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Plus-size male models are finally getting the recognition they deserve

As the fashion industry continues to push for increased diversity, is the gap in the market for plus-size male models finally starting to be addressed?

‘Scuse the cliché, but times have changed and so has fashion. Conversations within the industry about size, representation and the importance of inclusion are more prominent now than ever. These days, it’s all about loving the skin we’re in (no matter what we look like) and embracing the fact that mainstream attitudes to beauty have drastically transformed.

This is something that progressive female-focused brands like Savage X Fenty have wholeheartedly taken on board, making it their priority to be as inclusive as possible. As a result, the plus-size fashion industry has seen a huge surge in popularity. But why are high-street and high-end brands focusing primarily on women’s clothes?

Because stereotypically, women are more interested in fashion – or so we’ve been taught to believe. Female fashion has always been two steps ahead of men’s due to this notion and even though the female plus-size market has been developing for several decades now, the male equivalent has only really materialised in recent years.

Amidst an ever-growing celebration of the female form, men are frequently forgotten about, and menswear largely faces little to no criticism for its tropes, like its depiction of ‘skinny boys’ and the long, lean aesthetic that’s massively favoured on the runway and in advertising campaigns. Of course, the same can still be said of womenswear but the key difference is that women are constantly discussing and rallying against traditional beauty standards whereas men generally tend to remain silent in this area.

‘Insecurity itself is perhaps the most prominent reason for a lack of discussion – after all, a reluctance to discuss male insecurities stems from the social conditioning of men,’ says Kelvin Davis, founder of plus-size style blog Notoriously Dapper. ‘Bigger men sometimes struggle with body issues. Overcoming that is tough on its own. Then you have the fashion industry that doesn’t cater to them.’

Alongside the delayed growth of plus-size menswear, there’s another issue likely contributing to a lack of male diversity in fashion. Until now, plus-size men have needed to get a lot of their clothing altered or tailored to fit right, and this is a clear sign that the industry has been failing them for a long time. Thankfully, their visibility is slowly beginning to rise and there are many talented young models and menswear designers striving to change the status quo.

David Fadd is one of them. At 6ft 4” tall, with a 51” waist, he’s signed as a plus-size model and recognises the importance of fighting for more body positivity among men. ‘It’s hard to be vulnerable and it’s looked down upon as ‘oh, having body insecurities is only something teenage girls go through,’ but it’s essential to speak up because that’s when you can move out of this isolation,’ he says.

Fadd is referring to a wider issue of toxic masculinity in a modern-day society that makes it difficult for men to feel assured, knowing their insecurities, low self-esteem and self-image are not taboo. While it goes without saying that women’s bodies are policed a great deal more than men, especially by the media, the commercial invisibility of men of size speaks for itself.

If the conversation never extends to them, how can they possibly know that it’s okay to be suffering from the same struggles with body confidence as women? This is particularly problematic for young boys who don’t resemble the models they see in their favourite shop windows, or the stereotypically athletic men advertising underwear and other products. A lack of size representation within men’s fashion has the potential to have devastating effects on male consumers and today, it’s a relief to see the industry gradually becoming a more liberating space to combat this.

A slight change was initiated in 2015 when the ‘dad-bod’ trend gained traction. Brought about by various photos of a 40-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio on the beach, for the first time, mainstream media began to consider the idea that male bodies that weren’t slim, toned, or overtly muscular could be attractive, and that there was a gap in the market when it came to representing the diverse male form.

In addition, a recent boom in the number of modelling agencies set up specifically for plus-size male models and the high demand for bigger men on runways around the world now indicates that the male plus-size industry could eventually be just as popular as that of women’s.

‘The men’s market has been around about three years and the women’s market has been around for 30 years,’ says Charlotte Griffiths who established modelling agency Bridge in 2014 with the intention of representing more diverse, healthy, and positive role models. ‘It’s really interesting to see that the demand is now 50/50 for us as an agency.’

Major brands like River Island and Boohoo are beginning to catch on too, catering to men in larger sizes with entire collections designed for men with chest measurements of 45” and above, that fits into their ‘Big, Tall & Broad’ category. Despite frequent criticism that retailers are promoting unhealthy eating habits and encouraging obesity, they still have a responsibility to be inclusive and ensure that everyone – of all shapes and sizes – is sufficiently represented.

‘Editorial should be able to showcase different bodies and advertising needs to reflect that there isn’t just one ideal. That’s true whether it’s in a magazine or a Target commercial,’ says Griffiths. ‘These things matter. And it’s something that we need to take really seriously.’

Fashion has an enormous presence in mainstream media, and this brings with it an obligation by default to represent people. It has the potential to push society forward and loosen rigid societal codes, so it’s about time that plus-size menswear gained was recognised as innovative and long overdue. Honestly, does the ‘perfect body’ even really exist anymore?

 

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