Most guys have probably guessed that mainstream clothing companies are a little bit... generous with their measurements. But they probably haven't guessed how generous. The Dockers 36-inch waist? Actually 39.5 inches around. And they're not even the worst offenders.

How fat are you, male America? So fat! But you are not just fat: You are vain. "I still have a 36-inch waist!" you cry. "Look at the measurement in my Dockers-brand 'chinos,' into which I fit snugly even after my regular lunch of chicken skin and corn product!" Sigh. Dockers is lying to you, male America. If you fit snugly in your 36-inch Dockers, you have a 39.5-inch waist. At best.

Or so the intrepid Abe Sauer discovered while pants shopping recently. Pretending that pants are smaller than they actually are, or "vanity sizing"—a widespread, decades-old practice amongst clothing manufacturers in America—is only getting worse. Here are the actual measurements for alleged 36-inch pants taken by Sauer as he tried on men's casual dress pants:

  • H&M: 37"
  • Calvin Klein: 38.5"
  • Alfani: 38.5"
  • Gap: 39"
  • Haggar: 39"
  • Dockers: 39.5"
  • Old Navy: A whopping 41"

What can we take away from this troubling trend? Well, for one thing, Americans don't like knowing exactly how fat they are—even though, as Sauer points out, men with larger waists have higher mortality rates than men with smaller midsections. For another thing, if you want to feel better about yourself, shop at Old Navy as much as possible. But if you want to know your real measurements, go to a tailor.