British humankinds are getting taller, larger and broader and the high street is eventually catching up
The energy at online garment store Asos hits you as soon as you enter its art deco London headquarters. The place is youthful , noisy, overwhelming. It is also proudly democratic in the sense that it wants to offer fashionable clothes for everyone. Not, I suppose, because it is on some great mission to change “the worlds”, but because its not just perfectly honed young men and women who will pay to look good.
I am getting a guided tour from the companys brand creative administrator, John Mooney. He is spearheading Asoss drive to improve its offering to what might euphemistically be called the bigger boy. I am keen on this euphemism because I am one of those bigger men: 6ft 4in tall; 40 in-plus waist; carrying a lot of extra poundage. My mom kindly describes me as big-boned; others would say fat.
Either way, for me shopping has always been an disagreeable and often pointless experience a procession of garments that, even when they exclaimed themselves large-scale, came nowhere near fitting me. I gave up shopping for clothes about 20 years ago, apart from the occasional desperate raid to find something that would just about do. If I did find something( a pair of M& S XL stretch jeans, a black XL top from Lands End) I would buy half a dozen and hope theyd ascertain me through. They were, in every appreciation, distress purchases, and I had adopted a uniform: all black, uninspired, unchanging, shapeless, boring.
Hence this visit to Asos, which over the past couple of months has been widening its menswear scopes up to 6XL, to indicate the size that many blokes actually are, rather than what high-end designers might opt them to be. Its been catering for bigger women for the past five years( the curve sector reports for 20% of Asoss womenswear marketings) but now bigger men are get the same care. The key, says head of menswear design Nick Eley, is to offer plus-sized customers exactly what is available to everyone else, but cut in such a way that it caters for different torso shapes tall and skinny, broad-spectrum and athletic, big and tubby. Its amazing how poorly this market has been catered for in the past, he says.
One problem has been receiving simulates for the new sizes. Were having to teach simulate agencies eyes, tells Jordan Shiel, who books the menswear models at Asos. We also have to go out there and find our own.
One of its frameworks, 23 -year-old Nemar Parchment, was spotted in-house operating as a buyers administrative helper. Parchment initially hated the idea of modelling, but eventually arrived round, and has now switched careers. He reckons he is part of a major transformation in demonstrating mens torsoes as they are, rather than as designers fetishise them, and says that can only be for the very best: Determining other big and tall guys might help people accept themselves more.
Another Asos plus-sized framework, Scott Bayliss, was spotted by Shiel at a music festival in Bristol. We ensure him from afar, mentions Shiel. He had a really cool outfit on and was personable and confident, and that always translates into marketings. Bayliss, who was acting before abruptly being pitched into modelling, has now been signed up by a plus-sized agency in Germany, where the curve marketplace is ahead of the UKs.
One UK agency has already got the message Bridge, which has induced plus-sized models its USP. We launched two and a half years ago, initially just for the curve marketplace, says administrator Charlotte Griffiths. A years ago it introduced a mens divide, with chunky, bearded personal trainer Ben Whit as its first simulate. Ben is incredibly healthy, but he has a bit of a paunch and a broad-spectrum chest, mentions Griffiths. He represents the 21 st-century human who wants to shop for clothes and doesnt want to have to go into a different section to buy them. Bridge has just signed up Olympic discus thrower Brett Morse, who vied for Team GB at London 2012.
There is an acceptance now that bigger guys can also be cool, says Mooney, at Asos. Its a terrible thing to have to say, because why werent they allowed to celebrate it before? You require people out there as figureheads to be able to say, Its OK to wear clothes like this. You can also look good. He mentions Brit award-winner RagnBone Man and singer MNEK as big guys who dress stylishly. You dont have to look like Harry Styles any more to get a break in music or, indeed, fashion.
In truth, I probably wont be wearing Asos, despite its admirable is committed to garmenting all shapes and sizes: the hoodies, sweatshirts, rent jeans and floral shirts are aimed at twentysomethings, and I left my 20 s behind some time deep in the past century. But I can( just about) imagine myself wearing River Island, where I once bought some XL T-shirts that virtually fitted. In future, I will have more choice, because last month it also launched a Big and Tall range, extending its sizes across 117 lines. It will offer every size up to 4XL, which equates to a 55 in chest and a 48 in waist, more than big enough even for me.
There ought to have retailers offering plus sizes, but what is offered is quite dull, tells Nick Tahir, River Islands head of menswear buying. Where we realize the possibilities of is to offer manner. Research suggests that one in five men “re looking for a” broader give of bigger sizes.
The median male waist sizing in the UK has been rising over the past decades and is currently just under 38 in. If that is the average, quite a few humen will be well above it, but you wouldnt know that when you shop. At Bentalls department store there is a large part dwelling designer clothes for men, but find any waist sizings above 38 in in jeans or moderately chic trousers is well-nigh impossible.
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