Sometimes, people pay attention to the oddest things. The obesity epidemic crept up with its associated signs and symptoms — for instance, a lot more cases of diabetes — but what really made headlines was when, for example, school officials noticed that kids could no longer fit into chairs. Remember a couple of years back, when that news came out of Britain? Laura Clark reported on remarks made by former cabinet minister Charles Clarke, who said, among other things,
…the problem of ill-fitting furniture may seem ‘mundane’ but in fact furniture requirements had ‘changed dramatically’ over the past decade.
We once published a post called “Walk a Mile in My 46″-Waist Track Pants” and ever since, the question has been resonating: Is fashion to blame for the obesity epidemic? Granted, clothing style is only one part of the concatenation of circumstances that has made the obesity epidemic possible. But it is a large part (just as this assertion is mostly kidding — but not entirely).
This applies mainly to men. In the old days, only a wealthy man could afford to become obese, a prosperous man who could pay a tailor and have a bespoke suit made. Where was an ordinary working stiff going to find extra-large clothes that fit? They didn’t have t-shirts in size quadruple-x, or “big and tall” specialty retail outlets. A man needed to fit into a pair of jeans or off-the-rack suit pants or slacks. There was a strong incentive to control the weight, because he might wind up wearing, as in old cartoons, a barrel held up by rope suspenders.
Also, back in the day, only athletes wore athletic garb. But as soon as the ordinary slob adopted basketball shorts as street wear, the cause was lost. Women have worn divided skirts, known as culottes or skorts, for a very long time. Now men wear divided skirts, and they are called basketball shorts. This is not a sexist judgment. Men should have a perfect right to wear skirts. It’s just that they have discovered what a marvelous cover-up a skirt can be when cellulite is the issue.
Even the skinny guys wear them long and voluminous. For the chunky guy, basketball shorts are the ideal wardrobe item. The waistline is elastic, and you can hide a lot of flab under all that fabric. Same goes for sweat pants. Once the drawstring waist closure hit the marketplace, there was nothing to stop the expansion. There is a saying, derived from opera, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” The battle against obesity was over the day the fat lady put on sweat pants.
This theory is neither new nor original. The very first poll organized by the Weigh2Rock website asked, “Why are twice as many kids overweight today?” Of the three choices offered, 28% chose “looser clothes.” That was almost the same number as said “more fattening food” (29%), but more opted for “less active” (43%).
This poll was only the first of a magnificent total of 96 polls that have encouraged children and teens to give their opinions about what’s really causing the childhood obesity epidemic, and what should be done about it. How can it be prevented, and how can it be dealt with in the case of kids who are already overweight? In fact, we have elaborately discussed the reactions of the kids to the wide-seats question, and the collected opinions of teens about food addiction, as well as checking out their responses on several other matters. Over the years, Weigh2Rock participants have also written more than 135,000 anonymous bulletin board posts. In Overweight, What Kids Say, Dr. Robert Pretlow wrote in the Acknowledgements,
And I owe a special debt of gratitude to Ron Wagner for organizing the overwhelming multitude of kids’ posts into a searchable database, so that the most compelling ones could be heard by the world.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Obesity crisis worsens as British pupils become too heavy for their school chairs,” Daily Mail, 05/11/08
Image by colros (Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose), used under its Creative Commons license.