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Mr. Smarty Pants comes out to play


I am on the phone with Erica Archambault, a product spokeswoman for Levi Strauss & Co., which makes jeans. I have been relishing this conversation for weeks. I've boned up for it. I am asking Erica, as an authority on human morphology, if she can explain the disturbing disappearance from the planet of men who are 5 feet 10 with a medium build. Does it have something to do with global warming?

Erica: Sorry, I need you to repeat that.

Me: Listen, I am 5-10, 170 pounds. But for the last two years I have been unable to buy Levi's — or any other mass-market jeans — with a 31-inch inseam. Thirty-one is and has always been my size. Jeans companies have apparently stopped making them, which leads me to believe that we 5-10 guys are dying out. I am wondering why. I am scared.

Erica: Oh.

Me: Meanwhile, what do I do? Should I buy 30-inch jeans, which make me look like Steve Urkel?

Erica: I'd highly recommend that you not do that.

Me: Good. I don't. Instead, I buy 32s, which means that when I am going barefoot, I am walking on my heels, which means that all the leg bottoms have holes and crud stains on them, as though I am always being pursued by a vicious, filthy, little yappy dog who is nipping at my ankles.

Erica: Okay, the problem is that yours is a size that isn't as common as 30 or 32, so most stores don't stock it for sheer shelf-space issues. However, at, there is unlimited shelf space, so we can find it for you right here online.

Me: Good. Because otherwise, it would look as though Levi Strauss didn't care about people like me! Okay, please find my jeans online. Waist 34, inseam 31. I'll wait right here.

Erica: Okay.


Erica: Oh. My.



Me: Don't you think that a 31 inseam is uncommon not because no one needs that size but because you don't make 'em anymore? Why would there be fewer guys who are 5-10 than who are 5-11 or 5-9?


Me: Meanwhile, what do you recommend? Should I start pigging out? That way, either my butt will get bigger, which will cause the 32s to ride up in the back, or my gut will get bigger and 30s would ride lower, under the belt.

Erica: Maybe you could get Ben and Jerry's to sponsor that!


Erica: Okay. Fortunately, I have an actual expert in extended sizes standing right here! I will ask him about this. Hold on. Stay tuned.

(Three full minutes of hand-muffled conversation ensues. I hear: "But, what is he . . . "But how can he . . .")

Erica: Okay, back.

Me: Yo.

Erica: I'm being told that you should buy 32s and get them hemmed. Find a good tailor.

Me: Uh . . .

Erica: Yeah.

• • •

Buying blue jeans off the rack and then paying to have them tailored is like buying a stick of beef jerky and then paying a French chef to prepare it with tarragon bearnaise sauce.

Clearly, I was getting nowhere. So I tried eBay. And, indeed, a jeans broker was offering new 34 x 31 Levi's in the color and cut that I like. The photo was of the label: 34 x 31. Sixteen bucks!

As soon as they arrived, I proudly held them up for my wife to see.

"Those are not 31s," she said.

I showed her the label.

"Put 'em on," she said.

I did. They ended at mid-calf, right at the top of my sweat socks.

"You look like John Adams," she said.

The time for revolution is nigh.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at [email protected] You can chat with him online at noon Tuesdays at

Mr. Smarty Pants comes out to play 10/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:36pm]
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