As I rattled along on a train on Sunday morning I saw a link posted to an article by Jake Hall called “Where are all the plus-size men in fashion“. It had been tweeted by my friend Olivia, (an ace journalist who you should all follow) and was related to male fashion and body image. As I read it I found myself agreeing with so much it was saying, but I recognised my own hypocrisy in what I do.
I tell people I want my site to be about the designers and people I feature, I like to stay anonymous because it lets me go to pop ups, fairs and various events and be able to judge them as a paying customer rather than a guest would. In fact when I first met Oliva at the fab Clerkenwell Vintage Fair I did exactly this, I went in, tried it out and didn’t introduce myself to her until my second visit so I could give it an honest review. While all of these things are true, well the main reason is a darker truth, the real reason is that like so many I have body image issues. That isn’t a crime, what is a crime is how I let fashion do this to me.
When I see all those male models walking runways or in shoots I feel unworthy, I feel like that hippo I play in shoots. Yes Harry is a metaphor for how I see myself when I look in that mirror. I’ve ranged between 11.5 and 17.5 stone in my life. But neither of those were healthy. When I look in that mirror I always feel that I’m big, fat and ugly, no matter what the size is. I made myself sick doing Atkins in my mid-twenties trying to be that image I had in my head. I’m not alone in this, why are we as men not talking about the body issues we have, perhaps we wouldn’t feel so alone then.
The reality is I’m a 35 year old man who fights a constant battle against weight and ageing. I hate LCM and largely avoid it. There are some great designers but I don’t need a four day reminder of my insecurities, constantly feeling bloated, hideous and loathing that I’m not one of those cool thin kids walking around. I am aware of my insecurity, I’m aware individuals don’t make me feel like this, but the image put forth by a large part of the industry does make me feel like shit.
It’s being conditioned into us on catwalks, TV’s, movies, and in magazines, this is beauty, this is the shape of a man, thin and lithe, this is what a man in fashion should look like. But we, those who aren’t that ideal, we sit in silence. It’s that silence I can’t take any more. I don’t want to be the guy who waits til the work gym will be empty to go because this industry made me feel like this, that I’m a whale. I don’t want to look in the mirror and feel the shame of imperfection even if part of that is in my head.
But also this is about me being able to say THIS IS WHO I AM, THAT IMAGE CAN NEVER BE ME. there are a million versions of healthy, and the health industry isn’t my target, I need to find my version of health and happiness, no matter what the fashion media says and excludes. I can’t compare myself to the idealised version we now see of male appeal portrayed.
I’ve often railed against the way fashion represents a version of the female body, spoke out that people shouldn’t feel intimidated or isolated by that enforced image. When it comes to male fashion, I haven’t lived up to the ideas I have put forward, I haven’t been the change I want to see.
The time has come for me to stop beating myself up with this imagery, with this idealised shallow projection of youth and beauty. It’s time I stopped running from my insecurities, my inability to look at myself in the mirror without loathing, or on a date wondering why this girl is here with me. One day I want to be able to share pictures of myself because today a cloak of shame prohibits me.
For that both me and the fashion world must share blame.