Diversity in Fashion: Why Representation Matters
“I didn’t think I could wear something like that and actually pull it off until I saw you,” is one of many statements I have heard since starting my Instagram over two years ago. Guys – specifically, men of size – have been inspired by fellow influencers and I for our uninhibited, no holds barred, approach to all-things fashion. Given the absence of plus-size men in runway shows or within the glossy pages of editorial magazines, how could we know what is possible or what we are capable of pulling off [fashion-wise]? Before Instagram, we were seeking peers with similar body types for fashion and lifestyle advice we weren’t otherwise receiving. Instagram gave our community a voice, allowing us to connect with other like-minded individuals while challenging and evolving the industry’s narrow views on beauty standards.
We’ve been through it before. You see this amazing looking button-up online and you want to purchase it. So you drive to the mall hoping to try it on, only to realize it doesn’t fit as you imagined it would. In fact, it’s so tight you can feel the buttons stretching near your belly and see your skin through the gaping holes. “Did you accidentally grab the wrong size” You ask yourself. You check the label, but sure enough it says it’s an XXL – so what gives? You begin thinking you’ve gained weight. Perhaps you should have lain off those doughnuts from yesterday or lost those 30 pounds you said you were going to lose months ago. Either way, you are dying to get this shirt, so you proceed to ask an associate if they have it in a size up. Unfortunately, they do not, she tells you. After taking a quick look at your body, she adds “all of the sizes are in European as well.” You don’t understand what that means for you so she explains the clothes run smaller than normal. Disappointed, you leave the store empty handed, but feel a sigh of relief knowing it’s not you; it’s the brand that doesn’t fit.
As a bigger guy this has been a common experience I’ve had at trendy stores like Express, Top Shop and Zara. Many of their clothes may not fit regularly or go beyond an XXL, while stores that cater to the Big and Tall demographic only carry basic and outdated attire. It’s frustrating when you want to be fashionable but don’t have the available resources to do it. Furthermore, as an influencer, it’s even more disheartening when someone asks how he can duplicate your look, but you’re unable to muster a response because you’re wearing a little bit of everything, both old and new, from any place you’ve shopped over the last five years.
Although the fashion industry has yet to embrace PS men, our efforts have not gone completely in vain. In fact, ASOS, one of the largest online retailers for urban wear, recently launched its own fashion line for the bigger guy. In honor of its debut and to show its commitment, ASOS invited a select group of fashion influencers (including myself) to New York for a showcase in late February. At the presentation, we were astonished by the quality and range of apparel featured in the collection. We were also pleased that ASOS took it a notch further by using models who exemplified our actual body types. For the first time, we felt someone had been listening. Finally, we had trendy fashion (up to XXXXL) within reach and backing by a major company.
Still, though progress has been made, we have much more work ahead of us. The industry may never take our cause as seriously as it has for women, but, whatever happens, our future success is contingent upon how we choose to mold it. In such a short time, we’ve already made an impact and won’t be discouraged by a few road blocks and setbacks. We’re not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. We started this movement and we’re here to stay for the long haul.
Our representation matters
Looks by ASOS
Photography by Collis Torrington