On fitting in (t-shirts and stuff)

Throughout my life, I have loved music. I love listening to music, I love making music. I love live music especially. I love the energy of the crowd, and getting to see the performers in person; catching the occasional unguarded moment. In all my years attending concerts, however, I’ve been denied the opportunity to be the audience member sporting a tour T (or, Madonna forbid, a T from the last tour). Merchandise booths never carry sizes I can wear; they rarely go past a 2x. I still stand in line though, picking out a programme or a keychain – something tangible I can keep with me or gift to others. And I still ask, ‘What is the largest size you have?’ of the t-shirt or hoodie that catches my eye while I wait in the queue.

At one particular show in Dallas a few years back, an amazing thing happened. The concert hoodie went up to a 5x. I couldn’t believe it. It made my mind race – how have I missed this before? HAVE I missed this before? I decided that I hadn’t, because I’m always looking for clothes in my size. Even when I know it’s for naught, I keep looking (the result of an emerging adulthood devoid of fashion options). Perhaps as fat concert goers get louder about what we want, marketers are beginning to pay attention (it is one of the golden rules of capitalism, right? Sell the people what they want?) It may also be gendered – larger sizes are made with men in mind, and the hoodie I bought was definitely masculine. I didn’t wear it that night, but I do wear it often, and I experience a bit of glee each time. It makes me feel delightfully normal (but that’s another story for later).

Feeling like any other concert goer
Feeling like any other fan

Sometime later, I thought it might be worth seeing if this was a new trend or a one off thing. Could I find other promotional merchandise in my size? I launched into an online investigation, starting with my undergraduate alma mater. Shirts? Nope. Jackets? No. Hoodies? Nada. Not even the gear advertised as ‘athletic’ went above a 3x. Next stop were my San Francisco teams, but again, no luck. Nothing over 3x to be found.

I’m proud to be a Bobcat, but it makes me sad that I am relegated to cups and stickers to brand myself as one. And it doesn’t make me feel like less of fan to watch the 49ers play only wearing their logo on my hat. Does it make me less of a Giants fan to show team spirit only through a foam finger? Probably not. Does it anger me to be excluded from part of the experience because they don’t make merchandise in my size? Hell yes!

And this isn’t isolated to sporting events or concerts. My current University doesn’t manufacture apparel in sizes past a 2x. Anytime I’ve been involved with a group, a club at school, even my Union – when the T-shirts come out for people to wear, me and other super fats are always left to the side. Imagine being the only person at your family reunion who isn’t wearing the event t-shirt.

Organisers with the best of intentions deliver me a sheepish smile when I query if they have shirts that I might wear as well. I was once instructed to cut a shirt up the back so I could pretend to wear it along with everyone else for a group photo (I declined and refrained from suggesting something else that could be done with the scissors instead).

One of these things is not like the others...
One of these things is not like the others…

I later expressed that I was happy to be involved with the campaign, hell – I wanted to be involved – but they had to involve me. And if taking a group photo with matching T-shirts was the goal, then they needed to have T-shirts for my fat body as well.

This is just one of the ways that fat people are barred from full participation in life. One of the ways that we are excluded from engaging in social activities that make up the very fabric of fitting in and belonging to social groups, to society. And it may seem like a little thing – to not be able to wear a t-shirt along with your choir, your family, your church group. But it’s the little things like this that add up across a lifetime to make the message loud and clear: you’re not included. You’re not person worthy of the same consideration. You are probably unwanted. You are less than.

Because you are too much.

(Follow up – I did find this site, Fanatics, and they sell some items up to 6x in the Men’s Big & Tall section)