Big Questions is Zach Miko’s advice column that takes on pressing issues submitted by readers. Zach takes your questions on body image, relationships, acceptance and more.
Nicole: As a plus-sized woman, I have watched the women’s fashion industry grow year after year. While I think it has a long way to go, I am surprised that men’s plus seems so far behind. My boyfriend is a big guy. Last NY fashion week I watched live streams of so many beautiful plus women walk down the runway, and my boyfriend made the comment that you will never see a big guy walking in a fashion show. It breaks my heart because I know he doesn’t feel as handsome as I think he is, and he never finds clothing that makes him feel good. Is there anyway I can give my boyfriend hope that men’s plus will ever get to the same level as women’s?
I think it is really fitting that this question comes up as another New York Fashion Week is upon us. You’re right, we have seen tremendous growth in the women’s plus industry in the last few years. As I am writing this, there are beautiful women walking the runways of the main shows of NYFW in extended sizes. What was once a novelty on the catwalk is quickly becoming a celebrated staple. The women’s industry still has a long way to go toward true inclusivity, but the growth of women’s plus is undeniable.
They, and the few others that offer extended sizing have always decided that they do not believe a plus man’s body is suitable to show off their designs.
So, where are the brawn men during NYFW?
It’s a question that doesn’t have a great answer. Most designers that showcase during NYFW or Men’s NYFW do not make clothing that comes in big and tall sizing. They, and the few others that offer extended sizing have always decided that they do not believe a plus man’s body is suitable to show off their designs. The answer sucks, but that’s what it is at the moment. Is there any hope of that changing? You bet your ass there’s hope.
Following in the Footsteps of Trailblazers
The big and tall industry follows in the footsteps of the trailblazers in women’s plus. As a member of that industry myself, I am unbelievably grateful for all they have done for us. Women knocked down the walls and kicked open the doors and the men’s industry has gratefully followed their lead.
Plus size women were barred from major runways for decades. The best example of this, Emme, the first plus sized model ever, began modeling in 1989, and walked her very first NYFW show in 2017. Every accomplishment in the plus industry has been fought for tooth and nail. Now we see incredible models like Ashley Graham, Candice Huffine, Iskra Lawrence, and Tess Holiday in the ranks of true supermodeldom. Plus size fashion went from frumpy uninspired looks to being the highlight of the runway for designers.
It may feel like the men’s plus industry is crawling to catch up with women’s, but it’s important to remember that the big and tall industry in its current form is still so young. I did my first job as a model about 4 years ago. When I began there was no modeling agency that represented a plus sized man. The majority of luxury and fast fashion brands stopped their sizing at an XL or a 38 waist. Now the biggest agencies in the world have big and tall boards, and dozens of labels have expanded their sizing. This progress may feel slow in our digital age, but I promise it is happening. So, how do we keep it moving, how do we insure the big and tall industry reaches the same heights as the women’s?
We demand it. Women all over the world decided that they were tired of feeling ashamed for not fitting into fashion’s narrow idea of beauty. They demanded change; they birthed the body positive movement; they supported each other online, and most importantly, they spoke with their dollars. Fashion is, after all, a business, and no one ignores dollars. Women spent money on clothes they loved and made them feel valued and supported. Men need to do the same.
The only reason brands are expanding their sizes and using men’s plus models is because it is working for them, it is making money. We keep staying the course and major campaigns and fashion week shows are only a matter of time.
With a 40-42 waist I can sometimes find myself as the final size offered in traditional straight size collections, however I am personally committed to only shopping with brands that offer inclusive sizing. The only reason brands are expanding their sizes and using men’s plus models is because it is working for them, it is making money. We keep staying the course and major campaigns and fashion week shows are only a matter of time.
When are you going to see a plus man during New York Fashion Week? Well, I am as pleased as punch to tell you that this very week my good friend, model, activist, and author Ady Del Valle, walked the catwalk, looking big, beautiful, and badass for DapperQ x Devon at the Brooklyn Museum on September 5th. Ady crushed it on the runway, and seeing him strut is proof that it is all happening. Show your boyfriend and say “Hey look, a big guy on the runway, what was that you were saying?” Slowly but surely, it is happening.