Size Matters For Male Models

There is very little in common between James Aitken and the wafer-thin girls on America's Next Top Model. At 183 centimetres tall and with a 110-centimetre waist, he is an extra large size in most clothing. But, inspired by a friend's joke that he could give the girls a run for their money, Aitken sent his picture to a modelling agency. Soon, he was on their books as one of Australia's first plus-size male models.

While we have seen more plus-size women on catwalks and in magazines in the past five years, male models have trimmed down. In 2010, British mannequin maker Rootstein introduced a new type of mannequin, which had an 89-centimetre chest and a 68.5-centimetre waist - 11.5 centimetres smaller than an Australian men's extra small size.

Plus sized male model -  James Aitken.
Plus sized male model - James Aitken. Photo: Simon Schluter

Data from the Bureau of Statistics shows that, last year, the average Australian man had a 97.9-centimetre waist - an increase of 1.7 centimetres since 2008 and sitting somewhere between large and extra large sizes. But, despite this, it is rare to see advertising offering to make this part of the male population look good.

Since launching the online arm of its plus-size men's store, Ron Bennett Big Men's Clothing sales have doubled and its online business manager, Murray Finlayson, says it has only just scratched the surface. He says the company is receiving heart-warming feedback from customers who feel ignored by mainstream menswear.

Plus-size: Male model James Aitken.
Plus-size: Male model James Aitken. Photo: Simon Schluter

One major problem is that fashion designers only make small sample sizes, so models have to be smaller than the average customer, and larger men are not represented in magazines and advertising.

BGM Models is the only Australian modelling agency that has plus-size male models on its books. The director, Darrianne Donnelly, says retailers and magazines are "a little scared, because it's not as aspirational for men, or even for women, to look at men who are overweight or obese as a model''. But she believes there is space for the development of a plus-size men's industry in the same way this has worked for women.


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