Comedian and American social media personality Josh Ostrovsky, AKA The Fat Jew, has ventured into the world of fashion. With 5.8 million followers on Instagram, where he posts a mix of funny animals and celebrity pictures with ironic captions, he’s a powerful presence on the photo-sharing site.
Fashion didn’t seem like a likely move for Ostrovsky, but he has signed up with the model agency, One Management. Next month, he will be featured in a collection showing called, The Dad Fashion Show. It’s a collection geared toward dads or men of all ages and sizes. He wants to inspire men of his size to be comfortable in their own skin and know that it’s okay to have a “mediocre body and very, very high cholesterol, as long as you look great doing it”.
Being Plus-Size is Not All About Women Anymore
Usually, discussions about body positivity and confidence is focused on women. There are at least seven agencies in the United Kingdom that have a plus size division. Tess Holliday, the most famous plus size model in the UK, recently featured on the cover of People magazine. In September, London will host the UK Plus Size Fashion Week.
With all the positive changes about incorporating models of different sizes for women’s wear, the question of whether this is also happening for men’s wear has naturally been brought up to light. As it is, there is a definite lack of plus-size male models. The Dad Show is the fashion industry’s response to dad bods. One Management CEO, Scott Lipps says, “it’s all about tapping into what’s going on with culture”. “Dad bods” have become more than just a fad, regardless of whether the term is appealing or not.
To be plus size in menswear generally means wearing the size XL or larger and having a chest measuring over 42 inches, but this can also include anyone very tall and well built. For menswear shoots, they generally look for a medium size model with 38-inch chest and 32 inch waist.
However, the scarcity of male plus-size models is at direct odds with the market. There are plus-size brands, but there’s just no one to model them. Jacamo is a company that specializes in plus-size clothing for men and they have 500,000 customers. They use Andrew Flintoff as the face of their brand. For retailers, there’s High & Mighty, Rochester Big & Tall, and other retailers like Debenhams, Ralph Lauren, and Next that also have their own plus-size lines.
Three of the major agencies in the UK that have plus-size female models have all said that they don’t plan on signing up plus-size male models. However, one of the biggest agencies in Hamburg, Curve Model Management has 50 active male plus-size models in their books. They come at the minimum size of 52 (42 in the UK), but they fit the standard criteria for the job, which means they are good looking, have a full head of hair, and nice teeth.
Mona Schulze, owner of Curve Model Management, says that she finds her plus size male models on the street. They avoid using the phrase plus-size when scouting because it’s a real issue. When she sees a potential new model, she compliments their “standard” or every man size. Although the debate regarding the term “plus-size” only spawned a campaign in women’s wear, it actually also affects men. They are just as sensitive about their size as women.
The Lack of Male Plus-Size Models
Most of Curve’s 50 models are working full-time. The market in Germany is different. They appreciate having models they can relate to and have a realistic size. Their clients like high street labels like C&A, Lidl, Aldi, and s.Oliver. The models are starting to get international attention, which indicates that there is demand for this type of male model.
The two most successful models at Curve are Antonio and Steven. They fit two different plus-size profiles, the athletic type and “bigger.” One reason for plus-size male models being quite unknown is that clients and magazines aren’t very willing to use larger men. However, the market has a demand that is not being met, so eventually they will become more mainstream.
The retailer, bigdudeclothing.co.uk, started three years ago and it is one of the biggest plus size retailers in the UK. It has received funding from the William Currie Group, which also invested in Asos and has seen 100 percent growth for each year it’s been in operation. They carry clothes up to size 10XL, but they have trouble finding a model to represent their brand. The founder, Darrell Freeman, recently put a call out to find a male model with a 70-inch waist.
The issue behind this difficulty in finding male plus-size models may be pride or vanity. Perhaps men are more ashamed about how they would look in front of a camera and they don’t want to show their bodies. It could also just be that women feel more beautiful than men, so modelling will feel more like a possibility for them regardless of their size. They are able to embrace their curves and really feel comfortable in front of the camera even if they are not the regular model size.
The Need to Break the Stereotype
The average male size is not reflected in the choice of menswear models though. A fifth of British men have a 38-inch waist. In TV shows and other media, the larger men usually fill the comic stereotype roles. And, it has become emasculating for larger men to be stuck playing these roles.
Society stereotypes larger men as the funny fat guy. Bruce Sturgell is the founder of Chubster.com, a plus-size style board for men. He wants people to know that the “jokey fat guy” also wants to look good. The idea that the big guy doesn’t care what he looks like and he just wants to hang out in sweatpants is incorrect.
Sturgell mainly shops online because of the lack of availability in the brick and mortar shops. He thinks you have to show plus-size men in a fashionable light to help buck trends and break the stereotype. And, this needs to come from grassroots level because the established brand will not want to cause a stir.
There are actually plus-size models outside of Germany. Jermain Hollman is a US model who is 6’5″ and has a 36-inch waist. That’s quite small for a plus-size model, but he’s way above the standard male model size. He has done work for US brand Target, but he doesn’t expect to be featured in regular campaigns.
Hollman says, “It’s about what the client wants. They are reluctant to stray from the baseline, which is odd because most people don’t fit that type”. He believes the shift in women’s wear will lead to a change in the male modeling industry, too. Female fashion is always leading the way and he hopes that will cross over into the male fashion world.
Toby Wiseman is editor of Men’s Health magazine. They routinely feature larger, but well-toned models on the cover. He believes there isn’t a market for larger male models because there is less diversity in the male body shape, “and therefore perhaps less need to represent it. Men can be fat or thin, toned or not, but bums tend to be bums, our hips are fairly homogeneous, and we don’t have the vast variety in breast size/shape to contend with”.
There is also the sensitive topic of obesity.There is a very real obesity problem in the country that is hard to control, but it doesn’t mean the plus-size industry is glamorizing unhealthy images. It’s not any more misleading to promote a plus-size body shape than it is to promote a size 0 model.
The world needs to change their perception towards body types. The Be Real campaign focused on body image and body confidence. Health needs to be placed above appearance and everyone should be confident with their bodies. Low body confidence can damage people’s lives. It can affect anyone of any age and any sex. Ideally, there should be a balance between promoting good health and realistic images on ad campaigns and this should equally cover both men’s and women’s wear.