I like to sit and observe people, sometimes. A while ago, while my son was buying new clothes, I had occasion to sit in the waiting room while he tried his choices on. I could see the entire shop floor from my vantage point. We were in one of the largest, if not the largest, branch of Marks and Spencer.
What I observed was the following. Lots of big men went through the racks and racks of clothing and found nothing in their size. They left empty handed, frustrated and somewhat insulted. Since the rate of fructose consumption has steadily increased since the 1970s, men especially have been getting larger and larger. At least one third of the population are now obese and two thirds are overweight, according to some statistics I have seen. That means people who are not obese or overweight are now in the minority! But the clothing available has not kept pace. It still is made and sized for an imaginary population. There are surplus clothes in the small to medium sizes, but hardly anything on offer for men who are larger.
The same thing happens in shoes stores. Size 12 shoes are no longer rarely bought. Lots of men, these days, have tall statures and consequently bigger feet, but the shoe manufacturers stick to their insistence on 12 being the largest size available. As the largest size, the range offered is also limited and too bad if you’re a 13. You’re supposed to be a size 9! Get with the project!
I think this is a result of a misplaced aesthetic prejudice. Designers of clothing and shoes love the look of their garments and footwear on slim models, who are not gigantically tall. But real people are no longer like that. You only have to sit and watch for any length of time in any popular clothing retailer.
When designers do make provision for heavier and taller men, the designs are frequently hideous, available in a very small number of colours, or designed with cursory attention to making the wearer actually look good and feel comfortable. Why? More prejudice? Is this a conspiracy?
It amazes me that the same retailers that sell sugar, fat and salt-saturated foods in one part of their store complain that sales of fashions are doing poorly in another part of the same store. Wake up!
So here is a public challenge to fashion designers. Go out and actually look at the population that you are clothing. Honour their shape, size, height and dimensions. Then try to design to a target of making good looking gear that fits well, feels great and makes the customer feel fabulous. Offer it in exciting, vibrant colours. Make a genuinely interesting and wide choice available. I guarantee this will transform your fortunes.
It’s about time the fashion industry gave up on wishful thinking or insisting that their customers conform to their view of how people *should* look (in their aesthetic judgement) and begin to design for real people, in the real world.