BY NICKY CHAMP
The average Australian woman is a size 14, the average British woman is a UK size 16 and the average American woman is a US size 14.
These averages are bandied around by the media and the fashion industry daily but have you ever stopped to think where are the blokes in all of this?
What is the average size of the Australian or British male? And why isn’t anyone talking about that?
While the fashion and modelling industries have made (some pretty dismal) efforts to stamp out the promotion of unhealthy imagery and rampant eating disorders among female models, little attention has been paid to the lack of diversity amongst male models.
There are two types of male bodies depicted in mainstream media. The skinny, angular boy-child body pioneered by Hedi Slimane, the influential designer at Dior Homme in the early 2000s and the ‘ripped’ muscular physique found in advertising and on the covers of men’s magazines (the ones without women on the cover).
Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation says that negative body image issues are a whole-of-society problem, and shouldn’t be looked upon as just an issue for women.
Australia has some of the worst levels of male anorexia in the world. Statistics from the Butterfly Foundation found that one in four children with anorexia in Australia are boys and almost a third of Year Nine boys use dangerous methods to try to be thin, including diet pills and smoking.
Conversely, the organisation has also seen a rise in young boys and men pursuing another artificial ideal body shape – the ‘buff’ gym body shape.
“There is an entrenched vernacular and visual language for male beauty that the fashion and fitness industries rely on to sell their products. Current research tells us that young men, and boys as young as seven, are increasingly being treated for clinical eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours,” says Morgan.
Thirteen years on from Slimane’s hollow-cheeked, shockingly thin ‘vision’ fashion’s obsession with skinny seems to be waning (disappointingly not by Slimane). The shift in attitude has in part been prompted by social media which is quietly leading to the better promotion of designers who break the cardinal runway rule of using models who look sick.
After Slimane’s show, former Love magazine fashion editor, Isaac Lock, tweeted the photo below, asking the question,”This is aspirational, right?” and “Hedi’s Home for Hungry Boys. Fashion, you’re pretty fucked up sometimes.”
Thankfully, the 2013 menswear collections have heralded the return of healthy-looking men, who in turn are paving the way for the rise of ‘plus size’ male models.
One of these ‘plus size’ male models is James Aitken, represented by the BGM agency in Australia. The agency added males to their books in October 2012 but Aitken is the first whose body doesn’t represent the overly muscular stature of a fitness model.
Standing at 183 centimetres tall, with a 110-centimetre waist his XL frame is far removed from the catwalks of Milan and Paris but more in tune with the average Aussie male, who measures a 97.9-centimetre waist, according the Bureau of Statistics.
Darrianne Donnelly, director of BGM, says that the demand for bigger male models is slowly increasing with many clients (including Myer at the time of this interview) requesting tall men who are a XL or XXL.
“When the fashion industry understands that using a larger male will increase their bottom line then this will become a matter of natural course rather than an exception and the demand will increase,” says Donnelly.
A sentiment Chelsea Bonner of Bella model management agrees with, she believe that just like in women’s fashion, clients who book models their customers can relate to are only going to increase sales.
“I think that the industry as a whole and readers and consumers are wanting to see bodies and shapes they can more closely identify with,” says Bonner.
“Studies are backing this up and proving that without doubt people are more likely to purchase if they can identify with the models.”
“Our model bookings and growth support this as more and more clients are listening to their customers feedback.”
A move that will surely see more size diversity in men’s fashion moving forward and one that will hopefully see the term ‘plus size’ becoming entirely redundant.
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