In recent years, the plus-size fashion industry has seen a surge in popularity. Both high-street and high-end brands have featured more body diversity, but the emphasis has focused on women’s clothes. Is it time for more body diversity in men’s fashion?
The gap in the market for plus-size male models is slowly starting to be addressed by the industry. While the female plus-size market started to develop thirty years ago, the male equivalent has taken longer to develop, only truly emerging in the past three years.
There continues to be a stereotype that women are more interested in fashion than men. As such, women’s fashion has almost always been two steps ahead of the male fashion industry, including on issues of diversity.
Men are so often forgotten about when it comes to celebrating body positivity. But not seeing your body represented by your favourite clothing brands can have just as much of an impact on a man as a woman.
The growing market for plus-size male models appears to indicate that the industry will be just as, if not more, popular than the women’s plus-sized industry
Now, everything is changing. There has been a demand for plus-size male models in the last few years. In fact, modelling agencies are struggling to fill the gap in the market and cater to the growing interest in the plus-sized industry. This has led to an increase in the number of adverts put out by male modelling agencies asking for plus-size men. Modelling agencies have reported a rise in interest for bigger male models among popular brands like ASOS and Boohoo.
In addition to the well-established brands putting out adverts for plus-sized male models, there has been a boom in the number of modelling agencies set up specifically for plus-sized male models.
Charlotte Griffiths set up Bridge modelling agency in 2014 to represent “diverse and healthy, positive role models.” She said it that it is “hypocrisy just to focus on diversity for women.”
The growing market for plus-size male models appears to indicate that the industry will be just as, if not more, popular than the women’s plus-size industry.
A lack of size representation within men’s fashion can have devastating effects on male consumers. By not celebrating body diversity, advertising campaigns force unrealistic body expectations on men.
Young boys who don’t look like the models they see in their favourite shop windows can feel insecure, and this might contribute to struggles with body confidence and body dysmorphia
Male perfume and underwear advertisements are most guilty of this, stereotypically using athletic, ‘chiselled’ models to sell their products. This can only have a negative impact on male self-esteem and self-image, something which we do not discuss enough.
Male mental health is such an important and misunderstood issue that has roots in the unrealistic pressures placed on men to fit a certain body type.
Young boys who don’t look like the models they see in their favourite shop windows can feel insecure, and this might contribute to struggles with body confidence and body dysmorphia. Griffiths said that “men were suffering from the same feelings of insecurities and misrepresentation” that impact women.
This is all part of a wider endemic in a contemporary society surrounding issues of toxic masculinity. Men are told that they need to fit into a certain mould, but what happens if you don’t fit in to society’s idea of masculinity?
Nemar Parchment, who had been working as a buyer for ASOS when he was approached about modelling, said: “I’d never seen anyone out there look like me”. He enjoyed “breaking down barriers” and promoting body diversity.
The industry is becoming a liberating space. Fashion is now more accepting of plus-size men, and opportunities are increasingly available to larger models.
Plus-size male models should be at the centre of the fashion industry
While some critics of the plus-size industry will claim that brands are promoting unhealthy eating habits or encouraging obesity, there is little grounding to this argument. Brands generally refer to a chest measurement of forty-five inches and above as fitting into a ‘big, tall and broad’ category, ant they do attempt to ensure that the body types represented are healthy.
Brands have a responsibility to ensure that all male body sizes are represented. They must be more inclusive and seek to represent the diversity of society, and this means that plus-size male models should be at the centre of the fashion industry.