Here at HuffPost UK Lifestyle, we are beyond pleased that the plus size women’s movement has gathered pace and is storming the internet with inspiring images.
There are Instagram movements, beautiful photography projects – all in the name of subverting the standardised body image we’ve had rammed down our throats for decades.
But where does that leave plus size men? What stories of empowerment are they inspired by?
We can think of a grand total of one – remember the Dancing Man aka Sean O’Brien, who was ‘fat-shamed’ and the internet swarmed to defend him?
Sean O’Brien (third from left)
In fact, we ran a story earlier in March asking where all the plus size male models were in mainstream media, and we have yet to see a strong movement take off.
It isn’t for want of numbers – we spoke to online plus size retailer for Bigdudeclothing.co.uk MD Darrell Freeman who said that the industry is growing 100% year on year. Here we caught up with him for the inside scoop on the plus size male clothing world…
There is and has been a big movement about empowering plus size women – but we don’t really see the same for men. Do you think we could do with this?
Definitely. It’s great to see that plus size women are being given the deserved amount of attention and exposure in magazines, on television and in film, so why isn’t the same happening for men who are proud of their bodies and not willing to become the butt-end of a ‘fat man joke’?
Plus size men should be proud of their bodies and embrace them. You only have to look at statistical figures to see that eating disorders in men are on the rise, so it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with.
James Corden makes a pretty good plus size male role model
We also don’t seem to see very many plus size male models around – how do you select the ones who advertise your clothes?
We try and find guys who appear confident in themselves as well as the clothing we provide.
At the moment, we have Wales’ Strongest Man, Simon Johnson as our model. He is a 4XL and fits the modelling work around his current job, being a doorman in Rhyl. Usually, we speak to existing customers, to find potential local models.
What considerations/worries do you think a man might have if he was buying plus size clothing?
Well firstly we get a lot of men worried about finding the right clothes to fit them, especially after the trouble they’ve had for years attempting to find the correct plus sized clothing on the high street.
The second main struggle we find is that men are too embarrassed to disclose their actual size to employees working in retail outlets. Men can be just as self-conscious about disclosing their weight and measurement as women can, and with such varying body shapes, heights and widths, it’s not as easy as being able to pick up an item from a clothing rack and buy it.
How would you ease their concerns?
It is most important to reassure any customers that there is nothing wrong with their size and that they are not alone in their struggles.
We have so many customers who are all in the same boat, so I think it definitely reassures the larger man when he can visit our site to see how many similar people are in his position.
Sometimes just being able to relate to someone else and not feeling like the only person with body hang-ups is enough for our customers to come out of their shells and experiment with new styles and trends they may never have considered previously.
Do customers come in with any similar requirements or requests?
Our range goes up to 8XL, so we find most of our customers are happy with our current range of sizes, but our customisation service allows those larger than 8XL to find clothes that not only fit them, but ones that they feel good in.
Some of the custom requests we’ve had include 10XL shirts, size 20 shoes and 70” jeans.
How has the plus size male industry changed in the last 10 years?
A lot more brands have come into the space. Brands such as Lambretta, Wrangler, Mish Mash and Farah have entered the male plus size industry in the last couple of years.
Ten years ago it was only specialist brands that exclusively supplied big sizes. Now we are seeing brands with more prestigious reputations extend their range up from the old limit of XXL to 5XL with some, like us, even going up to an 8XL.
What do you have to take into account when creating styles for plus size clothing?
There’s a number of things. Of course we take into account the same factors as those who create styles for ‘normal’ size clothing. It’s important for the clothes to look good and be as fashionable and comfortable as possible – just because we make plus size clothes doesn’t mean they can’t be on trend.
I think, though, this most important thing for us to consider when creating styles for plus size clothing is a good fit. I think the biggest problem for men that need to wear plus size clothing is that they do not fit properly and irritate them. We design all of our clothes with this in mind, ensuring that we take different shapes and sizes into account.
What are some of the most popular items?
Our plus sized shirts and t-shirts are definitely the most popular, as the stomach and torso are often the largest parts of most plus sized men’s bodies. It’s really interesting to see the different areas of the UK where our plus size clothing is the most popular. We recently studied our site sale statistics and found that Scotland is the region where the most 7XL and 8XL clothes are sold, whilst Newcastle and Birmingham were the most popular for 2XL to 6XL clothes.
Is the plus size men’s clothing industry a growing market?
Yes, the market is growing very quickly and we are seeing 100% growth year on year. Research from Mintel shows that 20% of males in the UK have a size 38″ waist or above.
We have seen a lot more demand for the king size sizes over the last 12 months with 8XL in particular seeing a huge increase in popularity. The market is expected to increase by 10% up to 2018. Even football clubs, such as Manchester United are now producing their shirts in a size 4XL.