Where are all the plus-size men in fashion?


A quick call to a few big name modelling agencies, and nada. No plus-size male models available on the books. The first response I get is that it's because the demand is incremental compared to that, say, in the U.S. Another booker tells me that women plus-size models, yes many, but no curvy male models. She maybe she can try and find someone, but usually there is no demand. 

Over the years we've seen a massive surge in the public's demand for curvy models being represented in ads, and trendy, fashionable clothing for larger than traditional mainstream sizing. This, to an extent has been achieved. There is still such a long way to go, but curvy models are seen on covers, on the runway and as ambassadors of beauty and fashion brands. 

READ MORE: 11 "plus sized" male hotties  

But where are all the plus-size males in fashion?

In the U.S, male plus-size modelling does exist. Not thriving, but it's there. 

Last year DJ Kahled became the face of big and tall retailer Destination XL’s latest campaign, called Time to XL. 

And earlier this year plus-size male models did a spoof of one of Calvin Klein's #MyCalvins ads, recreating it using only curvy male models in an effort to spark conversation surrounding male beauty standards. 

The Independent reported that the male model who started the idea, Darnel Ghramm, who dubbed the project #WeAreBigAndTall said that he hopes that one day they, too, will earn their spot in the fashion and beauty industries. With ads everywhere, being 'full-figured' will no longer be taboo, and that the 'plus-size' will be dropped.

But visiting mainstream stores today in a mall, I gathered some intel regarding sizing for plus-size men shopping in South Africa: 

1. Most mainstream chain stores went up to sizing XXL, size 38 or 42 pants for men

2. Cotton On was one of the only budget clothing stores to offer XXXL in some styles

3. Stores like Trenery, which are a bit more exclusive, offer XXXL and size 48 for men. 

I spoke to a salesman at Woolworths and Cotton On, who both reiterated the point made by local modelling agencies, the demand isn't there in South Africa. Hiddenprofitsmarketing.com says that in 2018, a country like the U.S. is seeing an unprecedented growth in obesity, among men and women. 

Results from a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology this June, 2018, found that "South Africa is experiencing exponential increases in population mean BMI within a relatively short time period, particularly among female school-aged children, adolescents and young adults." And there's a rapid rise in Body Mass Index (BMI) over the last couple of years, especially among young women, says The Times. 

But a study by Lancet in 2014 confirmed that South African women are some of the most obese in the world, ranking 9th in 2014. in 2017, Health24 confirmed this obesity trend, noting "By the age of 20, over half of all women were already overweight and by 45, this figure had rocketed to 82%, according to the survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Statistics South Africa and the Department of Health."

They account for 2.7% of all severely obese women in the world, that is. Whereas in the U.S. 16.2 million men are considered severely obese, while 23.1 million of U.S. women are considered the same of the total. 

READ MORE: 'Plus-size' model recreates Rihanna and other celeb red carpet looks - using food! 

Nylon, recently wrote about the lack of diversity in menswear, saying "Brands need to realise the plus-size men’s market is waiting." But is it "waiting" in South Africa? 

The reality is, there is a market for XXXXL sizing and bigger in the States, whereas here it might not be as big. But obesity aside, men who fall into the plus-size category might currently have only a few options available to them in South Africa.

a) either wait for a bigger 'plus-size' market to appear, i.e. wait for men's BMIs to go up

b) shop at a few select stores that offer XXXL sizing

c) get a designer/tailor to make you clothing at a bigger cost

d) start shipping from the U.S. 

Either way you cut it, we are not there yet. And that for many reasons is a double edged sword, as we hope to keep BMI down for health reasons, while wanting to be inclusive and representative of all healthy bodies in smaller and bigger sizes. 

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