Tuesday, 9 October 2018

In the age of inclusivity, where do plus-size men stand in the fashion world?

I was born with the gift of high metabolism and the frame of a coat rack. Because of this, I have the luxury of being able to try and ruin any fashion trend I so please. This luxury is not so available to my larger bros. Fashion is much less diverse, well-fitted, and accessible for overweight men. That’s a trend that needs to change.

 My focus on male fashion isn’t to minimize the experience of plus-size women in fashion. Rather to emphasise that while women’s fashion has a long way to go on the same issue, the leaps and strides that have been made in recent years because of mostly female-oriented body positivity campaigning have – from my perspective – been much greater than the progress made in men’s fashion.

 Taking the New Look website for example, the options for women include sections for curvy and plus size, petite, tall and maternity whereas the men’s section has no such options. Though many women’s retailers are not as diverse in their sizing options but the trend is growing, whereas the lack of such momentum in expanding sizing options for men’s clothing is a real concern.

However, online clothes shopping for plus-sized individuals across the gender spectrum is made immensely more difficult by the lack of larger models on many online retailers. If you want to buy a new t-shirt in XXL, but the only pictures of it on Urban Outfitters are on a model with a shoulder span of five centimeters, you aren’t getting a very accurate representation of what it might look like on you (if you’re lucky enough that they even sell it in an XXL). The solution then is obviously to go to a physical outlet of the store, but then your choice is limited even further by their stocking of different sizes. To continue railing on Urban Outfitters, I was browsing their selection of ‘dad jeans’ in store the other day and the largest size they had available was a 28 waist. That being the largest size for a style inspired by the baggy jeans of beer-bellied papas everywhere is a little ironic in my opinion. And if you do actually manage to get the clothes you desire in your size, many retailers’ idea of ‘sizing-up’ just means making the garment bigger in all directions, leading to plus-sized guys everywhere wearing shirts that fit their shoulders perfectly but go down to their knees. Thankfully there are retailers that do better with larger sizes, such as Jacamo, Asos and River Island which have well-fitting larger sized clothes, but also employ plus-size models. However, this is not commonplace, especially not amongst high fashion outlets.

The lack of body diversity amongst models is not only problematic in trying to judge whether clothes will fit properly. A lack of plus-size models contributes to a societal norm for body image that leaves many men that have non-conforming body types with self-esteem and alienation issues. This is made worse if your clothes don’t fit you well and if you don’t have a wide variety of choice. Personally, I get a lot of my confidence from my clothes – if I’m having a bad hair day or feeling a bit down on myself I can usually at least depend on myself to put together a good outfit that boosts my self-esteem a bit. If I didn’t have that option AND had the knowledge that my body didn’t fit into what society deems ‘good’, I’d be a lot less confident than I am. Having limited fashion options also stifles a diverse and interesting creative outlet –an entire art form being much less available to people with certain body types seems almost discriminatory if not at the very least unfortunate for the individuals and the art form.

Despite societal norms working against you and clothes shopping being a bit of a pain, it’s still possible to be a style icon in an XXL. Well-fitted clothes are very flattering on a larger figure (and on anyone else really, I just don’t want to face the reality that I look goofy as hell in all my oversized threads). Layering can help to narrow your silhouette if done right, but make you aren’t layering up with heavy clothes as they’ll give you a bulky outline. Apart from that just dress in the way that makes you feel most comfortable, and if you need some #inspo there are plenty of high profile plus-size men making fashionable moves lately like Jonah Hill and Rag’N’Bone Man.

Although it is possible to look absolutely fly with a size 42 waist, it is clear there is a problem with inclusivity in the male fashion world that makes it harder than it needs to be. 

However, it is the age of inclusivity – companies want to increase their public image more and more and are often giving into the demands of social justice movements to do so. Campaigning on social media to compel retailers to offer a wider range of well-fitting sizes and employ plus-size models is a realistic solution that has worked exceedingly well with many women’s retailers and some men’s ones. There’s a ways to go in making our reality a loving and inclusive one, but it’s certainly within reach.

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