Dear Race Director: This Shirt Is Not Unisex

Dear Race Director,

I requested a size large shirt assuming it was a male-specific fit, but it is quite small, as you can see. Some mistake, surely?


Chester Ickle

Hey Chest,

No mistakes here! Offering a men’s-specific t-shirt is an added race-day headache for so many race directors — us included. In the past we have tolerated this headache with the thought that you may wear the shirt around and so help us to market the race, but it simply wasn’t worth the bureaucratic hassle. Every brand sizes differently for men, and you dudes like to look as hot as possible (and don’t get me wrong, we love us a tight t-shirt!) which led to way too many exchanges and frazzled volunteers on race day.

So we went to unisex sizing this year in order to simplify and reduce costs.

We find that our unisex shirts fit 51% of our runners quite well! Our committee of wear testers, which did include one man, raved about the fit! Even the male chairwoman of our t-shirt committee, John Smith, was happy with the choice and said his wife particularly liked the peek of pec the V-neck design offered. Overall, it’s so much easier and more cost-effective than offering a specific fit just to keep the men happy.

However, if you find the fit is a little off, you have so many options. Consider wearing it as cute pjs. Use your sewing skills to modify for your non unisex body type (there are so many sexy pinteresting ideas!). Or, if you’re anything like my husband and his boyfriends, you love crafting — save your unisex shirts and sew them into a souvenir quilt. Donation is another great option! In the future, if fit is so important to you, consider sizing up, and then up again or maybe twice to allow for shrinkage.

And, of course, the participant medal and pride you feel in crossing the finish line are one-size-fits all and never even require laundering!


Shirley Wright, Race Director

What do you suggest Chester do with his unisex shirt?

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. That was awesome. If only that ever happened. Considering that in most races there are more female runners than male, I think it would make much more sense to go to a “ahem” unisex shirt coincidentally cut to a women’s body type.

    Now, another topic – can we stop vanity sizing? Even when I do get gender-specific shirts, often times I need a small. 20 years ago I wore a medium. I didn’t shrink.

    1. Nutmeg: I have found the opposite experiences. I have found one race series where the women’s tee shirts are true to size. Usually they are multiple sizes too small and I have to get the men’s because they not only have sizes above XL, but they also run true to size. A women’s XL (when they have it) tends to fit my size 6 friends.