It ain't easy being tall
A tall man's search for a shirt that fits - and his recommendations for where to buy decent clothes.
Growing up, I never understood that my genes would negatively impact my jean-shopping experience.
I didn’t ask to be 6 feet 9 inches (205cm in logical measurements) but my genetic roll of the dice landed on super-tall – bugger. Not only that, I have an albatross-like wingspan that stretches out to 213cm. These stats should have led to an illustrious career as an elite wing defender in the NBA. Instead, I’m a writer.
My main problem in life – other than fitting in trains, planes or automobiles – is finding clothes that fit. Unfortunately, the world just isn’t geared up for people at the extreme ends of the bell curve. When I go shopping in main street stores, I’ll find something that fits around the waist, but pants usually fall well above my ankles. As for tops, they finish too high above my waist and long sleeves come three-quarters of the way down my arms.
The issue here is that as clothes go up in size from M to XXXL, they don’t tend to get longer in the body or sleeves. They stay the same while you get a wider body, the logic being that people get fatter, not longer.
Now I can usually find something that covers my arms, but that’s because the shirt extends wider than my shoulders and there’s always a gross excess of fabric around my mid-section.
Turning to the web
From the age of 18, my parents handed the difficult reins of buying clothes to me. Like most people, I started my search online. It was easy enough to find that Levi’s and Wrangler made jeans in my size. Success! However, turning up to a physical store in NZ armed with that information means nothing – they don’t import giant pants.
Turns out you need to find an online shop that ships to our shores.
That’s another issue. The US Levi’s website doesn’t let you ship to New Zealand. To skirt these issues, I signed up to New Zealand Post’s YouShop, which tricks businesses into thinking you live in their climes. NZ Post then forwards them on to you – for a not insignificant fee.
Buying online from overseas is a risk. There’s all the faff of returning things back to their rightful home if they won’t fit. Everything I ever tried always seemed to be a bit big around the middle or too short in the arms. I needed a physical store to try on different sizes and brands to work out what was right, or I’d get stuck in an endless cycle of shipping things to and from the States.
In the end, I resorted to rolling the sleeves up on absolutely everything I wore. That worked well in summer but made for chilly winters.
Coming to America
For my 30th birthday in 2018, I set off for New York City for the first leg of a trip of a lifetime. It was a dream trip because I was finally going to the country that I’d exclusively bought all my pants from since 2005.
While most people scope out where The Met or the Natural History Museum are, I looked up the location of a Big and Tall shop in Manhattan. It was planned to a T. I knew how many blocks I had to walk from my hotel and skirted the crowds looking at the Rockefeller Christmas Tree to get there.
The store was massive, with wall-to-wall racks of clothes. I thought I was in heaven. But then I noticed the salesmen observing me sheepishly. Turns out it was all in the name – it was BIG and tall. One of the salesmen did help me out, kind of. “Sir, if you put on 30-40 pounds, I can find you some clothes that fit you.” Next stop, social media.
After returning, I was forced to revert to my old ways of rolling up sleeves, until I stumbled across an excellent group on Facebook. It was an exclusive group for tall men above 6 feet 6 inches and women above 6 feet. The only way to join is by posting a head-to-toe photo of yourself standing in a doorway.
This confirmed you were a giant or giantess and weeded out those with a height fetish (it happens – I’ve had people message and say I have lovely big hands).
I’d found my people. There are thousands of tall-ies in this group who’ve all had a lifetime of struggle to find clothes. Luckily for me, the members are always willing to lend advice, and this is where I stumbled upon some absolute gems that will hopefully see me through until the end of my days.
Unbeknown to me, there were clothes out there for me, I just needed to know where to look. Turns out the tallest 1% of a global population of nearly 8 billion people is still quite a big market, especially now that shopping is so easily accomplished internationally.
Where I go for my clothes now
The first place I got directed towards was Doubs Clothing. This business has a cool story. It was started by Sammie, who grew frustrated trying to find clothes that fit her 6 feet 10 inch husband. Based in Melbourne (and with free shipping!) I’ve ordered a few items from there and found they easily fit my frame.
After a lifetime of rolling up sleeves, it almost felt weird to put on a top that came down to my wrists. The sizing is in giant sizes. I’m only a large giant according to Doubs, whereas I’m used to being a XXL here. The size guides on the website make it easy to work out what you might be.
The second recommended place (and the one that makes clothes that seem like they’re tailored for me) was American Tall. This is where I go for just about everything now – Doubs is edgier and cooler while American Tall is preppy and American-y. The latter works better for me in the office. You can order its clothes in both tall and extra-tall sizes. The name might be American, but their clothes get sent from Canada and have a short turnaround time (about a week) to arrive here from the moment you order them. Shipping does add up though; it’s about $50 a pop, so I end up making bulk orders to spread the cost.
So there you have it. I’m now fully decked out and my wardrobe is slowly getting cleared of ill-fitting goods and replaced by perfectly fitting attire. I even bought my wedding suit from American Tall, and it cost me less than $400. Sure, it would’ve been easier to put on 20kg and hit the regular Big and Tall shops, but I do worry for my heart (which is about the size of Phar Lap’s).
Just keep swimming
I’m not alone in this. There are people taller than me, wider than me, even miles shorter than me who struggle to find clothes. Luckily there are some niche shops out there, you just need to go digging. And if you come up against a wall, keep going. It only took me 16 years to work it out.
Where I shop
Wrangler – as above, use the US site and you need a YouShop account.
American Tall – everything you need from undies right through to PJs and suit jackets – and there’s no need to faff around with a shipping account.
Doubs Clothing – their stuff looks really cool. It can be expensive, but you get free shipping. They also do made-to-order stuff as well.
And where I haven’t shopped (since the other places suit my needs) but come highly recommended by other tall people …
2tall.com – which seems to have a big variety. One day I’ll take the plunge and order from there.