Plus-Size Matters Too in Menswear

On my last personal shopping experience with a plus-size young man in his mid-thirties, I had an eye-opening experience which revealed how far behind menswear brands are when it comes to plus-size clothing for men.

Oops! This is starting off too serious, so let’s relax a bit. Last weekend I tried to learn how to ride a bicycle. It wasn’t as scary as I imagined it would be, but I realized that I’d have to do a better job of getting my feet off the ground. That’s how one finds balance to pedal away, right?

Is this in anyway linked to plus-size male fashion? I’m not sure yet…

Results from a study published in The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found that nearly 30% of the world’s population is either overweight or obese, and OECD, in its 2017 Obesity Update shows the rising rate of obesity across various countries through decades.

Globally, there is no projected decrease in worldwide obesity, but rather a steady increase until at least 2030.

Note: Obesity defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30kg/m². OECD projections assume that BMI will continue to rise as a linear function of time.

Source: OECD analysis of national health survey data.

This is key data that should be factored into the men’s fashion industry, but sadly the reality says otherwise. For years, women have clamored for inclusivity in the fashion industry and the successes are there to show for it: online, in-stores, in fashion reality shows such as Project Runway using plus-size models. The story however is totally different for men.

Armed with my client’s statistics, I went shop hopping prior to our planned shopping date to research what was available in stores, according to his wardrobe needs. Ten stores down and only two carried plus-size clothing, with limited options of course. The choices for jeans, shirts, tailored trousers and every other item were so uninspiring when compared to what was obtainable in smaller sizes.

And it doesn’t get any better online. It was a full day’s research to find an online store that had any available items from 2XL and above, with the majority of them listing these items as “out of stock”, which got me wondering if they ever had them in stock at all. In addition, with the exception of ASOS and very few others, most sites do not feature plus-size male models wearing these clothes.

Back to my biking lesson, learning to ride a bicycle as an adult is a difficult thing to do. It doesn’t also help that it’s a lesson you have to take in public, with friends and strangers staring, cheering or jeering at you (depending on the kind of neighborhood you live in). I vividly remember a group of teenagers riding into the park where I was taking my lessons to show off their skills while I could barely hold my balance on the bike.

Now, this is where I hope it makes senses.

Everyone, as much as possible, deserves to know how to ride a bicycle. It is fun, empowering, it is freedom. But most importantly, everyone deserves to look good, no, look GREAT. Looking good shouldn’t be exclusive to certain body types. Every male shopper from size 2XL deserves to be able to walk into a store, find something he likes, try it on, and if he likes it, buy it immediately. In 2018, he shouldn’t have to hear the same line over and over again: “Sorry, we don’t carry this particular design in a larger size than L”, “Check our online store. We might have it available in your size”

In an industry where scientific experiments such as published on Scientific American have shown that the way we look and dress influence our behavior, affects the way we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us, how long will it take for the menswear industry to stop trailing behind the shadow of the plus-size women’s clothing industry and show up for the men who need them?

If the Obesity Update report by OECD is anything to go by, then it means that every year waist inches will keep getting wider, and the chest area larger and broader. However, it remains to be seen if the men’s fashion industry is ready and willing to serve this growing plus-size population.

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