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December 07, 2003

  • Fat People Don’t Shop Here
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    There are many loathsome experiences in this life—cleaning out the toilet, waking up with a bad hangover, voting—but possibly one of the worst for me has to be clothes shopping in the Eaton Centre. All too frequently, I have an encounter like this one with a sales rep at Tip Top Tailors yesterday as I went looking for shirts.

    “Can I help you? What size are you looking for? “
    “Uh, do you have anything in a 2XL? “
    “No we have nothing in that size. Nothing.”

    I am a large man. I make no apology for this—I am looking to lose some weight—in fact I have lost weight lately—but frankly, this is who I am and I would like it if I could be accepted for that at this time. I’m thoughtful, intelligent and pretty damn sexy, if I do say so myself.

    I hasten to add that I’m not particularly huge, I’m just a size or two beyond the pale. Not that any store in the Eaton Centre would acknowledge this, as everything they have stops at a size 38 (many of them stop at, I kid you not, 36). I single out the Eaton Centre for this achievement because they have many, many clothing stores catering to the needs of the hip and savoir faire. And yet, not one of them—including the flagship Sears store—seems to include people beyond the waif-sized in their equation.

    And the problem is just as bad, if not worse, for women. I remember one ex-girlfriend—who to my mind was attractively Reubenesque (as the personal ads say) and objectively was on the fringes of the ‘plus size’ scale—was completely out of luck finding anything whatsoever at the Eaton Centre—a mall which has at least a dozen fashion stores exclusively for women.

    And yet, my own personal anecdotal evidence—what I’ve seen with my own two eyes—would indicate that there are many more people like myself and her out there. I can also attest that I have no problem finding clothes my size at a Zellers or a Wal Mart. This leads me to believe that most of these fashionistas have decided two things:

    1) Only poor people are fat. Therefore there is no profit to be made in providing clothes for them.

    2) Fat people are embarrassing to our image as a trendy fashion outlet—there are big and tall stores for people like them.

    Not that these stores would ever admit this is their reasoning, of course. But it seems to make the most amount of sense to me. You would think that a market economy would lead stores to see a there’s a market—a substantial niche if Dr. Phil is to be believed—to be filled. Moore’s does, it’s one of the only mainstream clothing stores that provides clothes above a 38, but no one else does.

    To my mind this leads me to believe that it’s discrimination, pure and simple. Either they believe 1) and its discrimination against the poor, or they believe 2) and it’s discrimination against the large, pure and simple.

    Either way, it’s demoralizing. When Sears, who certainly caters to my size in its catalogue, can’t be arsed to carry a solitary item in that size in their store, it says a lot about who they think their target market is. All the progressive chatter about body image and making people feel good about themselves fall by the wayside. We aren’t allowed in the club, even if we have the money and want to dress as well as the next person.

    A couple of years ago while Marks & Spencers—a store that catered to all sizes in Britain, but in Canada followed the prevalent dictat concerning the beyond-38s—still existed in this country, I once got so angry in not finding a single item in a 42 that I went to a sales rep and said, “Excuse me, I’ve been looking around for the sign that says Fat people aren’t welcome here.”

    Perhaps, in the end, that’s what I need to start doing more and more. Perhaps instead of just sighing and moving on, feeling worse about myself, I need to start pointing out in stores (and their owners) that my money is just as good as the rake-thin’s.

    Whatever the case, something needs to be done. The biggest irony going on right now at the Eaton Centre is that while they have set up a castle for Santa Claus to meet kids, the truth of the matter is that jolly old Saint Nick himself would not find a single store that had clothes in his size—even if he lost some weight first.

    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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