Eddie IzzardI’m not advocating transvestism, or condemning it. Some of my best friends are transvestites. Doesn’t Eddie Izzard look awesome in that blue QiPao?

No, what I’m upset about is the way clothing manufacturers have slowly been making clothes larger and larger over the course of the last fifteen or twenty years.

At first it could be disguised as fashion. Oh well, men are wearing clothes bigger this year. But the next year the clothes were just as big.

Or maybe it began as some thinly veiled attempt at marketing to a more urban (adspeak for black) demographic. After all the kids today wear the baggiest jeans. But the jeans never returned to size. Soon, shirts were being sold in bigger sizes as well.

When I was young small, medium and large covered nearly everyone. If you were bigger than that you went to a big man’s shop like Eagleson’s Big and Tall. Just as you sought out Jimmy Au’s if you were a smaller man. Occasionally there would be extra-large for the bigger guy. Now it is not uncommon to come across clothing marked X, XX and even XXX-Large.

I realize that Americans are some of the most obese people on earth and according to this study recently released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the situation isn’t getting any better but I suspect other motives for the changes in the way clothing is manufactured.

It is no easy task to make well-tailored articles of clothing. It is also time consuming. Another way to maximize profits is to speed up the process and eliminate everything non-essential.

If we eliminate the cuff and simply cut the sleeve at the end or better yet convince others that a frayed edge is fashionable then we have saved a good deal of time in the process. Get rid of linings and that is another tremendous savings of time and labor.

When you consider that most clothing is made overseas by a largely unskilled workforce (not their fault), then it becomes even more necessary to streamline the process. The final step is to add more fabric and require less attention to detail. The difference between a small, medium and large man’s shirt today is usually just a bit of fabric. No tailoring to conform to a body, just make them all big.

No need to make collars in differing sizes. Make them all to be worn open. It is a theory I know but the evidence fills racks of department stores from coast to coast and sea to shining sea.

I need to wear long sleeved formal dress shirts for work. I’m also a 14 1/2-33. This is a tough size to find even when clothes were not that large. Fortunately, I began buying most of my clothing in thrift stores long ago. After years of browsing and trying different makes of clothes I have my favorites. I tend to like the classic English brands especially Turnbull & Asser, Hilditch and Key, etc. Though I’ve had other brands and many with no known history of brand. I just liked the style or the pattern of the fabric.

In the summer I like to wear short-sleeved shirts and for casual shirts no one makes them like the American houses of the late 50’s and 60’s. I suppose it has everything to do with where we were as a nation when these shirts were made.

The war was over, the economy was booming, the suburbs were exploding, (not coincidentally union membership was at an all time high) and the American male wanted to relax and look good, by the pool, the barbecue, at the bowling alley or the club.

Unfortunately these are the shirts that are increasingly difficult to find. I used to have quite a collection of short-sleeved American made shirts. Now I am down to a just a few.

don_rancho_3_webOne of my favorites is a red and black shirt with a label that reads “don Pancho.” It is extremely comfortable, weighs almost nothing, fits close to the body and therefore does not have the baggy look so common today.

I know nothing about the brand and I have never seen another shirt by this maker but the one I have is just fine. So as far as labels are concerned they are really only useful for identifying possible shirts whose manufacture or quality I enjoy.

I get nothing from displaying the actual label itself since neither the English shirt makers nor the lesser-known American shirt described above have any visible logos at all. Unless I choose to wear them inside out, Harajuku style, no one will be the wiser. But like the late, great James Brown I like to  “look good, smell good and feel good.”