Ever wonder why the clothes that fit you so well 20 years ago are too small today? Has your size gone from medium to large without you knowing how or why? Well, here is a cockamamie theory to explain such a phenomenon. A theory that makes about as much sense as showing up at one of the big box stores at midnight on Thanksgiving to shop.

A little background first. Before the Industrial Revolution, we used to make our own clothes. Our mothers made our clothes, our fathers watched Ozzie and Harriet reruns. Just kidding. Fathers made guns and tools and tamed horses.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

Things changed when industrialization dictated that our clothing would now be made in factories by workers who are paid money. Those workers could be living anywhere, in less developed countries like Sri Lanka or Cambodia, halfway around the world. Now, I’m not denigrating any group of people when I write that the average height of men and women of a certain country may be shorter (or to be politically correct, of less height) than those living in more developed countries. It is well known that human growth is limited by poor nutrition and poverty, but genetics play a major role also.

My point is that my shirts started misfitting me at about the time the shirts in the marketplace began to sport labels of manufacture from places like Myanmar and Bangladesh. According to a 2013 study by the University of Oxford, the average height of those inhabitants of Asian origin was 6 inches shorter than those inhabitants of North America and Europe. I discovered this firsthand years ago on a Tokyo subway when I gazed down the length of the train car and saw nothing but the tops of heads. In comparison, I would see a sea of shirt collars on a subway back in America.

In that same report from Oxford, the average height of a Danish man was listed at 183 centimeters (5 feet, 11 inches), tallest in the world, while the average Burmese male comes in at 161 centimeters (5 feet, 5 inches). Scientists know that height and build are dependent on good health, good nutrition and avoidance of poverty, but the most important factor is genetics. If you want to be tall when you grow up, choose tall parents.

So my crazy proposition is that somehow shirts being made by an average Burmese woman from Myanmar are for an average North American male (a full 6 inches taller than the person making it) to wear.

I’ve got it in my head that somehow the person sewing the shirt is influenced by the height of the recipient. It may appear to be ridiculous, but so does the idea of the Electoral College. Given my take on the relationship between sewer and sewee, a men’s medium shirt made in Samoa would end up the same size as a two-person tent from L.L.Bean. I’ll report on that at a future time.

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