Published: Friday October 30, 2015.

Size matters

I’ve been listening to 2006-era Fanu today. It’s music from about the time I resigned from Sophos, and life was very different back then. I had recently moved away from my job as the guy in charge of the UK technical support operation to a newly-formed department dedicated to educating Sophos customers and staff. Sophos tech support went through a bunch of changes in the 2004-2006 era as call queuing, big plasma screens and all sorts of other call centre stuff was installed. That was the beginning of the end for me in that role, as a matter of principle. As of today, I’ve been running my own business longer than I was employed at Sophos, and it becomes more of a distant memory as each month passes.

One of the (many) things I recall about my time at Sophos was the uniform I chose for myself: black t-shirt, jeans, and cross trainer-style shoes, typically Merrells. Every. Single. Day. I bought black t-shirts in batches, typically from the USA as the fit was more appropriate and the factory they were made in had better fabric, and they were always Gildan 2000T short sleeve. The T version was a longer cut in the body. Shirts were cheap back then — I have a vague memory that 2000Ts were about 3GBP each before shipping. I switched to Gildan because on a trip over to ActiveState in Vancouver, I was gifted a promotional Komodo IDE shirt with some kind of, I presume, native Canadian emblem or artwork on it. After the first wearing, it became my favourite shirt — the cut, the emblem, the company and software it represented — a perfect fit for me.

I remember the black shirts because there was a guy at Sophos, a graphic designer called Matt who was eerily close to being my doppelgänger, who coincidentally wore the same kind of getup: black shirt, jeans, Merrells. We looked similar facially, though I was bigger than he was. He was into breaks music, I was a techno boy at the time. We probably had other interests, but our conversations were mostly functional rather than friendly. Nice guy, though. The black shirts I bought arrived in a box from the USA, and I’d wear them until they were dead. By that, and be warned — this is a bit gross, the underarms got so caked in deodorant that they went a bit, uhh, crunchy. Note that I did use deodorant, probably the wrong sort and likely too much, and the pits didn’t disintegrate from techie sweat. Nope, I had the opposite problem: the chemicals in the pit stick did a number on the fabric and even when the pressure was on at work and I was perspiring and crispy became more flexible, they weren’t comfortable to wear.

OK, gross bit done.

The laundry cycle was pretty unforgiving to my shirts, and every years I’d have to replace a batch with a few new shirts replacing the worst ones. From 1998 to 2006 I went from an XL shirt to a 3XL shirt. It was a gradual process, and being sat down all day was the main culprit. That, and I gave an unfeasible amount of my life to Sophos, on and off the clock, and I lost count of how many late nights I had thanks to work. Over the space of 8 years, there were occasions when the shirts I ordered were bumped up a size — y’know, for comfort and practicality. In the winter months, I lived in the overly-generous Sophos-branded fleece provided by a gorgeous lady in marketing with whom I flirted like crazy. She flirted back, too, which was marvellous. Then she moved abroad and got married. Never saw or heard from her again. Sigh.

When I left Sophos in late 2006, I moved from a corporate office of hundreds of people to a home office of just me. The clothes combo — blue fleece, big black shirts, jeans, Merrells — continued, as did my size. I accepted that I was buying batches of larger clothes from time to time, and I looked forward to Threadless $10 sales when I could snag a bunch of non-black shirts that would possibly detract from the fact that I was overweight. I hid away and worked in my office. I avoided social photo opportunities where I could, purely on the grounds that someone once told me — jokingly — that my chin looked like Peter Griffin’s, a character from the cartoon series Family Guy. Once you hear that, it’s hard to forget. There are a handful of photos of me from 2006 to 2012, but they’re mostly in my family’s collection and they’ll likely stay offline.

Fast forward to early 2012 when I moved to Cornwall — well, about two weeks before that when I was preparing to move away from my old town, actually. I bought two 2XL hoodies from Fat Face. They were snug, but they fit. I like Fat Face because it isn’t a fat bloke shop, despite what the name implies. I have heard the Fat Face cut is generous, but whenever I’ve been into Fat Face proper there are thin folks in there, too. There’s no shaming going on. The two hoodies have recently been retired. They’re almost worn through at the elbows and they no longer fit me. My jobs down in Cornwall are different to Sophos, and I stress my clothes out more than I used to as a corporate desk jockey. I thought about elbow pads, too. The hoodies will likely end up in a charity clothes bin somewhere. It amuses me to think that the only person that my worn Fat Face hoodies will fit be a north African warlord. Sure, I’ve bought shirts while I’ve been here in Cornwall, but I no longer wear shapeless, 3XL black shirts. At all. I have one black shirt, an army surplus one from Bristol, that I roll out when I’m working backstage, but the days of batch-buying Gildans are long gone.

I had little choice to retire the Fat Face hoodies because they’re no longer tight/snug on me. They’re way too big. I wear XL t-shirts now. By this time next year I’ll be down to an L. There’ll be photos, too.