The New, Bigger Size For Just About Everything!
January 21, 2002 1:05 AM   Subscribe

The New, Bigger Size For Just About Everything! In this article Joseph Epstein coins the word upsizing. The gap between America and Europe grows ever larger. Your Individual Japanese Minimalist pack of potato chips is now our Family Size. Does anyone remember E.F.Shumacher or still believe that small is beautiful? Hey, is MetaFilter itself upsizing?[via Arts and Letters Daily]
posted by MiguelCardoso (36 comments total)
Sorry. Here's the bigger, improved link to Epstein's article.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:08 AM on January 21, 2002

In the upsizing revolution, even I rarely any longer wear size Small, but have been
promoted to a Medium in polo shirts and a Large in sweat shirts.

If it were the other way around, wouldn't one still be able to call it "upsizing" (clothing itself getting bigger, rather than size designations?) I mean, isn't what he calls upsizing - getting less in a package with a "big" name - really downsizing? And doesn't that then make it the oppposite of the oft-maligned supersizing?
posted by transona5 at 1:16 AM on January 21, 2002

With 11,400 results on google, I think he coined it a little too late.
posted by sylloge at 1:25 AM on January 21, 2002

(Oops, forgot this part.)

Me: Can I have a large fries please?
Counterperson: Would you like supersize?
Me: Nah; large is fine.
Counterperson: We don't have large. Only supersize.
— a few months ago at a fast food joint.
posted by sylloge at 1:32 AM on January 21, 2002

Transona5: here's a recent article with a bit more information about supersizing and clothing manufacturers.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:02 AM on January 21, 2002

Interesting industry perspective. Manufacturers (although I don't know about the uniform industry) have definitely been changing women's sizes to seem smaller for years now, but they haven't actually made it easier to find clothes that fit. (I wear a pretty darn small size, but most of the clothing aimed at twentysomethings still seems like it's made for thirteen-year-olds with no hips.)

The article made it sound like men's clothing was undergoing a similar trend, which contradicts Epstein's argument.
posted by transona5 at 2:41 AM on January 21, 2002 try buying a 'fashionable' t-shirt in the UK in anything larger than XL....impossible....without going to a 'specialist' (i.e. dorky, non-fashionable) shop...

I have to order from the US to buy anything that fits...

I think its because they take their lead from womens clothing...if a UK 8 is now the size that a UK 10 was then women can say they are an 8 (and be happy)...whilst still being bigger...

Of makes no difference to most guys I know...who prefer women to have curves anyway!

Aaaagh - a subject to really get me started!!

Anyone know any great places to buy t-shirts in the UK (on/off-line) - that will size in XXXL?
posted by mattr at 2:46 AM on January 21, 2002

UK large fashion: "Livin' Large" can be found at or in most High and Mighty stores.

"6ft+", the magazine of the UK Tall Persons Club (, also regularly carries adverts from stores specialising in clothes and shoes for upscale men and women, as well as large sheets, longer beds and so on. A godsend.
posted by Hogshead at 3:32 AM on January 21, 2002

"Um...yes I'll take my mate with a rather large helping of cash. Oh, and could you please biggie size that for me? K-thx-bye!"
posted by Quixoticlife at 5:27 AM on January 21, 2002

Anyone know any great places to buy t-shirts in the UK (on/off-line) - that will size in XXXL?

Oy. I think it can safely be said that Metafilter is a website for giants.
posted by crunchland at 6:28 AM on January 21, 2002

I once witnessed an incident much like sylloge. At the local Wendy's:
  1. an old man orders a coke
  2. wendy's guy asks what size
  3. man says 'medium, I guess'
  4. wendy's guys says, 'we don't have medium' (and doesn't even offer the alternative jargon)
  5. old man grimaces, gives up on humanity
posted by stevengarrity at 7:07 AM on January 21, 2002

Doesn't it seem like if you have 3 sizes, one of them HAS to be medium?
posted by ph00dz at 7:26 AM on January 21, 2002

Upsize has been part of the vernacular (at least in Ohio) for a long time. Not all fast food restaurants 'supersize', some 'biggie size.' Upsize is the happy medium.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:33 AM on January 21, 2002

I guess that medium is the message here.
posted by crunchland at 7:52 AM on January 21, 2002

I distinctly remember getting off the plane in San Francisco after only one month in Indonesia and reeling at how huge Americans were -- lumpy, towering, distended, with enormous rippling flesh and gigantic teeth, ears the size of dinner plates with the sweaty stems of eyeglasses stuck in them; big bull necks and twice the number of body parts, if you count the little swells of extra meat that hung off their elbows and chins and backs of their armpits. And they were so loud, grimacing and chuckling and breathing loudly, and loudly clapping each other on the shoulders. A thundering, corn-fed, meat-keeping people slowly launching from location to location.

Of course, after a few hours back in America that vision faded and I didn't look like an American in the mirror.
posted by argybarg at 7:59 AM on January 21, 2002

argybarg: Tangential thing here, but I was reading about the Social Security debate the other day, just after reading about Americans getting larger. (Heck, I'm working on losing weight myself, although my struggle's tied in with quitting smoking two Septembers ago and not just with fast food and fat-filled snacks, which has been cut out.) The standard argument for privatizing Social Security is that, with the baby boomers nearing retirement age and people living longer as a result of heathier eating and fitness, the program will soon be in trouble. Well, if Americans are actually getting larger and more out of shape, does that mean they won't necessarily be living longer, and that Social Security will thrive? Just something that's been on my head lately. Had to get it out.
posted by raysmj at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2002

argybarg: sounds like you need to time things better so you're not peaking right as you get off the plane...
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:16 AM on January 21, 2002

people living longer as a result of heathier eating and fitness

I think people living longer has to do with advances in pharmaceuticals and better, more preventive medical care, all of which costs big bucks.
posted by panopticon at 8:34 AM on January 21, 2002

MrBaliHai, you should know that Bali itself is a potent hallucinogen. So, in a general way, is spending a month in a country in which every single person is smaller and leaner than yourself.
posted by argybarg at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2002

Just the other day I succumbed to McDonalds. I only go for the occasional
breakfast when the need for grease is overpowering. I order my Sausage McMuffin
with egg, hash brown and coffee - a #3. The young man manning the counter asked
what I wanted to drink:

"Coffee, " me.
"What size? Large or small? " him
"Are they the same price?" me
"Well, the large is probably a little bit more.." him

I ordered the small as I had intended all along. I also order medium drinks
in order to avoid the **best value**. I think I'll be fine with the
medium. The guy behind me can have the extra calories and the better value.

posted by YohonTheLarge at 8:45 AM on January 21, 2002

I always get a kick out of going into a mall-bound Starbucks or Barney's, and ordering an espresso, which is always obstinately shot-glass sized amidst the milkshake-sized nonsense people drink nowadays.

The particularly clueless will ask if they can have samples, too.
posted by dong_resin at 8:55 AM on January 21, 2002

argybarg: I know what you mean. I recently had a layover in LA while flying back from Laos, and the "size shock" almost killed me. The people were vast and seemed to eat almost continuously! The food was served in glistening mounds, spilling over on to every available surface.

It was frankly gross. I thought the meat section of Talat Dala was nasty, but my god LAX had it beat. The entire universe was composed of grease, or so it seemed.

...I ended up skipping the fries I had intended to buy, and ended up eating crackers and a lime. Now I feel guilty for weighing 202, even though I'm 6'5". I can't imagine what I must have seemed like to the Laotians.
posted by aramaic at 9:07 AM on January 21, 2002

Now maybe Europeans will understand why Americans drive big SUV's. It's just not possible to contort our massive bulk into a Mini.

However, when the Mini Cooper S hits dealers here, I am buying one if I can squeeze my ass into the driver's seat.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:24 AM on January 21, 2002

worth a try, mr_crash_davis!

BMW claims the Cooper S will be the most powerful car in its class, breaking the 100 bhp per litre mark from its 1.6 litre engine.
posted by asok at 9:57 AM on January 21, 2002

It's interesting, aramaic. I think we Americans value size so much we think that everyone must see tall people as inherently impressive. This is especially true among men, who are taken to be manly and John Wayneish if 6' 4" and solidly built. It took me a while to recognize that Indonesians, even if they would never say so, tend to think of tall people as lumbering and ungainly. I also think it suited their general impression of Americans, being so oblivious to social mores, as completely, harmlessly insane, as irresponsible as animals.
posted by argybarg at 10:23 AM on January 21, 2002

Umm, we eat a lot more unhealthfully (sic) here, but then the majority of the population in America comes out of ethnic groups with frames larger most ethnic groups in Laos and Indonesia, et cetera. So while most of us could stand to eat better and exercise more (myself definitely included), we have to be reasonable. Dieting in order to fit into a mental image of some lean body you've seen in your travels is the exact same thing as dieting to look like a movie star or a model.
posted by Hildago at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2002

Everyone here smells of cheese.
posted by crunchland at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2002

argybarg: I spent several weeks in Bali and I know exactly what you mean wrt the hallucinogenic effect. The people there are about the same size as me so coming back to the US is always a bit of a supersize shock for me too.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:48 AM on January 21, 2002

Does anyone remember when a "medium" drink was 16 oz?
Now you get a medium in most places, and it's what a large used to be (24 oz?)--and large is MASSIVE. And then there's super-duper size....

I'm five feet tall, therefore I suspect that most Americans do take up too much damn space. But perhaps that's because all you tall ones sit in front of me at the theater and pack to the front of the stage leaving me to stare at the back of your head instead of the band I came to see.

Other than that, us smaller sized Americans get by just fine (except for pants, usually sized in the butt for anorexics, sized in the length for Amazons--wtf? Oh, and car head-rests are too tall. Oh wait, and shelves are useless above a certain height. And everyone thinks it's cute if they rest their arm on your head, like an armrest: That IS funny!)

Never mind....
posted by readymade at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2002

While I never buy "supersized" food at fast food places (unless I'm sharing) I have noticed an unconscious tendency at restaurants to consider getting whatever on the menu offers the most food for the most reasonable price. I'm constantly overfed, but it's a habit I can't seem to break. I blame society!
posted by schmedeman at 11:59 AM on January 21, 2002

I hate myself for eating fast food, but a hamburger from McD's is about the cheapest food I can get. I can't even bring food from home for that little.

I'm glad I'm a guy. My jeans are measured in inches. I know that when I buy a 32-32 pair of jeans, I will usually get a waist that's somewhere around 32 inches and an inseam that's somewhere around 32 inches.

I tend not to like the rest of humanity for one reason or another. Not that I'm perfect, just that I'm less annoying to myself than everyone else is to me. Quite possibly for that reason, I tend to dislike the 'average' joe-sixpack american. There are good, decent people out there, but the fat-assed greasy son of a bitch who cut me off in his Ford F-350 extended cab duallie extended bed pickup truck this morning needs to get cleaned out of the gene pool.

I'm curious, though, if our super-size-ing of everything will eventually be America's downfall. Could it be that the body style that has evolved in America (Tall, tending towards bulky) will eventually be our downfall? (If you don't beleive that we have a different body style, go and walk through some of the houses or cabins from the revolutionary era in Pennsylvania. People used to walk through those ~5'7" doors like we walk through our 7 foot + doors today. (Note: I'm estimating the height of the doors based on the fact that I had to duck/slump my five-nine frame slightly to walk through some of the doors in Gettysburg.))

Our body style must require more in the way of protein and other nutrients every day than the comparable asian body style. Our metabolisms have to be wired differently to stand all of that grease and lard, just in the way that people build resistances to disease and less-than-sanitary conditions elsewhere. What if we can't produce enough meat and grain to satisfy our ravening six-foot frames? I'd almost wish that America's melting pot would boil off a little bit of the grease... Unfortunately, seems America's more of a stew, and we're only getting thicker.
posted by SpecialK at 3:22 PM on January 21, 2002

Actually, you're not wrong to blame society. Portion sizes have steadily increased since the 70's...
posted by ph00dz at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2002

It's a fallacy that the people back in the 16th century were short because the tops of the doors were so low. They had to duck through them just like we have to when we visit historic houses. It was more a function of heating in a room. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both 6'+.
posted by crunchland at 3:42 PM on January 21, 2002

Crunchland -- The reason clothing from centuries ago seems smaller is because they threw out most of the larger sizes? I'm not sure about that.

From what I can find from reasonably acceptable sources, We have grown over the years, but fortunately we seem to be stopping.
posted by Hildago at 9:59 PM on January 21, 2002

We can disagree. I don't know that I buy the bit about the clothing, either. I was just pointing out that the assumption that people were unreasonably short based on the height of the doorjam or the size of the beds in colonial museums is wrong.
posted by crunchland at 4:58 AM on January 22, 2002

Ahh. Well, good point then.

.. Ahem, carry on.
posted by Hildago at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2002

« Older !Surréalisme!   |   Could the Surplus be Vacuumed Away? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments