Uniforms are being sold with waistlines of 46-inches and over to children, even at primary school going age, according to a local supplier. Experts are pointing to the trend as evidence of a spiralling childhood obesity epidemic.
“These sizes are often specially requested, but this is the reality, absolutely,” said Jonathan Eakin of Hunter clothing distributors, confirming how uniform sizes have enlarged significantly in recent years.
The Cootehill-based wholesaler is one of the country’s largest suppliers of school uniforms, and Jonathan explains how just 10 years ago junior sizes ranged from 28" to 36" waist.
“Now we do up to a 46" waist in primary school sizes,” Jonathan told The Anglo-Celt last week.
It’s estimated one in four primary school children are now either overweight or obese, and suppliers such as Hunter have been working to meet demand for ever increasing waistlines, shirt collars and bust width sizes.
"We're talking mainly boys, but we do a pants with expanded waists for primary school girls as well. It's fair to say demand has grown considerably in the last numbers of years. It started where a kid of say eight years old in primary school would be wearing a seven to eight elasticated waistband, but all of a sudden the eight to nine year old demand was coming in and looking for a 30 or 32" waist, the same as say your average adult," says Johnathan.
"This year for secondary school we have trousers up to 50" waist, but we've been asked for 52" and 54" waists as well."
A walk through the stacked racks at Hunter's east Cavan warehouse and factory, the company has sold out of 40" inch waisted trousers, and are almost out of 42" and 44" ahead of the new school term starting.
Hunter’s secondary school jackets meanwhile are available in sizes up to XXXL, and Jonathan says it's not uncommon to receive requests for shirts with a 19" neck, which otherwise cannot be sourced in larger multiple stores.
“I’m sure there are people out there that are shocked. What regularly happens is major retailers won't cater for these specialist sizes, so people go to their local draper, who then in turn call us and we sort them out.
“If we don’t supply them how else are these children going to get uniforms to fit?” he asks.