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It's Official: Levi's are Dead to Me - Bending Reality to my Will

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April 11th, 2007


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10:19 am - It's Official: Levi's are Dead to Me
After years of sitting around hoping, I finally got desperate enough sitting around watching my pants wear out to call Levi's back, to find out the state of affairs around the Original Spin program.

You see, for a few years, it was possible to go into a Levi's store, try on some prototype pants to establish the fit one wanted, then pick a fabric and style off the wall, write down an inseam and waist size, and wait a few weeks for a pair of pants custom-made to one's specifications to be delivered to the store. Just like ordering a new car from the factory, really.

In high school, by digging through rack after rack of pants, I could eventually find something in my size. Well, by "in my size" I mean something narrow enough to not actually fall off my hips, and just barely long enough to not make me look ridiculous. It wasn't until I started ordering jeans through Original Spin that I realized that I don't have a 30" waist. I have a 27 to 28" waist, but I'd simply never in my life seen a pair of pants smaller than 30 that had the required 36" inseam.

My best Spin jeans (and cargo pants and cords and twill) are mostly R284 with a 40" inseam. The extra four inches is enough to allow me to roll a 2" cuff into the pants and still have them long enough to break across my shoe. You see, a cuff makes a leg look shorter. Naturally, if one is tall enough to actually want or need a cuff, the pants are too short to make one with out turning them into capri pants. The "R284" means "Relaxed fit, 28 waist, +4 at hips." I also have a couple pair that are R275: one inch narrower in the waist, but the same size at the hips.

Four years ago, without warning, Original Spin disappeared. Turns out they'd been making the jeans at a factory in Texas, and they'd closed the factory.

[ring] [ring]

"Hello, Levi Strauss & co."

"Where am I going to get pants now?"

"Your Levi's store can special order anything we manufacture. What size do you wear?"

"28 x 40."

[pause] "I'm very sorry sir. Hopefully we'll have the Original Spin program back soon."

So I waited, and bit by bit, my pants have been wearing out. So a few weeks ago, on the way back from Portland, I stopped at the Auburn Supermall, and the Levi's Outlet store there. This used to be my main source for jeans. They usually had at least a few pairs of something in 30x36.

Not this time. Nor did any other store in the mall. Now, I know that the Gap makes some pants in 28x36, because I've bought a couple of pair through eBay. They're the right size, technically, although they don't fit nearly as well as my R284's. They don't have the 'extra wide' (read, not disconcertingly narrow-looking) leg of my Levi's, but at least they're long enough, and don't have to be cinched up at the waist like some kind of hillbilly pants.

But they don't actually carry that length in the store. At all. For anybody. Of any waist size. No 36" inseam pants. Period.

So today I called Levi's, to bug them about the Spin program. While looking up their number, I also indulged my curiosity and poked around levisstore.com. The site doesn't allow me to actually shop by size. I have to pick a specific type of pant, then see what sizes I can get. That was getting me nowhere, so when I phoned them, I also mentioned that I couldn't even find poorly-fitting Levi's any more.

The response was quite illuminating. No wonder the outlet store didn't have anything in my old not-really-my-size. Levi's no longer makes anything longer than 32" inseams for a 30" waist, or conversely, the smallest size with a 36" inseam has a waist measurement of 34".

Oh, poor ignorant me, to think that the ballooning waistlines of chubby Americans wasn't directly detrimental to me personally.

Apparently I'm going to have to start taking trips to Norway to buy pants, or start wearing shorts in November.

* * *


Yes, I know there are tailors who make clothes. But I'm not looking for fancy dress pants; I'm looking for casual wear, like jeans. Casual pants, with their coin pockets and rivets and contrasting stitching and thicker, stiffer fabric, are quite a bit more difficult to sew than dress pants. I'm not (yet (quite)) ready to spend hundreds of dollars for a single pair of custom-tailored jeans.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:oldmangrumpus
Date:April 11th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
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I can relate. That's sort of the upside-down of the problem I have, but at least I can get mine hemmed (legs are too long for my short little body).

By the way, we're neighbors now (condo conversion threw me out of my old place). I'm right behind the QFC.
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:April 12th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)

Upside Down by the QFC.

(Link)
Cool. That's ten blocks away.

I have had an amazing number of friends share their nothing-fits-right anecdotes. Who's buying all these clothes in the stores, and why hasn't anybody figured out how much money they could make by custom-manufacturing clothes that actually fit people??

You also point out the flip side of the awkward nature of this particular rant of mine. On the one hand, I'm complaining about being tall and thin. What next, complaining about having too much money? Puh-leeze! C'mon, just how much sympathy do I think I'm going to get? [roll eyes]

On the other hand, almost everybody else I know who can't find things that fit can easily get things that fit one part of them well enough, and are too big somewhere else. If only I could get pants that could be made to fit merely through alterations, I'd be a happy camper. Too much fabric is so much easier to deal with than not enough. Sigh.

I have pretty much exactly the same problem with gloves, by the way, and I'm very thankful indeed that my feet fall within the commonly-stocked shoe size range. That would really be a nightmare.
[User Picture]
From:bedii
Date:April 12th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)

Re: Upside Down by the QFC.

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There was a thread about this a little over a year ago in Making Light. A lot of the discussion involved having to have clothes resized because every manufacturer had a different size for the same size number. You'd be interested in the whole thing: if you'd like I'll try to track down the thread again. (I'm in it, complaining about my everlasting problem with shirts. While your pants problem is difficult [remember, I went pants shopping with you once at Levi's], at least you don't get the same dumb pieces of advice about how to fix the problem afterwards when you ask about a totally different fix. Gee! Why didn't I ever think of that especially since the problem has been going on since high school?)

I may be bitter about the whole thing.
[User Picture]
From:oldmangrumpus
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:43 am (UTC)

Re: Upside Down by the QFC.

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I have pretty much exactly the same problem with gloves, by the way, and I'm very thankful indeed that my feet fall within the commonly-stocked shoe size range. That would really be a nightmare.

Yes, welcome to my nightmare. My tiny little size 6 1/2 feet have to begging for shoes because almost no one makes them that small, and as bedii alludes to, sizes aren't even consistant. Some size 7s are just fine, but some - like the Rockports I bought at Shoe Advantage two weeks ago- are too big (which = painful), while some 6 1/2s are horrific instruments of torture. Feh.
[User Picture]
From:twilight2000
Date:April 11th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
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It appears Wrangler makes jeans in 28x40 -- that can be ordered at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear for what appears to be $24.99...

I've always preferred the Wrangler fit anyway :>.
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:April 11th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)

Wranglers

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This post would originally have been longer, but I had to get to work.

I already have a pair of 28x36 Wranglers. But part of what makes the Levi's look good on me is that I can get them in "rapper-style ultra baggy." Because, you see, they don't actually scale the fit appropriate to the length. What looks really wide on a normal leg looks, well, normal on mine.

I was in high school pre-hiphop, and all jeans fit more or less the same way: fairly close to the thigh. To my mom's frustration, I absolutely refused to wear denim at the time. I didn't own a pair of jeans again until I was about 27 or 28, when I found the brand new "Silver Tab" (aka baggy) jeans just launched by Levi's.

My current pair of Wranglers has clearly shown me that my high school instincts were exactly right. They fit close to my thighs, and barely clear my calves. The result is that I look more like some kind of weird two-legged insect than a normal human.

I have occasionally seen other guys with a build in the same neighborhood as my own, in "normally" cut jeans, and they look more like some kind of oversized Starving African Child than an American to me. I don't think they're flattered by that "stretched on a medieval rack" look any more than I am.

For much the same reason, I don't often wear shorts out in public, although at least with shorts, there's a strong horizontal line (aka the hem line) that breaks the line of my leg into two shorter segments.

For those of you who've seen "What Not To Wear" on TLC, they're always telling women the appropriate ways to dress to create an optically longer leg. It's a succinct list of "Don'ts for Dave," because the last thing I need is a longer leg.
[User Picture]
From:twilight2000
Date:April 12th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)

Re: Wranglers

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Ah -- forgot the "Baggy Fit" issue... bummer...
[User Picture]
From:mpolgara
Date:April 11th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
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I feel your pain. I've found it all but impossible to find jeans that actually *fit* me. First off there's the aggravation of finding the correct size, which can be anywhere between a 22 and a 30, depending on some completely arbitrary sizing system that I will never understand. And once I do find the correct size in any given style, they never fit right. In order for them to go around my admittedly more than ample backside, they are *way* too big in the waist. So I inevitably end up with a huge gap at the back, and have to keep trying to pull my pants up.

Belts are no help either, due to that "cinched up hillbilly" look that you mentioned. When you try to belt jeans that are 6 inches too big in the waist, the fabric just bunches up and buckles weirdly. That's not the look I'm going for, really.

I have recently found one style of jeans, at one store, that do actually fit. Hurray! Course, after going to the two local outlets in my area, I was only able to find one pair in my size. If I have any money left after we move, I may just go online and order a half dozen more pairs of them. :P
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:April 11th, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC)

Jeans size-ology

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And that is why the Original Spin program was first introduced for women. It was years later that they finally expanded it to include men's pants.

Keep in mind that, if you can find some that are only annoyingly too big in the waist, instead of preposterously too big in the waist, a tailor can edit the waist inward a fair amount. Pop the seams, pull them in a bit closer, sew it back up. It'll probably add between 50% and 150% to the cost of the pants (depending on what you paid for the pants, mostly), but then, that's what I was paying for Spin pants, too. Jeans at a department store? About $35; much less at discount stores or at sales. Spin pants? About $70, and never on sale. But so worth it.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 11th, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC)

jeans

(Link)
Have you tried the Land's End Design your fit?

http://www.landsend.com

Linda (you've seen me at poker nights)
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:April 12th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)

Re: jeans

(Link)
Not specifically, no, although I do have some older casual pants from Land's End.

[wanders off to visit site]

Well, dang and golly-gee. That's vastly more options than the last time I looked. I quit bothering to check Land's End when I got tired of them only carrying my size in "long rise", meaning pants with too high a waist on me. "Regular rise" only went to a 34" inseam.

I haven't found anything yet on this site that looks like it can give me as much width in the pant leg as my Levi's do, but adding some chinos or twill pants to the closet would still be far better than wearing only my remaining Spin pants until they disintegrate.

Thanks!

OK, I did mention that a couple of my Spin jeans are actually 27", and Land's End's smallest size listed is 28". But 28 is still a fine, fine number. I'm not really sure what my waist size is, in part because I was so used to wearing pants that were two to three inches too large in the waist, I'm not really sure how they ought to fit. :) I'd actually purchased at least two pairs of Spin jeans before I realized that, even though 30x36 was what I had always purchased before, the fact that there was room in my waistband for myself and at least two of my fingers all side by side meant maybe this wasn't actually the right size.

I think perhaps I'll just ringy-dingy somebody at Land's End and see if I can get 27.5 as a waist measurement by phone, even if it isn't listed in the drop-down box on the web site.

Very promising indeed!
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:April 12th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)

Hip Hip Hooray.

(Link)
I'm definitely going to have to call Land's End before I order pants. There's one other wrinkle in the sizology fabric.

I mentioned the "R284" designation for my Spin pants above. I don't know exactly what "4" part of that means. If I had to guess, i'd say probably +4 inches in hips/seat vs. the waist. For the 27" pants, the size that fits is R275. What was really mystifying was that the available sizes ranged from R270 to R275. In other words, if I didn't get the maximum available room for my hiney, they'd be uncomfortably tight.

Which seemed completely preposterous. I do NOT have a big ass! Quite the opposite! I have practically no ass at all, which is one reason why getting the waist small enough is so important: I need all the waist-to-butt contrast I can get to avoid having my profile be indistinguishable from that of a postcard or popsicle stick.

So how could I be at the upper end of this range? A short Mars/Venus digression. Some years ago, a study was done showing men from a variety of different cultures various female silhouettes. Not too surprisingly, men from some cultures (for example, Greece or Italy) would generally select from the wider, more voluptuous options, while other men (American or Norwegian, perhaps) would tend toward the more anemic side of the range.

But all of them consistently chose outlines with a 0.7 waist to hip ratio. Whether they preferred "36-24-36" or something more like "44-32-48", all men found the 0.7 ratio the most attractive. Not surprisingly, this is the common, expected ratio for women in general. Men, on the other hand, between the narrower pelvis (no babies to move through there) and wider waist, will normally have a ratio of 0.9.

I (as any of my friends, and even most strangers, will testify) am not normal. In fact, my waist to hip ratio is . . . 0.7. That is why I needed to get pants at the "big ass" end of the scale: not extra room in the seat, but extra width at the hips.

It's not entirely clear that the information Land's End's website solicits will allow them to deduce that information. I think I'm going to talk to a human and learn a bit more, first. Nevertheless, the custom-fit program at Land's End shows a lot of promise. La la la!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 13th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Hip Hip Hooray.

(Link)
Huzzah! I hope it works out for you!

Linda

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