I came across the expression on a JapanToday webpage.

Why it's hard to make vaccines and boost supplies

"We think, well, OK, it’s like men’s shirts, right, I’ll just have another place to make it,” said Dr Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a vaccine adviser to the U.S. government. “It’s just not that easy.”

I simply take it as something like "we have a lot of choices; if any particular one thing doesn't meet our demand, then let's just try another one", and I believe I would probably be in the right direction, but my question is if it is a colloquial expression you often use or not. I wonder why "men's shirts". Could it be anything like one's shoes, ties, coat etc.?

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    I have never heard that as an expression before, but I take away the same meaning as you have. – mjjf Feb 1 at 22:37

No. It is not an idiom. It is simply a comparison.

...seemingly simple suggestions that other factories switch to brewing new kinds of vaccines can't happen overnight.

"We think ..." This means "the general public think"

"... it’s like men’s shirts... I’ll just have another place to make it” The average person thinks that, just as you could make shirts (or any clothing) by opening a new factory, it should be easy to open new factories for vaccines.

“It’s just not that easy” - Making vaccines in a new factory is not as easy as making shirts in a new factory. (presumably the equipment for vaccines is very specialised - it requires more than some semi-skilled workers and a few sewing machines)


It is not an idiom as such, that is, "men's shirts" is not a cliche.

Offit was trying to think of an example of an everyday commodity that can in theory be made anywhere, with basic material outlay, using conventional and everyday machinery. Men's shirts was the example that was at the forefront of his mind. You are right, it could be anything like that: shoes, ties, coats, and so on.

In contrast, vaccines need a specialised working environment to make them, which is far from straightforward to "just" set up.

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