Why Is Men’s Plus-Size So Behind?
Arguably, there has never been a more exciting time in men’s fashion. Recent collections lack binary restrictions, and there’s a real sense of play in the modern men’s department. But if you find yourself on the more brawny end of the size spectrum, you’ll need to look beyond the runway.
KingSize.com, one of the more popular providers of larger clothes for men, and a top Google search result of “men’s big and tall clothing,” is where enthusiastic larger fashionista’s in search of options go to cry. The site’s featured section is a hive of bare T-shirts, drawstring cargo shorts and denim overalls. And though these options may seem perfectly suitable for a large number of consumers, those dandies who are looking for something with more fun and general style are left for dead.
This is the bleak reality for fat men who want to wear clothes that look good on them. “I feel like the options we have now, I had those same options 15 years ago,” said Ady Del Valle, a male model who is also plus-size. “I feel like nothing has really changed. I feel like they think that big and tall bodies are, like, out going to the woods, or like a mechanic, or if I’m thinking that’s all we want to wear. We’re in a different time and different generation where we have evolved.”
“Sometimes I’ve been just tall, sometimes I’ve been big and tall,” said Travis Paul Martin, a publicist who wants more. “My general frustrations are brands that just seem to be kind of ignoring us mostly,” he said. “But also when talking it to the media, the media has not challenged the category as much as they have the women’s category.”
“My biggest frustration is that the men’s market hasn’t evolved and they haven’t invested in kind of a consistent … I don’t know what the proper terminology is, but size database. Or they’ve never really tried to come up with a cohesive response. Some people will be like, ‘Well, Gucci sells a triple XL.’ And it’s like, yes, but if you look at the Gucci size chart, their triple XL is 10 inches smaller than a Ralph Lauren triple XL.”
There’s a lot of finger-pointing. Do we blame brands? Put heat on the men’s fashion media? From the point of view of a plus-size consumer, all have dropped the ball. According to Ben Barry, the dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design, the problem is much bigger.
“I think that this comes down to the intersection of masculinity and plus-size fashion,” Dr. Barry said. “When we think of how masculinity has been constructed in Western society, it’s been dominantly constructivism, right? In opposition to fashion, in opposition to appearance and opposition to the body. Right? If you care about the body, if you care about fashion, that’s supposed to be in conflict with masculinity.”
Since becoming editor of GQ, Will Welch has taken the glossy in a new, more inclusive direction. That rebranding is focused on changing the definition of what it means to be masculine.
“The consciousness around the male body in general, there’s way less open dialogue, there’s way less open discussion,” Mr. Welch said. There’s way less meaningful research. It seems like the mainstream outlets were having, you know, a really important dialogue around women, and that wasn’t happening in men’s publishing. When you hear the words, ‘body positivity,’ you really think of women, and it’s erroneous and it’s an issue that needs to change.”
But as the barometer of what’s in and out with men’s fashion, GQ’s inclusion of larger subjects and coverage has so far extended only to bigger athletes. Mr. Welch recognizes that. “I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in this space, and a lot of it is just the inclusivity of who’s in the magazine,” he said. “But I think we still have a long way to go on it as well, you know?”
There are a few players in the men’s big and tall game who are breaking the boring barrier. ASOS is heading the sector, offering the most youthful and “fashion-forward” looks. Though it’s not luxury, your chances of finding something in your size that your favorite thin counterpart on TikTok is wearing is likely.
The Ralph Lauren Big & Tall selection has long been a lukewarm but reliable source for larger men as the brand’s offerings extend to a 6XL Big and 58 waist. The section is void of the chicness like its higher-end Purple Label, but it’s enough to clothe our fat bodies. And these brands think that’s enough, apparently.