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Gap Drops XXL Sizes for Men

I was interviewed for an article that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times today regarding the Gap's exciting new decision (cough) to drop men's XXL clothing from its stores. I'm not sure if I've written about it all before but the Gap (along with Banana Republic) have historically been the two stores where I'm a XXL myself - everywhere else I'm deemed a L or XL.

I got quoted in the article, even though the name of the blog is a bit off. Note that the article leads with a guy who lost weight.

Paul McAleer is a Chicago Web designer and developer who created and writes for My Big Fat Blog, which aims to report on "fat awareness and fat rights." He said the Gap's decision to pull the XXL from stores is part of a retail trend to make the bricks-and-mortar store less plus-size friendly. "To me it says that fat people, both men and women, do not fit within the Gap's brand image," McAleer said. Last year Old Navy, a youth-oriented brand of clothing owned by Gap Inc., pulled women's XXL from its stores, making it available only online.

And really, Old Navy went up to a 4X in stores before relegating fat women to the online ghetto. Gap's response to the downsizing?

The Gap stands by its decision. "Overall, the majority of customers have appreciated the fact that we feature more medium- or large-size items in our stores," [spokesperson Kris] Marubio said.

And men didn't appreciate having XL and XXL? Incidentally, Marublo's exclusion of XL here suggests that the same fate could befall that size someday. I'm guessing that the real motivator here is money. It costs less to have a smaller selection, no matter what sizes are on the chopping block. (This is evidenced a bit by this related ST piece about how difficult it is for women to find a friggin' size 12 in boutiques... and mentions a store where a "large" is a size 8. 8!)

Here are a few more things I said about the Gap's decision that didn't make it into the piece:

  • Gap's sizing - at least for men - is definitely skewed small. As mentioned at the outset, the Gap and Banana Republic are the only stores I've shopped where my size is a XXL. The Gap is leaving money on the table by limiting their sizes.
  • It's difficult for me to guess what went wrong with both Old Navy and the Gap's expanded size offerings, but I'd chalk a lot of it up to marketing. With Old Navy's situation, their women's plus-size line was given a promotional push at the beginning and then... nothing. It was only by chance that I discovered the Gap sold anything in my size. The real solution is to make more sizes available in store. We have money. We want to spend it. Any retailer that makes it difficult to do so should be avoided.
  • The Old Navy situation certainly prompted a myriad letters from readers of blogs such as Big Fat Blog and The Pretty Pear, all of which received canned form letters. The best course of action is to take our money elsewhere, and support businesses that respect fat people.
  • Lots of people, when they hear this news, may equate this with the elimination of an uncommon of "overly" large size. The truth of the matter is that as people have gotten taller and bigger over time, the selection of clothing available hasn't adjusted accordingly. More and more, we're shunned to online stores instead of being offered real options offline.

And there you have it. The Gap just lost all of my business.

Fat Princess | Props to NAAFA

richie79's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | Gah. I'm getting thoroughly

Gah. I'm getting thoroughly sick of this - if 'mainstream' High Street retailers are going to persist with this course of action, isn't it time us big fellows got our own version of Evans or LB? Even an overpriced fat clothing ghetto would be better than nothing at all, and in the UK at least, that point is rapidly approaching as the recession bites.

The real irony is that as you rightly point out Paul, as people are getting larger the clothes themselves are becoming smaller and smaller as retailers try to shave every penny they can off the costs. What is now an XXL probably would have been a large a few years back (especially in the early 90s, when the fashion was for generous, baggy cuts). Much as I've heard about 'vanity sizing', this seems restricted to women's clothes - I've noticed trousers getting tighter, shirts and T-shirts getting shorter with tiny little sleeves that barely cover the shoulders. I'm not sure whether this is a conscious attempt by the stores to exclude fat people (certainly, those who do provide the roomier fits, especially in children's clothes, seem to invoke the frequent ire of the obesity nannies) or whether it's more about reducing the amount of material used to allow them to sell throw-away sweatshop T-shirts at £3 a go.

On a recent (unsuccessful) shopping trip to a Matalan store in Leeds I bemoaned the lack of the larger sizes advertised on the website (this is a store which theoretically goes up to a 44" waist, but could I find anything but 30s and 32s on the shelves!?) The changing room assistant (a big girl herself and probably much larger than the upper limit of the store's female range) agreed with me and told me that despite the big sizes proving most popular, head office insisted on only sending the smaller garments, much to the frustrationof staff and customers alike. Gone are the days when the sale racks would be full of unwanted XXLs - the oversupply of sizes which statistically fit only a minority of the population is clear to see at the end of every season.

Why are these companies determined to make it so difficult to spend money with them? Is this a case of hatred overruling basic good commercial practise?

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

vesta44's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | richie - I don't know how

richie - I don't know how shops are where you live, but do you have the equivalent of a Tractor Supply store? In the US, they sell farm supplies (parts, feed for livestock, anything you would use on a farm) and clothes for farmers (jeans, shirts, t-shirts, undies, socks, etc). Here in the US, those stores carry jeans up to a 54" waist and shirts up to a 5 or 6 X. And the prices don't seem to be much higher for the larger sizes than at Wal-Mart. That might be an option, and I think they even carry some dressier pants. Some of the shirts would be work-appropriate too.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

smilergal1 July 24th, 2008 | Link | "The Gap stands by its

"The Gap stands by its decision. "Overall, the majority of customers have appreciated the fact that we feature more medium- or large-size items in our stores," [spokesperson Kris] Marubio said. "

Like they're doing people a favor by carrying anything larger than a small?? This is silly. My boyfriend wears L at Gap, and he's M everywhere else, so obviously their sizes are already off to begin with. This pretty much dumps everyone over 200 lbs.

richie79's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | Vesta, we have something

Vesta, we have something similar here called 'MSF Country Superstores' though they're limited to a specific area of the country, in rural locations that are out of reach of a non-driver like myself. I've heard good things about Cotton Traders - they're mainly online, but with a few bricks-and-mortar stores too (including one at an airport I frequently use). Their size chart states 'All our men's and unisex clothing is generously cut - probably more generously than you would expect.', and lists sizes up to a 54" waist Smiling Smiling
"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

josecheung July 24th, 2008 | Link | I miss Wallaby Station. I

I miss Wallaby Station. I don't know where they were located, besides Chicago and Seattle, but they sold clothes for men 5'9" and under. They had a good selection of clothes for fat short men. I've also found a better (though not great) selection in stores with lots of Mexican shoppers.

It's ironic, one of the complaints against fat people is that we laze around all day, yet the best place to find fat men's wear is in farmers' catalogs.

levye July 24th, 2008 | Link | typical

Money doesn't always rule. Sometimes designers think it is in their interest to tell their thin customers that they are exclusively committed to them. I think of some designer -- was it Calvin Klein -- who when asked whether he would design for plus-size (12 and up) said, "I don't design bags." I took the Gap to be saying something similar to its thin clientelle: You can be assured that no fatty will be wearing your garments. Isn't Honda doing something similar, by the way, when they refuse to offer seat-belt extenders because it would interfere with the integrity of their vehicles. I think all of these companies just want to appeal to the thinner, richer crowd, and the exclusivity does appeal to a lot of them.

richie79's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | Levye, it was Karl Lagerfeld

Levye, it was Karl Lagerfeld who, raging at H&M's decision to offer his designs in sizes up to 16, stated that the clothes were intended only for 'slim and slender people'. Though reading through that old thread, most of the major designers seem to share an extremely negative attitude toward larger folk. The whole fashion world is in my humble opinion completely FUBAR.

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

Bree's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | I agree with levye that

I agree with levye that there's more to it than money. I'm also going to go out on a limb and assume that this also might be away to keep certain other thin customers out of their stores---especially young thin black boys and men that like to wear oversized shirts. With the push from many state and city governments to ban extremely baggy clothes, The Gap could also be sending a message that says they don't support "urban fashion."

Moody Blue's picture
Moody Blue
July 24th, 2008 | Link | I, too, am a bit suspicious.

I, too, am a bit suspicious. I have to order most of my apparel online and I can't tell you the number of times I've had to return items in "my size" because they were cut too small or too big or the fabric was unappealing for one reason or the other. Add to that the fact that I have to pay more for extended plus sizes at PLUS SIZE ESTABLISHMENTS which to me is totally unfair. Figure in all the money I spend on shipping and handling and it can get quite pricey. When a retailer pulls my size from their stores they are telling me that they don't want my business or PRESENCE. By making us online consumers it assures them that they will see less of us in public. Bottom line--they want us invisible.

levye July 24th, 2008 | Link | I just wanted to say that I

I just wanted to say that I appreciate Bree's remarks, and think they're spot on. Isn't it the Gap that had those creepy commercials that were the very definition of "white" -- with the rich people, wearing white, shades, and languishing around the pool. And, Banana Republic -- well, you don't have to do much deconstructing to see what they're selling there, and it isn't clothing worn by the Banana pickers!

Richie: I recently watched a PBS special on Haute Couture, and I think it was Karl, who had to lose a lot of weight in order to stay in the Haute Couture club. Now, if he feels like he's had to work his butt off to stay slim and his reward is membership in an exclusive club, he and types like him might feel that their less sophisticate clientele want a similar feeling.

richie79's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | Bree, I'd never considered

Bree, I'd never considered that angle before (damn white privilege) but I think you've hit the nail on the head, especially where Gap (to me, the epitome of the WASPish, 'preppy' style) is concerned. I am also genuinely horrified that parts of the US would even be considering banning certain types of dress; that's presumptuous, racist, sizist, misses the point entirely, is probably based on fear and prejudice rather than evidence and is just downright wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start.

Levye, I was only just finding the fatosphere when that 2004 thread was active but from what I can gather he dropped 90lbs in a very short space of time putting him firmly into the category of 'sanctimonious ex-fattie', a role he apparently quickly warmed to.

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

sarahj July 24th, 2008 | Link | Ah, another store that does

Ah, another store that does not need my business! I like what Joy Nash said in her original Fat Rant - do NOT support ANY business that will not cater to your needs.

JennyLinsky July 24th, 2008 | Link | Leyve said: "it was Karl,

Leyve said: "it was Karl, who had to lose a lot of weight in order to stay in the Haute Couture club."

People ask, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

The answer? "Because I'd have to live with rich people." After hearing about that stupid little Haute Couture club, I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from laughing at them. Sounds like a lot of the so-called "upper class" is still stuck around junior high mentally.

Bree's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | To be honest, I think the

To be honest, I think the baggy clothes style looks stupid. But, it's here to stay, and if you are going to try to ban saggy trousers and thin guys wearing size XXL and up T-shirts (I should sell some of mine off, I'd probably make a fortune) Laughing out loud then other clothing deemed inappropriate will certainly have to be banned too. Most guys like to wear it and we have to tolerate it.

Along with my assumption of The Gap possibly trying to keep the urban population out of their stores, I think I can also safely assume that since a majority of people living in urban areas, regardless of race, are poor, The Gap is saying they don't want certain classes shopping there. And since many people equate fatness with poverty as well, that's two groups two be eliminated. It's pretty creepy if you think about it.

nancylebov July 24th, 2008 | Link |

Just in case you want another reason to not shop at the Gap.

Rio Iriri's picture
Rio Iriri
July 24th, 2008 | Link | wtf

Regarding "Overall, the majority of customers have appreciated the fact that we feature more medium- or large-size items in our stores,"
Are smaller-sized people really that bothered by shopping in a store that has sizes above XL? Do they start frothing at the mouth if they see that the shirt they're buying comes in XXL? Because, if they do, that's really petty. And if they don't, then what's the problem with keeping those sizes around?

Bilt4Cmfrt's picture
July 24th, 2008 | Link | Not much of a Gap shopper

Not much of a Gap shopper myself (They NEVER carried my 4XL size + Cloths styles never did anything for me). However, being a Big & Tall customer I can tell you that Bree may have hammered that nail but good. B&T STARTS at size 2XLT (Xtra Large / Long Tall) and runs up to 5XL, sometimes 6. Yet, many times while shopping, I've found myself in a store surrounded by 5 foot tall, 160-180 Lbs.(11-12 St.) kids. Sometimes they out numbered the 6 foot +, 300 Lbs.(21 St.) adults by two or three too one.

As far as clothiers finding the 'Urban Market' objectionable, this is not new. I'm old enough to remember when Timberland got so worried that 'urban teens' (Read: black teens) who had recently discovered their line, might ruin their rural outdoorsmen/hunters/wilderness image (Read: WASP) that they took out a FULL PAGE AD in the New York Times. Specifically to explain, in no uncertain terms, that the 'Urban Market' was not what Timberland was all about. Of course, once they realized how much MONEY they where making, they quickly STFU and backed the F off. This is the main reason why I will NEVER buy or own ANY of their merchandise. EVER. Unfortunately the younger Gen either doesn't know, or doesn't seem to care about any of this as illustrated by the popularity of the rapper who's taken 'Timbaland' as his stage/street name. *sigh*

And, please, just don't get me started on Tommy Hilfinger.

Everything great and worthwhile in human life is an accumulation of hundreds
and sometimes thousands of tiny efforts and sacrifices that nobody ever
sees or appreciates.
- Law of Accumulation

marita5062's picture
July 25th, 2008 | Link | S & XS sizes

I wonder if they will stop selling XS & S sizes in the shop to make more room for the Medium and Large clothing too....

Bree's picture
July 25th, 2008 | Link | One store that sells shirts

One store that sells shirts up to a 7X for guys is Big Dogs. Now granted, a lot of their shirts border on "redneck wear" (sayings featuring beer, fishing, hunting, etc). but you can find plain shirts with a small Big Dogs logo on them and the prices are reasonable. Gals shirts I believe go up to a 4X, but most of the shirts are unisex so if ladies need a 5X and up, they won't feel left out. I have bought many shirts for my grandfather, stepdad, and brother, as they are all big and tall. Pop wears a 2X, as does my stepdad. My brother wears a 4X, 3X if it's cut big, and I wear a 3X, but in Big Dogs, I wear a 4X because the shirts are 100% cotton and I like a little give. They also sell boxers and sleepwear.

akitachow's picture
July 25th, 2008 | Link | This is crazy. I remember

This is crazy. I remember when Target dropped Just My size products and other larger-size undies, and also the XXXL size in their lounge and sleepwear. I hated that.

I'm way too big for Gap clothes, so I can't boycott them, but I won't buy anything from there for my son and hubby, who both take size Large -- and they hover around 170 at 6' 2". They are thin and take a large, for chrissake. My dad was 6' 5" and wore a 3XL, and he was as thin as a rail. It's all relative. Why not just offer a full range of sizes.

I guess it's a matter of clothing becoming undesirable and unsophisticated by being available to - or associated with - fat people. I guess really tall thin people are SOL, too.

More than likely they want no fat people in the store tainting the place Smiling

Every day is International No Diet Day at my place

jlwes July 28th, 2008 | Link | That's why you will never

That's why you will never see a stitch of clothing from Old Navy on my 'plus size' blog. Any retailer who wants to treat people of size the way they do isn't going to get any publicity from THIS fat girl. Evil

jportnick's picture
August 1st, 2008 | Link | It's OK if you're fat because you're pregnant

Gap has done quite a bit to promote their line of maternity wear. I've seen numerous ads in our local paper featuring a pregnant woman (not too pregnant, though) wearing their attire. It half amuses, half annoys me that they seem perfectly willing to promote larger size clothing as long as their customer is pregnant, not (as I am) just plain fat. I haven't been in a Gap store in many years and won't be going in the forseeable future, either.

Jennifer Portnick
Personal Trainer (who is fat)
San Francisco, CA

kirablue August 13th, 2008 | Link | Thank you Walmart

Where I live, Walmart serves as the focal point for clothes for my 4X son. JCPenney is a little too conservative for him (he is 14) and Big and Tall, has some ok stuff and we have bought from there, however it is a little pricey. Also Meijer is sometimes ok, we bought a really good size 3X winter jacket there which is very roomy, he can wear it 2 years, and it was very reasonably priced. It is interesting that for myself, a woman who is a size 1X, that Kohl's has a nice selection, but does not have any larger sizes for men. I am concerned that as my son gets older, I will be more limited, because he has not yet gone through an adolescent growth spurt, hence he may move up in size.

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