Saturday, August 25, 2012

Missed Opportunities

I am not an inventor nor an entrepreneur. However, I have noticed (and one probably cannot reach late middle age without noticing) that there are a great many useful products that simply do not seem to be commercially available. I have written a little about this before, specifically, about the difficulty in finding bras that fit.

It is often said that more than half of all women wear bras that don't fit. I am sure it is not because women don't realize that they are purchasing the wrong size, or that women are not savvy shoppers. It is far more likely due to the fact that bras typically are only available in a very limited range of standard sizes, designed to fit average 25-40 year-olds. The trouble is, many or most bra-buying women are younger or older, shorter or taller, slimmer or more chubby, or more or less buxom than the standard sizes allow for. Shoulders might be broader or narrower, and breasts might be smaller, larger, higher, droopier, or more wide-set than the average figure, as well. Could it be that manufacturers don't really care? Perhaps they realize that because this item of clothing is a staple, women are likely to buy an ill-fitting bra rather than nothing at all, and so see no need to cut into their profit margins by designing and selling a wider range of choices.

Another garment that appears to be entirely absent from retail stores is pants designed to fit middle-aged men with potbellies. This is rather amazing, considering that the majority of North American of men of a certain age have expansive waistlines. Most men seem to deal with this problem by wearing a belt and cinching the pants low on their hips, below the belly. This is a problem, because then the front of the pants hangs much lower than it should and the pants do not drape well. Another way to cope with it is to wear suspenders. Although many men's wear stores carry suspenders, they tend to be the type with little wimpy spring loaded metal clasps that have a tendency to spring open whenever the unfortunate man bends over. I have it from an authority on the matter that the only decent suspenders are the sturdy type with loops that fit over buttons sewn onto the waistband of the pants. This style of suspenders is nearly impossible to find, and trousers with buttons on the waistband even more so. My informant sews his own buttons onto his pants. A final solution is to purchase longwaisted pants with a gigantic waist size, and pull them up over the stomach. These are kept up with either suspenders or a belt. However, this fashion faux pas is seldom observed, except on elderly men in remote rural areas.

Another place where retailers miss the boat is in marketing a range of technical sportswear for older people. On the whole, baby boomers have always been a fitness conscious, outdoorsy demographic. They also have lots of money to spend on high end sportswear. Unfortunately, the designers and marketers seem to believe that all skiers, hikers, kayakers, and so forth are lean twenty-somethings, with sticklike arms and legs, and teeny little waists and butts. Many of my skiing friends are still wearing warmup pants or ski jackets that they bought twenty or thirty years ago when the styles were more baggy, and pants were cut to come up to the waist rather than riding on the pelvic bones. I myself am in this category. I would love to buy some trendy new technical ski pants, but I just can't find any that fit. The market is missing out on the whole demographic of well-to-do active boomers who don't happen to have their youthful figures any more.

I could go on and on about this topic. What about modular drivers' compartments in cars that could be customized to fit the vehicle owner? This would be much more comfortable and safe. What about adjustable height desks, tables and kitchen counters?

Of course things are slowly improving. We now have ergonomic keyboards and keyboard trays, adjustable office chairs, trays to put one's purse on inside women's public washroom cubicles, and molded modular shower surrounds that have shampoo shelves. There now are cars with built-in baby seats, or easy to access car seat anchors. In years past, the absence of these products were pet peeves of mine. Maybe at the rate things are going, I'll be able to buy new ski pants before I'm eighty.

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