Upon reading Esquire’s article featuring a pants-size comparison and the real-life truths of vanity sizing in 2010, we thought we’d perform a little test of our own. So we headed to the mall armed with a measuring tape, a keen scientific eye and the gratifying sense that we were doing something devious. In the end, we measured the waistlines of 14 popular brands of jeans. Each pair was labeled as having a 34″ waist, but the infographic we created below will show you just how how (dis)honest those labels can be.
Have you ever had to run out of the dressing room to find another size? Or maybe you’ve adapted and grab 3 sizes for each piece of clothing before you go in. Either way, it’s no secret that shopping for jeans and pants is a time-consuming headache that can leave a man fatigued and confused. With different sizing from every brand, it’s nearly impossible to guess which waist size will fit. Shouldn’t the inches marked on the label relate to, well… your actual waist? If you’ve ever taken a measuring tape to your midsection, you know that’s just not the case.
According to your experiment, the thing that most pants do have in common is that the actual measurement of the jeans is far larger than the size printed on the label. This is a sweeping trend called “vanity sizing.” With vanity sizing, the inseam size on pants are fairly accurate, but when it comes to the waist, all bets are off. Designers skillfully size their pants to boost your ego, causing a rise in your attitude toward their brand and enticing you to buy more. This ends up leaving the consumer with a skewed perception about not only the size of their pants but also their bodies.
This trend has become rampant in the U.S. as well as the U.K., which are both in the top 5 countries with the most obesity according to Reuters. So, all those times you thought you were maintaining your slim college waistline or maybe even reducing to a better self, there may be a chance your pants’ true size has just been growing with you. Vanity sizing has put us all on an unsolicited “fashion diet” that many of us were not aware of . Though we are familiar of the woes of body image with women and how difficult it is to find the proper fit in women’s jeans, the less observed men’s body issues have actually grown more with recent times. This is evident by the new emphasis on men’s fashion and grooming, both industries that are on the rise, as well as the new “fitspo” revolution. Living up to the ideal can be arduous, but retailers have found an outlet to indulge men through tweaking sizes.
This has had an interesting effect on online retailers. Since you are not able to try on the multiple sizes it takes to find the one that fits just right, ordering pants online is quite risky with a high chance of return. Though most sites provide a sizing guide, this guide usually also leaves out any actual true measurements to reference. Instead of reverting back to true-sizing, online stores have accommodated. Bonobos, a men’s online-only retailer, have recently opened physical stores called Guideshops that don’t sell any product but allow you to try on their online products in person to find that elusive perfect fit.
Now, as you attempt to find your fit within the sea of vanity sizing, you can feel slightly less burdened with confusion and second-guessing. We are simply at the mercy of these skewed size labels and if anything, you can go forth with an accurate depiction of your body size based on measurements.
Read next: The Essentials of Men’s Pants