WTF? I have a 35" waist? Or what's up with men's pants sizes?

I was thinking about buying some jeans (Levis Premium) to get around the high price they charge in the store. I figure it’s worth the risk, though I’ve posted elsewhere here about my reluctance to buy clothes other than in a store.

I can fit comfortably into 31 jeans, or 32 slacks (which I prefer to wear looser). And this is very consistent from one pair of pants to another. But when I measured my waist with a tape measure just now, I found I had a 35" waist. Of course I was wearing my jeans at the time, and ran the tape through the belt loops.

What’s this all about? Are men’s pants sizes numbered four inches less than the actual measurement? Or was my measurment that much skewed by the fact that I took the measurement while wearing pants?

Oops, I meant that I was thinking of buying the jeans through Ebay.

Do the jeans fit very snugly? And do they sit on your actual waist or more on the top of your hips? If they aren’t fitting that snugly, or are sitting low, then yes, the measurement of the pants will be bigger than your natural waist.

Oddly enough I got the same measurement, or almost the same with regular 501’s and low-rise Levis (which I think are now being made a little lower-rise, too, than they used to be). All my jeans are marked 31" and are fairly snug, but just comfortably so.

And in case anyone is wondering, they really do fit me at that size, and I’m not pushing them below a paunch.

A 4" change in a circle[sup][/sup]'s circumference will be due to about a 1/2" change in measurement of the radius(C = 2pir). Although that’s double what it needs to be, there’s probably the added error of where exactly you’re measuring compared to where the pants are sized, and the possible real inaccuracy in the pants themselves.
[/sup]People don’t really have circular waists, more like an ellipse. Unfortunately there’s no simple to calculate formula for an ellipse’s circumference. Nevertheless, some values just to check :
With (a = 7", b= 2.5") => C = 31.5" .
With (a = 7.5", b=3") => C = 34.5" .
(using last approximation here)

Uh, ’ a little over a 1/2" ’ is what I meant to say - about .6".

Did you make this measurement using a regular metal tape measure? I don’t think those were designed for measuring smoothly rounded objects like around your waist. If you used a tailor’s tape or something like that, forgive me, otherwise you might try wrapping a piece of yarn or string around your waist, noting or marking where it meets, and then measuring the straightened string from the end to the marking.

Why not measure the pants & how large they are? They might have stretched. When I buy pants I buy them pre washed & meaure them first.

Hopefully someone can start a topic on why your waist measurement is half of your neck, you know that trick about putting your pants around your neck?

I measured using a regular tailor’s tape measure.

Panama Jack’s information on the tolerance relationship between the radius and the circumference probably explain much of the result. That, and perhaps the tape wasn’t at the same level within the belt loops, all the way around.

Clothing makers are notorious for using “vanity” sizing. Levi is especially bad with this as they put the size right there on the butt for all to see, so they label the pants about three inches less than the actual measure.

When I was making motorcycle leathers and someone came in for pants, we’d ask what sise they wanted. If they said they took (say) size 33 x whatever Levis, we’d grab a 36" pair for them as we made ours at the true measure +/- a quarter inch. For phone orders, we had a little card we’d put with the order explaining the “size” vs" measure difference and that what mattered is the pants fit and that the customer liked them. We never had any problems with it, especially since we didn’t emblazon the size on the butt - it was on a discreet tag inside that was easily snipped out.

Another difference in commercial jeans is that the fabric is cut in roughly foot-thick stacks using a machine similar to a bandsaw. It’s not uncommon for the layers of fabric to slip around, so there’s no telling how far off the actual pattern a given piece of the garment will be. In assembly, they just moosh and mash everything so the bits line up. (Bonus - now you have an idea why you’ll sometimes wind up with a pair of jeans where one side spirals its way down your leg.)

In comparison, our pants were made one at a time, so there was no slip and slide and we measured and cut carefully.

Funny, I have the opposite problem. I’ve always had to wear Levis and a few other brands that are a couple inches larger than my usual.

I’m with Jeff Olsen. Measuring my waist with a tailor’s tape , I’m 29.5" around (oddly enough, a little smaller than I was six months ago). I have to buy 32" Levis, however.

Now that’s really confusing. Jervoise, is your great southern land Oz? I imagine if you’re outside the U.S. then Levi’s are a whole different deal, seeing as they have completely separate sections on their website for different regions. These have completely separate lines of apparel.

gotpasswords, are you female? I knew that vanity sizing is common in women’s clothes, but I didn’t know it was being done on the male side. I’m pretty sure my 32" slacks are still really 32, though.

As for having the number right on your butt, does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where he changed the number on his Levi’s from 32 to 31. Actually it’s a funny thing…I’m bound and determined to stay in 31’s, because when you go up to 32s the entire shape changes and you have to buy a shorter inseam because the rise is longer. On me, this size tends to hike up when I sit down and show way too much sock.

I’m Australian, but I bought a few pairs of Levis in the United States. The fit is the same as the Australian-bought pairs I own.

(By the way (completely OT here), I notice most US posters use the word “Oz”–but funnily enough, I very seldom see anyone in Australia use this contraction.)

I’m easygoing about a little OT chitchat. I think “Oz” must be a case of us thinking that’s the affectionate nickname you all use for your country, so we emulate what we think you’re doing. It’s done in a spirit of good feeling and good wishes, I assure you.

I’ve heard DJs and some commercials on 3GG use it; I sometimes listen to them while at work. I think we US Dopers got started on that because some of your fellow countrymen use it when posting here. Redboss, for example.

I’ve noticed a change in pants sizing standards myself. I am a size 32. Have been since High School. Lately, however, I find my self needing to buy size 35s, or even 36s! I don’t know why they’ve jiggered with the sizes, but there you go. Also, as I’m sure you’re all aware, cotton and wool evidently shrink over time – size 32 pants that used to fit me fine have shrunk substantially, and are now not really wearable. Another mystery of the modern age.

Interesting. Maybe it’s a generational thing. It just sticks in my mind as one of those phrases I hear foreigners much use more than Australians – like “Down Under”, a phrase which foreign commentary on Australia invariably employs, but is very seldom heard “down” here.

(Not that it bothers me, of course.)