Last year, Steven Green became Savage Fenty’s first plus-size male model and ‘Ryan’s Secret’ had 15 plus-size men walking down the runway in toga’s and cycling-shorts. These steps made towards the inclusion of plus-size males within the fashion industry gave hope for a bigger long-overdue movement. It was a step in the right direction as the industry started to see a more inclusive size range and it finally seemed as if high fashion was about to get on board. But the FW21 show season has come and gone, and the lack of plus-size male models has been very obvious. So why is it that the fashion industry still disregards size-inclusive representation?
Mental health within men has only become a discussed topic in the last few years, but it is still far from where it should be with toxic masculinity having a huge role to play. With mental health and physical health being so connected, many men are struggling with disordered eating, as 33 percent of males use unhealthy behaviours to control weight. Anorexia is also a common issue, with 25 percent of patients diagnosed being male. However, a lot of cases go undiagnosed, with many feeling unable to speak out due to the societal pressures of the ‘macho’ stereotype.
The ideal male figure is often represented as a muscular defined body shape, with many publications and brands choosing this as their idealised image. Most male models chosen for runway shows are of a slender, muscular build, so why is the fashion industry only marketing to a fraction of its potential consumers? American males, aged 20 years and over have an average waist measurement of 40.5 inches, making fashion’s representation of the male body distorted from reality.
Issues around the representation of our bodies should be gender inclusive, although they are routinely characterized as ‘women’s issues’. One scroll through Instagram and the amount of women campaigning for change is clear to see, whether it be for a wider variety of body types or promoting strong mental health. However, it is less likely to see men calling out for change. Joseph Diaz, model from Ryan’s Secret told ABC News, “Especially being a big guy myself, going for job interviews, if you’re not looking like some studly guy, sometimes you don’t get the job.”
In the beauty industry, brands marketing their make-up range to men often advertise their products as ‘War Paint For Men’ showing the fragility of social acceptance, outside of a ‘manly’ representation. Celebrities such as Jonah Hill, Russell Brand and Ed Sheeran have spoken out about distorted perceptions of their own body, with Hill writing on Instagram, “37 and [I] finally love and accept myself”. Actor Chris Pratt, also took to Instagram in 2017 to address issues negative comments about his weight, “So many people have said I look too thin in my recent episodes of #WHATSMYSNACK Some have gone as far as to say I look “skeletal” Well, just because I am a male doesn’t mean I’m impervious to your whispers. Body shaming hurts.”
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The creative industry is a powerful community filled with campaigners and activists. Influencer and designer, Louis Pisano spoke out after this year’s Milan fashion week, asking on Instagram, “Why doesn’t body inclusivity on the runway extend to men?”. The social stigma surrounding these stereotypes leads to many men being undiagnosed with potential disorders, as mentioned above. If more men felt they were able to speak out, the industry would be forced to rethink the representations of the male body in media and advertising. Correcting these false impressions is vital to defying social norms surrounding gender and body types.
WHERE TO REACH OUT TO:
There are many great organisations and helplines available for those seeking advice and help around body issues and mental health.
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See also: WHY IS FASHION SILENT ON #STOPASIANHATE?