Did you ever wonder why you can still wear the same jeans or dress size you wore in high school? Because you’re being lied to, that’s why! You’re actually not wearing the same sizes. None of us are. Now…Mr. Everyday Dollar isn’t saying you’re not still a svelte, good-looking dude or a fit, trim lady. Many of us still got it and can still flaunt it when need be, but it’s a fact that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. We know this, and we hear it all the time.
This imposes an interesting dilemma for our delicate self-esteems. How can we Americans still feel good about ourselves even though what used-t0-be-a-31-inch-waist is now a 34? Have no fear for marketers have come to our rescue! They heard our whines about our expanding waistlines and rushed in to calm and soothe our emotions. How nice of them, no?
What’s been happening in the clothing industry for a long time is something called vanity sizing. For women, what was a size eight in the 1950’s became a four in the 1970’s, a zero in the 1990’s and now, a double zero. And it’s not just women’s clothing, men’s clothes are not immune to this foolery either.
According to Esquire, pants being sold with a 36-inch waist actually ran from 37 inches (lookin’ at you, H&M), all the way up to 41 inches (Old Navy, you should be ashamed)!
Personally, Mr. Everyday Dollar thinks this is a bad phenomenon. Marketers sitting on your shoulder like a little devil and decreasing the actual value of sizes, I believe, leads to inaction. Why would someone go to the gym to shed extra pounds when it’s so easy to be in on the lie? Heck, they’re the same size they were in high school, so why exercise and eat better?
The most concerning thing is that fudging with sizes hasn’t stopped at clothes, it has moved to food and portion sizes as well!
We’ve all heard the statistics. A large soda at McDonald’s is six times the size it was 60 years ago. And everything is bigger: the soda, the fries, the sandwiches…us. But the scary part is that they keep growing! KFC has the Mega Jug now – a soda ringing in at a whopping 64 ounces. And convenience stores like 7-Eleven have fountain sodas up to 128 ounces! That, my friends, is equal to 10 cans of soda. What the hell is happening?
I don’t eat fast food and won’t judge if you do, but check out the differences in sizes between McDonalds and Burger King:
A medium-sized french fry at McDonald’s and Burger King appear to be the same size, but Burger King’s have 25 grams more and 80 calories more. As pictured above, Burger King’s small fries is the right match to McDonald’s medium fries. How are consumers supposed to know the particular differences between eating establishments? Shouldn’t small fries be the same wherever you go, so you’re not unknowingly overeating?
It’s no different in sugary soda-land either. I don’t drink the stuff but certainly won’t judge if you do:
Medium drinks run from 20 ounces up to 32 ounces. It’s no different with other sizes either: an extra large drink at Taco Bell is 44 ounces while the extra large at KFC is 64 ounces, a difference of 20 ounces. A regular patron at Taco Bell might have no idea they’re in for an extra 20 ounces of soda at KFC and not to mention, the additional calories.
The concerning thing is that manipulating sizes didn’t just stop at clothes and food, it has moved to houses too!
Marketers can trick us with vanity sizing our clothes. The fast food restaurants can trick us with ever-growing portions and confuse us with non-standard sizes. But this one is on us. The average U.S. house size has more than doubled since 1950 when it stood at 983 square feet.
It peaked at 2,521 square feet in 2007 and now stands at 2,392 square feet. When my grandparents were raising children, they wanted an average house, which to them meant a one-stall garage, a kitchen and dining room, a living room, one bathroom and 2-3 bedrooms. If they had more than 2 kids, which my grandparents did, then the kids shared bedrooms.
Now, the average house has swelled to include media rooms, trampoline rooms, home offices, a separate bedroom for every kid, a separate bathroom for every bedroom, walk-in closets the size of bedrooms and three-car garages. And people have no problem filling these houses with their stuff, either. The bigger they get, the more stuff we can buy to fill it with!
The concept of sizes stays the same over the years – whether it’s a size eight, waist 31, small, medium, large – but the reality is that they grow in accordance with our over-sized lifestyles. We love big meals, big houses, big cars and the big debt that goes with it. So hand me my vanity-sized pants as I speed away from my McMansion in the SUV to go hit up KFC for a Mega-Jug, we say.
In the book Shantaram, which I’m currently reading, the author is living in one of the slums of India, in a one-room hut and realizes “the size of our happiness is inversely proportional to the size of our house.”
It has been proven that bigger doesn’t necessarily make us better, happier or more content with the lives we’re leading. And it certainly doesn’t make us more wealthy. All of these issues can leave us feeling confused, frustrated and unsure of how to navigate our everyday lives. The solution seems simple, yet far-fetched, as convincing the manufacturers, companies and restaurants to better the health and wealth of us is far more difficult than it should be.
The solution for vanity-sized clothes? Make the manufacturers standardize sizing. The solution for fast food sizes? Make the restaurants standardize them. The solution for houses? We need to learn to buy less stuff and live in smaller houses. If consumers demand these things, changes will happen. My favorite tactic of all? Voting with your Everyday Dollars!
photo credit: fastfoodmarketing.org