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Case of the Shrinking Abercrombie Clothing Sizes

I’ve been clothes shopping a few times this year, and each time I go, I get another reminder of how 32×34 must mean something else in Indonesia or the planning rooms at Abercrombie and/or Hollister Co. While the pant-sizing issue is a bummer in and of itself, the real pisser of late has been the “case of the shrinking shirt sizes.” On top of that, the ineptitude and utter detachment that the employees of these places display kind of drives me nuts, although it’s hard to blame them sometimes when you consider the retail environment.

Anyhoo, so a couple of weeks ago, I went into Abercrombie with Courtney just to look around. We immediately saw a gray and white striped polo that I knew I would inevitably end up with, but I couldn’t find my size (large) anywhere on the floor. I badgered an employee about it, and a few minutes later, she emerged from the clusterf$*% that is the stock room with said gray polo in large.

Now, just to bring you up to speed here, sizing in the late 90s wasn’t really a ridiculous crapshoot. Men’s clothes ran big at the time (because I guess that was the style), so you pretty much knew what you were getting. In 2002, Abercrombie introduced the “Muscle” cut on their shirts, which I think just meant that they were going to make their clothes smaller. Being the attention-seeking man slut that I am, however, I enjoyed this switch because it meant that I wouldn’t have to resort to steroids in order to fill out the sleeves of your everyday shirt.

When they first came out with the “Muscle” cuts, a medium was just about right, and a large was just a bit too, well, large. Over the last year or so, though, I’ve had to start getting larges because the mediums began to look downright ridiculous – like trying to slip a condom over a basketball.

Now we go back to our story, only this time you know precisely why I needed a large, and you have this wonderful mental image to boot! I know, I know – I’m feeling generous today. So the girl came back from the stock room with my new shirt, and I bought it and headed on home. The next day, I went to put it on, and lo and behold – there’s a gaping hole where that damn sensor used to be.

First question that comes to my mind is this: “How in the hell does the ‘Crombie Zombie’ who removed the sensor not see a hole 3/4″ in diameter?” You know what I think? I think she saw it. I think she just didn’t care. I think she probably thought that the hole wasn’t like directly over my nipple or anything, so why should I care, right? Well, when I’m walking through my house not paying a lick of attention and brush across a door jamb, I’ll probably care a lot when I rip off half my shirt because the hole caught on the lock deal as I passed at 20 mph.

Dismayed over the stupid hole, I had to take the uber cool gray and white stripe polo (in large) back to Abercrombie and exchange it for one that wasn’t ventilated so well. Of course, Murphy’s Law dictates that they would no longer have the gray polo in large, so I had to opt for another polo that I wasn’t quite as crazy about but liked nonetheless. I snatched up a large, made the exchange, and bolted out of there without really even thinking about it.

The next morning, I went to put on the new polo. I first noticed a problem when trying to slide my arms through the armholes — umm, I kind of got hung up at the elbows. After much struggling, I managed to pull on the new large polo, and once that bad boy was on, I felt like my arms were going to pop. The shirt was so freaking tight on my “guns” that the skin was actually wrinkling up underneath the cuffed part of the sleeve. It looked completely ridiculous.

I have at least ten Abercrombie polos in my wardrobe, and I can say without hesitation that none of them have sleeves that small. Some are pretty tight on me, but nothing compares to the “large” that would fit the torso of a rhino but the arms of a monkey.

Seriously, what is the agenda here? I think there should be at least some reward for being muscular as far as men’s clothes go. I don’t think your everyday chump should be able to fill out the sleeves of a large shirt. Proportionately, it’s got to look kinda weird, I would think. It damn sure looked weird on me!

So anyway, I still have the “large” polo, and I guess I’m going to take it back to the store and try to exchange it for something that really does fit. Only this next time, I think I’ll actually try the shirt on in the store, because it’s clear at this point that the size on the label means next to nothing. The alternative, of course, is simply to get my money back and go spend it somewhere else (or not at all, but that’s not gonna get me a shirt anytime soon). Maybe I’ll go to Hollister Co., although I don’t like their polos quite as much. I’ve noticed, too, that their sizes have shrunk since 2002. I like a snug fit on my shirts, but all these shrinking sizes are driving me nuts. I need some consistency, people!

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31 comments… read them below or add one

Brian March 3, 2006

Very true on the sizing issue, I haven’t found a shirt in my size that fits really well since about 1999.

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Wong July 11, 2012

Means you fat.

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tfro March 4, 2006

Just imagine if you were tall and skinny… if the shirt fits in the shoulders its about 4″ too short (evan a “large”). And this so called “slim fit” crap just means the damn sleeves are shorter and skinny so they barely cover one’s shoulders. Slim fit was good when Polo first had it, now its just some lame excuse to be trendy.

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Olga April 12, 2007

Thank you for posting this, I found your article while doing research for my Apparel Manufacturing Fashion class project, and burst out with laughter throughout the article!

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jon July 21, 2007

I have a few large shirts from a few years ago from abercrombie and fitch that are larger than the xtra large shirts they sell now.

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James June 17, 2009

Maybe you guys are just getting fatter. It tends to happen with age. The late 90s were over a decade ago.

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Sami June 30, 2009

Hysterical. This really made my day. I swear A&F’s sizes have shrunk over the years. I knew I wasn’t crazy.

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Chris October 20, 2009

It is pretty ridiculous, I’m a bigger guy but by no means fat (I played football in college) and have more muscle than most any other guy that shops there. Having said that, even their XXL shirts feel like I’m wearing a cut off since the sleeves barely cover my shoulders. Even the coats are muscle cut. They should be like almost every other store out there and give customers the option of which kind of cut they want.

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Andrew December 26, 2009

I agree. I have large t-shirts that I bought a year ago that are larger than the xl ones they sell now. I tried on an xl henley and thermal and they were way too tight across the chest and in the arms but the arms were too long. I lift weights but I’m not huge by any means. I don’t even bother shopping there anymore.

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Matt November 11, 2010

Are you guys serious ?!? Fisrt of all A&f is supposed to target well build guys so if you wear large or extra large size, beside if your a bodybuilder, well, maybe you should try to slow down on carb and hit the gym for a bit ! I’m 5’9″ and 160lbs muscly guy and I found that even Small clothes are a bit too big on the belly side and a bit too long !
A&F should really run smaller for people who like their clothe to be tight to the body !

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Ricky B February 3, 2011

I just bought a whole bunch of $hit from that store online and it’s supposed to arrive tomorrow! I’m already prepared to be disappointed though.
Yesterday I went to a store that actually had what I ordered online. I was stoked to try on my new gear, but then I looked in the mirror in one of those dark fitting rooms and to my surprise I looked like stuffed tamale!!
A few years ago I wished they made XS shirts because back then I was still a “twink” but now I’m a little thicker and the S seem to fit just fine.
I’ll probably end up returning everything I ordered back to a store and keep my money since they won’t have more sizes to exchange. I’m a compulsive shopper and probably didn’t need to spend all that hard earned cash anyway!

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Mike April 17, 2011

I’m from Canada and I’ve also noticed this, but I am the opposite… back in 2003 I had lost a lot of weight and I was a L but bought XL just cause I liked the loose fit at the time and good thing cause I got off my health kick and gained a bit of weight just in time for the snugger look to come in style so the XL was alright, but then in 2004/2005 I hadn’t gained anymore weight at all and there was no way I was fitting in an XL, and had to go into an XXL and before that the XL was still a bit lose on me from the 2003 collection. And this was in 2004/2005 that I had to get XXL even though I hadn’t gained any weight. Now over the past 6 years I have gained some weight but not that much, sizes have shrank again… in 2003 I could probably fit in a XXL but because cloths sizes have shrunk so much I am forced to go to a Big and Tall store to buy XXXL shirts because of how much they have shrank the sizes in the shirts, it’s rediculous, they didn’t just shrink the arms, they shank the gut area as well. It’s pathetic. You would think in a nation like North America where the obesity rate is so high that they would keep sizes normal and not shrink them and the ppl who buy smalls if they want them tight can go get hte largest kids section clothes and the ppl who were XL’s now can go to a L or a M for there tight look and let us have our dignity back and not have to go shop at the big and tall stores.

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Mike April 17, 2011

By the way, this isn’t just at Abercrombie, this is at Old Navy, American Eagle, all of those chain stores as well as the big stores like sears, wal-mart etc. Everyone has jumped on this shrunken size trend. So guys who were XXL 6 or 7 years ago are forced to go to the Big and Tall stores now even if they haven’t gained any weight.

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JH May 9, 2011

I would like everyone reading this to not simply assume that you have put on a little weight or gained some muscle mass since you last shopped for t-shirts. Please note the following.

I have a few Fruit of the Loom XXL t-shirts I purchased about 3 years ago and have worn and laundered them repeatedly since then.

I went to the local Wal-Mart and brought a pack of the same FOTL XXL short sleeve pocket t-shirts. Suspecting more games from the retail sector, I opened the package and compared my old T to one of the new fresh out of the pack Ts. The new T was visibly smaller when placed on top of the old T. Using a measuring tape, the new T measured 1 1/2 (one and one half) inches narrower across the chest than the old T. Tired of being toyed with, I then laundered the new T as I have the old T. The new T was now 2 1/4 (two and one quarter) inches narrower. I returned them to WM and exchanged them for a pack of XXL Hanes pocket Ts for generalized brand comparison. The Hanes were also smaller out of the package than the old FOTL, but about 1/2 (one half) inch wider than the FOTLs. I did not bother to launder them but returned them and got my money back. I will take my money elsewhere.

Now, have you ever noticed that some retailers will charge slightly higher prices for XXL or XXXL shirts?

I do not like being taken for a fool and am getting tired of the “slight of hand” games being played on consumers.

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Robot Shlomo July 2, 2011

I was starting to think it was me. But after stepping on the scale at work, and noticing I have been the same weight for the last five years, I can say with some certainty that the clothing industry is trying to cut corners by skimping on material. I recently bought a Champion XL t-shirt from Sports Authority. I brought it home, tried it on and to my surprise I nearly “Hulked out” of it. After buying an Addidas NY Knicks shirt from Model’s, I noticed that shirt wasn’t a “winner” either. The new Russell Athletic shirts still fit well right off the rack.

There’s three possible things going on here;

1) Much of the garment industry has been largely shipped overseas, and there’s no quality control anymore, so you have a mish-mash of sizes.

2) The industry is cutting corners and using less material

3) Both 1 AND 2.

The other possibility is that this is the latest “trend” in the industry. Screw trends, just give me something that fits!

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Paul November 21, 2011

There is an agenda.

The next gen guys are midgets and dwarfs. They don’t feel like men in size S and M. The industry figured this out and thus changed the scale to accommodate these little men.

I’m a 35 at 6’1 183 and look the same as I did when I was 18 and I no longer where size L. It’s getting to the point where I’ll have to shop at big and tall stores.

The little 5’9 160 pounders are taking over!

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aberzombie December 17, 2011

yeah, wtf abercrombie. i have several shirts in L that fit me well. today I went and their XXL didnt fit me anymore…

they seem to narrow down their clientele to the 14-16 year olds…

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Paul-Ster August 2, 2012

Its pathetic. A & F have completely gone to the 5’9″ 160 little guys clothes. My 14 yo son who is 6′ 2″ and 180 pounds cant wear a damn shirt in the place. He isnt even close to being fat either, he is a slim and fit baseball player. Its a joke. A & F are narrowing down their customers to the young kids and the skinny little boys and their skinny jeans sizes. I dont know how some guy can wear those skinny jeans POS’s and still feel like they have a pair. They make you look so much like a girl.

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Chris September 1, 2012

I am an impulse shopper who buys way too much junk. Whatever I buy these days is nothing compared to the quality of a few years ago.

Somedays I tell myself that I don’t want any new clothing items EVER. I get more upset by my purchases lately than it makes me happy.

The Economy is really bad and we produce junk in countries that produce junk. What do you expect ?

So sad.

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Don February 17, 2013

I agree with Chris… The economy is tanking. There is an alternative to going to the mall, though. I shop EXCLUSIVELY at thrift stores and find lots of A&F clothing that actually fits! I’m not a small guy either, so it’s good to find good fitting clothes for next to nothing. Sometimes the A&F clothes I find still have store tags on them! If you don’t mind washing your “new” purchases first thing when you get home… you can save a ton of money!

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JQ March 23, 2013

nothing new here. I have to buy XL or XXL just to have a jacket fit properly. Typically the hood will be greatly disproportionate. I also notice that the cut for arm pit areas (sleeves meet shoulders) is also a bad fitting. This occurs on all types of shirts sold at A&F. I love the quality. I hate the lack of attention to details such as FITTING!!!!!!!

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Sal September 27, 2013

I am 5’10” 175lbs. When I was 225lbs 4 years ago I was wearing A&F xxl…Just went to try a Henley on at the store. My wife said the XL looked ok, but I thought it was just too tight in the chest. The XXL fit ok in the arms and chest with a nice muscle fit, but the torso was way too loose. Unfortunately the store did not have any of the American Made Henleys like they do online, so I wonder how much better the quality will be. I was contemplating ordering a XL and an XXL for the free shipping over $100 and returning the one I don’t like to the store…..decisions decisions…..

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Moe Tait October 13, 2013

Im starting to think that you have just gained weight. I have tons of clothes from A&F and all of them fit just fine; if anything they are a bit loose after the chest area. I wear size (S). I weigh 133.8lbs weighed in 13/10/2013 at exactly 9:20am before breakfast if you care about that matter, and am 5ft 10inches

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RobotShlomo October 16, 2013

Moe, not for nothing but at your size and weight you can fit into ANYTHING. You are the “target demographic” Abercrombie and Fitch want. The majority of people aren’t 5′ 10″ and 133lbs. and take a size small.

It’s not just A&F, it’s ALL clothing manufacturers. I have a Hanes shirt from about eight years ago, and compared to ones I bought recently, the quality has absolutely hit rock bottom! It’s like we’re back in the 70’s.

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JJ December 9, 2013

Welcome to what has ALWAYS been the curse of women’s clothing!

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Lee December 27, 2013

So, there are really still people that shops at Abercrombie? I like their outerwears, but their shirts at too short and the fabrics are cheap and those tshirts are just for kids, and midgets.

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Kenneth Christian January 3, 2015

I’m 6ft and 170 I normally wear large do u size up one when I’m buying from ambercombie

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Todd May 3, 2015

I have the opposite issue, I’m a small stature guy and ordered two small sized muscle fit shirts. I’m naturally toned but like I said, I’m on the short side of the spectrum at 5’7. Anyhows, I put on one of the shirts and it’s baggy on the back and front, fits perfectly on my arms but no point wearing it unless I want to look like I’m wearing an expensive bin bag over myself.

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Anthony May 24, 2015

Have any of you actually measured yourselves properly with a dressmakers tap measure recently? Could it be that you have put on weight So that you aren’t a 32 waist or whatever, like you were 15-20 YEARS ago!??

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Emmy May 24, 2015

I’m glad other people noticed the changing size with Abercrombie & Hollister clothing. Maybe I’m an 80s birth child with a old fashion sense. But I notice they are making very short and lack of fabric clothing. They force us girls to bare our betty buttons by designing shirts that rises so high. Also, they cut our sleeves off very low that I feel like I’m showing my side boobs. Abercrombie, Hollister, forever21, American eagle, etc are most noticeable stores. My mom mentioned that the materials are cheaply made. Which are true because after I wash their clothes I notice they shrink a lot more. A size small is shrunk to a size xxs-appropriated for my 2 years old sister. My friends are wearing the clothes and I feel very wrong. It’s like they’re attracting the wrong attention (e.g. perverted men). I feel like my generation is being coerced into these styles. Don’t get me wrong there are clothes that are appropriated sizing and more fabric mend on them. Maybe our generation needs to make better choices?

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RobotShlomo July 1, 2015

Anthony, you might have a point if the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch didn’t he wanted only thin “beautiful” people to wear his clothes. I’m not making that up, he actually SAID IT.

How do you make sure only thin beautiful people wear your clothes? To size them SMALLER.

And now that you have stores like Walmart who want to increase volume, the way they do that is to demand clothing manufacturers make their clothes CHEAPER. I have fruit of loom shirts I bought a few years ago, and I bought a couple recently at Walmart, and the recent buys shrank and are UNWEARABLE. And when those wear out what do you do? Buy another one at Walmart. Pound for pound Russell Athletic makes the best shirts on the market.

Clothing has gotten progressively WORSE over the last few years. Old Navy has redesigned their jeans to be “low rise”, to appeal to hipsters. Shirts all over are undersized. And everywhere you look the plague of “skinny jeans” proliferate our culture. Clothing manufacturers aren’t designing clothes for real people, they’re designing them for the d-bags you see in those in-store posters.

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Hoot and/or Holler

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