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Vanity Sizing: Men's 36" Pants at Old Navy Actually Have a 41" Waist

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Though it's long been well-known that the women's clothing market thrives on vanity sizing—a.k.a. labeling down, sizing up—the pandemic in menswear has been less talked-about. Until now. Esquire sent a "size 36" writer into a variety of High Street stores, including H&M, Gap, and Old Navy to find out how many inches each brand's 36"-waisted trousers really measured. The results are pretty flabbergasting—with Old Navy coming out ahead at 41".

The pants manufacturers are trying to flatter us. And this flattery works: Alfani's 36-inch "Garrett" pant was 38.5 inches, just like the Calvin Klein "Dylan" pants — which I loved and purchased. A 39-inch pair from Haggar (a brand name that out-testosterones even "Garrett") was incredibly comfortable. Dockers, meanwhile, teased "Leave yourself some wiggle room" with its "Individual Fit Waistline," and they weren't kidding: despite having a clear size listed, the 36-inchers were 39.5 inches. And part of the reason they were so comfy is that I felt good about myself, no matter whether I deserved it.
· Are your pants lying to you? An investigation [Esquire]