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Why is men’s plus size clothing so expensive? Of the many questions we receive, this is one of a handful that we get the most. Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the reasons why, and what we you can do about it.

Companies Are Just Beginning to See Market Opportunity

There aren’t a lot of options out there for plus size men right now. When Chubstr began back in 2011, almost no one was focusing on this audience. Over the years, we’ve seen more designers create lines and retailers launch categories for big & tall men.

The thing is, we’re very early in the growth of the market. It’s so new that, as of now, there aren’t many statistics out there that show how big the plus size menswear market in the United States actually is.  This means that most retailers don’t realize there’s an opportunity out there for them.

A quick look at Destination XL Group’s 2016 Annual report tells us they believe the men’s big and tall apparel market generates $3.5 to $4 billion dollars per year, and that they expected to make around $470 million in sales for the year. The U.S. plus size womenswear market is valued at more than $17.5 billion. The plus size menswear market may not be that big yet, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. Bottom line, there’s a lot of opportunity here.

Matthew Simko in Costello Tagliapietra’s perfect cardigan

Making Plus Size Clothing is Expensive

It’s impossible for an independent designer to compete against the likes of Old Navy or ASOS when it comes to price. The cost of materials, labor, promotion, and shipping can be deal breakers for small brands. That aside, large fast fashion companies are able to mass produce clothing in a way that a one-person shop simply can’t do.

People have no idea that we can’t compete with the big box stores, Sometimes just the cost of my fabric will be more than the whole garment costs at Forever 21.

I talked to Claire Doody of Copper Union and Brandon Kyle of the Brandon Kyle Collection about the challenges independent designers face when trying to bring their lines to market. “I use one of my skirts as an example, I break down the pricing or the fabric, supplies, labor and other cost of goods to basically show that a skirt that sells in retail for $128, I make $12. People have no idea that we can’t compete with the big box stores, Sometimes just the cost of my fabric will be more than the whole garment costs at Forever 21.”

Brandon faces a similar situation, having launched his line in 2016: “My cost of goods are three times higher than they would be overseas. Fabric, Trims, Cut and Sew, Packing, and Shipping are just a few of the factors I have to consider in producing my clothing. I have been in business since September 2016, which is only a few months. I don’t yet have the volume of customers that warrant manufacturing overseas where they require 5,000 to 10,000 units of a style…which is what is needed to get the competitive pricing that an H&M or Zara are able to offer.”

Why is Plus Size Men's Clothing so expensive?

Photo: Christian Trippe

What Can We Do About It?

Tell the retailers you love that they need to carry clothes in your size. Support the independent brands making clothes in your size when you can. Share articles that you read about the plus size clothing industry, whether it’s something you come across on Chubstr, or something you see elsewhere. Respond, engage! The more people do this, the more companies see customer interest in the market. This results in more chances being taken on plus size clothing lines.

Chubstr will continue reporting on the designers, retailers, and brands offering extended size clothing for men, regardless of cost. If we show the world that this is a viable market with customers interested in buying both discount and luxury clothing, other companies will follow suit by creating more options at a variety of price points.

Why do you think men’s plus size clothing is so expensive? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

  • Don Morin

    As a clothing designer, I can tell you this is bogus. It is true that plus-size clothing for men and women do require more fabric yardage per garment than smaller size but that is where the differences end. Labour is the same cost, shipping and packaging does not change in costs, operation overhead does not change in cost.
    Where the problem lies is that of marketing image for the retailer. Retailers do not want to sell to out-sizes as it is not “fashionable”. Take the case of Ambercombe & Fitch. Unless they can sell high volumes conventional retailers don’t want to go there and those that do, do so asking more than usual markups, as if they are doing you a favour.

    • Cassandra Carter

      So Don Morin…what is the solution to why plus size clothing is so expensive?

  • Shane Jenkins

    Ok, this may be true for the small designers scattered around the US but this does not apply to the large brands like Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Calvin Klein, Geoffrey Beene, Levi, Lee, Reebok and other such well known labels. These companies have their clothing overseas in sweat shops or pay slave wages. They make the same garment in small through 5x, 6x, etc. For example, Levis 550 jeans waist size 28 through 42 sell for $40, but Levis 550 jeans waist size 44 through 60 sell for $60. To go from a 42 waist to a 44 is a $20 increase . Another example is a standard white Polo Ralph Lauren polo shirt for size small to xxl is $85 but the exact same shirt in a size 1X through 6X is $100. With all those companies the manufacturing costs exactly the same for a small as it does for a 6x when it comes to labor, shipping, packaging, etc. As for advertising, none of the major labels advertise B&T. The model who was used for the smaller sizes is used for the B&T sizes. Even DXL, a business that caters entirely to B&T does not use models large enough to shop in their stores. So, advertising for B&T for the major brands is zero.

  • Stoakley Lloyd

    For as long as I have been aware more than half the US population has been obese. The fact that these people wear unfashionable and ill fitting clothes is a cliche. The refusal of big box stores to stock better makes no sense