitely find a quadruple breasted suit.
As a microcosm of evidence, look no farther than the belts.
JC Penney’s is the first store that pops up when you google Big and Tall Sizes. The belts start at size 46 and go up to 60. The implication being that all tall people have enormous waists, even though it’s entirely possible to be tall and not simultaneously overweight.
Beyond the worst shirts you’ve ever seen, Penney’s has Big and Tall boxer briefs. They have 2XL up to 4XL. Their model in the photo appears to have a flat stomach yet somehow has a 52 inch waste, meaning his midsection must be the dimensions of a horizontal butter knife and he has to turn sideways to fit through the door.
Being tall and not big means you’re somewhat marginalized, just like dwarfs or the uber fat. But unlike those groups, the tall receive zero sympathy.
You might not know that men’s clothing sizes typically only get wider as the sizes go up. Rarely, if ever, longer. The proportions favoring people who are getting fatter and not taller. The difference between a Medium T-shirt and an Extra Large T-shirt is the difference is between a paper grocery bag and a Hefty garbage bag, but the sleeves and length are still the same.
The same goes below the waste. Take for example, the Champion Big and Tall Powertrain Shorts, which I found on Amazon.
This subgenre of shorts goes from size XL to 6XL, and it should be noted all of these shorts are the exact same length. Amazon’s product reviews show they fit 80 percent of customers as expected. One guy claimed they were too large. Honey! These shorts are a 5XL, you know I’m a 4XL! Are you trying to tell me something Candice? One guy claimed the 5XL fit smaller than expected. He needs to lose weight immediately.
One thing big people have in common, whether they are tall and big or Big and Tall, is that they often have a larger than average noggin. My head is big, but nothing that’s going to qualify for any medical books. They make baseball caps my size, and bigger. Probably to accommodate guys with enlarged craniums due to steroid use.
Yet, when I went to purchase a Stetson hat, the biggest size they had was XL, and it squeezed my melon like a vice grip. I own it, and I have to jam it onto my head and then pull it back up, so it pulls the skin on my temples upwards, giving me the resting facial expression of Vanilla Ice.
A snapback cap technically does fit my head, but the very last hole in the female strip hooks onto the very last male nub, forcing the conjoined strip to sag downward in defeat like a buckling bridge, or a beaten down horse who’s been ridden too hard.
A look that says, you’re just barely recognized by the census.
Shoe sizes are another problem all together. I wear a 13, which are technically available in most stores but rarely in stock. Like everyone else who wears shoes I’ve found shoe sizes to not be totally precise. If you wear a 7, depending on the brand you might sometimes be better served by a 6.5, sometimes a 7.5, but my ideally fitting shoe world was shattered as a growing teen when I was informed that half sizes stop at 12. There is no 12.5, and there is no 13.5.
Nor will there ever be.
The shoe industry’s apparent stance being, shove your big ass feet into this, you’re grateful we’ve even made it for you. We went way out of our way to lower our profit margin for you, and this is how your repay us? By requesting half sizes?
I get the plight of Lena Dunham and Ashley Graham and their big fat asses. They say a real woman has curves, which seems grossly disrespectful to women who were naturally born much thinner and more attractive than them. Yet I haven’t heard similar echoes from my fellow tall men, or our brothers, big fat ass men. Real men. Men come in all shapes and sizes. We can’t all be Neil Patrick Harris. The standards of the fashion industry has set are unrealistic. Start tweeting about this immediately, assuming you aren’t busy at work.