Just before 2000, Dop Troutman decided that his new year’s resolution would be to make a serious lifestyle change, influenced mostly by a difficult breakup. For the first time in his life, the 34-year-old Chicagoan joined a gym and vowed to get fit.
To Troutman’s surprise, he was successful, at first losing 15 pounds before gaining weight in muscle mass. In late April, Troutman learned an unfortunate side effect of his healthy weight gain: After entering the Michigan Avenue Gap store, he was told that they no longer carried his size, XXL.
“I’m not sure what I felt at that moment, but part of it was embarrassment,” Troutman wrote on his blog, My View from the Jeep. “Regardless of the words the associate used, all I heard was, ‘We’re not serving your kind anymore.’ ”
This year the Gap decided to stop carrying men’s XXL in its spring catalog. The Gap still makes XXL in men’s clothing, but you have to order it online.
“We decided to drop XXL in the stores and offer more units in medium and large, which are our most popular sizes,” said Kris Marubio of Gap Corporate Communications “The decision was part of our efforts to tightly manage inventory.”
The Gap was Troutman’s favorite retail spot, and shopping there provided him with relief from the stresses of working as human resource manager at a Chicago not-for-profit. Now, he says, the local store on his block is a reminder of where he is not welcome anymore. “At my size, I don’t have many options for shopping, and this was just one more limitation,” he said. “The Gap is making it harder for a group of people who already have difficulty shopping to purchase their product.”
Paul McAleer is a Chicago Web designer and developer who created and writes for My Big Fat Blog, which aims to report on “fat awareness and fat rights.” He said the Gap’s decision to pull the XXL from stores is part of a retail trend to make the bricks-and-mortar store less plus-size friendly. “To me it says that fat people, both men and women, do not fit within the Gap’s brand image,” McAleer said. Last year Old Navy, a youth-oriented brand of clothing owned by Gap Inc., pulled women’s XXL from its stores, making it available only online.
Troutman tried to contact the Gap’s customer service department to complain but was “not given any appeasement.”
The Gap stands by its decision. “Overall, the majority of customers have appreciated the fact that we feature more medium- or large-size items in our stores,” Marubio said.
The only positive aspect of Troutman’s experience is that he feels a connection with other larger-size consumers.
“All plus-size customers are judged on our appearance immediately,” he said. “Fashion is for the thin — that’s it.”