Hedi Slimane keeps it lean on the catwalk for Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2014. Photo: Getty
While non-conventionally sized models Crystal Renn, Kate Upton and Robyn Lawley conquer covers, campaigns, catwalks and editorials, one group have been conspicuously left out of the glossy picture – plus-size male models.
Why have we not questioned the absence of plus-size male models in the media? Women’s magazines are increasingly answering the call to include more ‘real’-looking models in their spreads while titles such as GQ and Vogue’s male-targeted editions continue to flog a very narrow view of what it means to be beautiful.
According to The New York Times, the standard male mannequin size has shrunk from a 42” chest and a 33” waist to a 35” chest and a 27” waist in the past 40 years. And those numbers are getting smaller still. Though, generally speaking, the average male model embodies an ideal that is healthier than your average female model, the media-propagated ‘norm’ is still limited and unattainable.
The modern-day dude is bombarded with images of jacked-up perfection in the form of rock hard pectorals and the anonymous six-packs you find in Abercrombie & Fitch catalogues. And on the other side of the spectrum, Hedi Slimane peddles an ideal that’s just as detached from reality. The Dior Homme cum Saint Laurent designer has popularised the angular, boy-from-the-band look, choosing hollow-cheeked, prepubescent-looking models for his runway.
When it comes to issues of vanity and self-loathing, men are far from immune. According to The Butterfly Foundation, the number of males suffering from eating disorders is on the rise, with Australia having some of the worst levels of male anorexia in the world. Though discussion around beauty standards and body acceptance has tended to focus solely on women – these issues are just as real for men.
Could the lack of plus-size male models have to do with the lack of plus-size ready-to-wear fashion? That could very well be the case. While women’s fashion moves tentatively toward promoting a wider, healthier size gamut – what with the rise of plus-size fashion blogs, more businesses expanding their ranges, Rick Owen’s sizeable steppers at Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week presenting its first plus-size show – the same cannot be said for men’s fashion.
If you’re an XL or up, there’s no use looking to Valet or Mr. Porter for sartorial inspiration. The more discerning big-and-tall shopper will find there are few options available. Though the market is there, the industry is yet to be created.
There’s also confusion around the definition of what it means to be a ‘plus-size’ male model. While women’s plus-size is stringently defined and based on the perception that curves are sexy, the equivalent curves on a male – beer guts, pot bellies and love handles – are not. Any figure that’s slightly meatier and more in line with your average Joe– think Alec Baldwin, Seth Rogen, even Russell Crowe – is perceived as pudgy and soft.
To broaden the male model niche would encourage more brands and magazines to hop on board the plus-size train and vice versa. Just as is the case with women, for men to see bigger dudes in fashion shoots is both reassuring and empowering for body confidence. And what’s more, we at Daily Life think broader chests, thicker arms, beefier bellies and more rounded bottoms can often look quite marvellous on a guy.