Once upon a time, to mark maturity, a boy graduated from “short pants” to his first pair of long trousers. But the boy who keeps on growing finds himself right back where he started: bare-ankled on a cold spring day.
At the turn of the season in the New York City, clothes can be worn without the cover of a coat. But when a long-legged, slim man of six-foot-four sets out to buy pants, he encounters certain obstacles of proportion.
At a loss for pants with a 36-inch leg, he is forced to stray outside the confines of traditional retail. This may lead him to the corner of Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street, where the tall man might decide to take his first cautious steps into the Rochester Big & Tall.
He may take a ladyfriend along with him for an appraising nod or shudder. But accompanying the tall man, should he also be quite slim, the ladyfriend might feel like she's wandering among elephants in the company of a giraffe. At six-foot-four, a man is tall enough to be slightly difficult to dress, but not quite a creature whose fabric needs are a burden on the manufacturing sector.
At Big & Tall, the sizes read like Roman numerals: so many X’s and L’s. Everything quite sumptuous, yet huge. 50-inch belts, 60-inch belts, Ermenegildo Zegna belts of butter-soft leather, braided belts so extreme they could be coiled beside a dock in a shipyard. There are pants folded like picnic blankets and suits like the side of a tent; soft white undershirts up to 6XL, and pinstriped bathrobes fit for two kings.
“How big do they get in the waist?” says a dapper store-clerk of average size. “Oh, 60, 65 inches. That’s where you have a hard time measuring. You have to give them a hug.”
And he laughs at the tall, slim man, with legs too long for standard store sizes but a waist too small for a fat man’s clothes.
“Some of these guys,” the clerk says, “would kill to have a body like you.”
Here, even ties run a few inches longer, so as not to stop mid-nipple or mid-gut -- a normal-length tie could make a basketball star look like a ventriloquist’s dummy -- and great, rugged watches, with an extra link in the strap, suit a sirloin of a wrist. There are also fleets of dress Oxfords, Birkenstock canoes and gorgeous black longboats by Bruno Magli, whose plush perfect leather was once not just a cow, but cattle.
At the Big & Tall store, it's easier to be big as well as tall -- or just big. But the man of six-foot-four did find a suitable pair of dress pants with a 34-inch waist.
In a country that tends toward growing out rather than up, fewer nationwide depots of elegant clothing exist for the Tall & Thin. These gentlemen must adapt, and make their own way in the sartorial world. Or else they must eat between meals.