Where Are All the Plus-Size Male Models?

No dadbods here! Models backstage at Versace’s SS15 menswear show in Milan earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

The dadbod, a guy with flab, a gut, and an affinity for resting, has racked up compliments recently. “Don’t ever want to see a defined muscle,” Allison Davis wrote on The Cut. “A dadbod makes me think we could eat pizza in bed together and never feel guilty or judge one another.”

On GQ.com, John Jannuzzi wrote, “As long as you’re not taking dad bod to Depardieu territory, you’re golden. No shame in having a dadbod or being comfortable in your own skin.”

As the first-ever New York men’s fashion week kicks off, though, no designer or modeling agent is saying of the tubby shape: Wouldn’t a dadbod look nice strutting down the runway?

Instead, the same line of tall, slim, basically indistinguishable fellows will walk the shows for Billy Reid and Theory — if a dadbod is anywhere near the runway, he will mostly likely be squished in the photographer’s pit. Unlike women’s fashion, which has made real strides at showing non-willowy bodies on the runway and in advertising campaigns, men’s fashion won’t be cuddling up to doughy types anytime soon.

“I’ve rarely seen the sizes in men’s fashion change,” says modeling agent Greg Chan, who was the director of Wilhelmina Men and managed male models for 12 years. “The requirements to be lean in high fashion have stayed consistent, even though that doesn’t necessarily represent the average businessman who pays $2,000 for a suit.”

Apparently, no one’s knocking down agency doors in pursuit of male models who are anything but (on average) 6’1” with a 32-inch waist. Gene Kogan, an agent with DNA model management says, “As an agency, we don’t dictate demand, we respond to it. Demand has to originate from designers, brands, or retailers. If there was a strong demand for plus-size male models, believe me, we would be scouting for them.”

The bigger male models—physically—who work regularly tend to be athletic looking. Their builds are muscular, not pudgy, and even then they aren’t usually in high fashion. Part-time big-and-tall model Jermain Hollman, who is 6’5” and 225 pounds, has done print advertisements for Target and Rochester Big and Tall, but only one runway show—for a line designed to appeal to NBA players.

“I’m not going to get to do Versace,” he says. “In fashion, everything has been one way since the beginning and it’s still that way. No matter if we’re talking about race or size, it’s the same look.”

The lack of demand for plus-size male models is due in part to the fact that, until relatively recently, men didn’t shop for themselves. Their wives or girlfriends (or moms) bought them their button-downs and khakis, and consequently, the ads for men’s clothing were geared to women. “That’s changing rapidly,” Kogan says, “but for the most part, I think men’s advertising still sees females as their target audience.”

Celebrity dadbods—and surprising lady-catnip—Leonardo DiCaprio and Jason Segal aside, marketers don’t think showing beer guts and love handles are surefire ways to sell V-neck tees.

Men’s bodies, too, aren’t yet politicized in the same way women’s are. Seeing Crystal Renn on magazine covers, Myla Dalbesio in Calvin Klein advertisements, or Candice Huffine in the Pirelli calendar is more than just an image — it’s a way for women of all sizes to feel as though they’re desirable.

“Fashion has tended in the recent past to mean more to women than to men, and this is perhaps why more women now expect to see themselves reflected in all their different shapes in it,” says Mark Simpson, the writer who coined the term “metrosexual.” “Until now men haven’t had so much invested, or they didn’t mind the idealization of fashion. They tend not to see it as something driving them to eating disorders. In fact, they may not pay attention to it at all.”

That’s shifting, and some guys are speaking up about wanting to see men’s fashion embrace more sizes. “I think a range of models that looks more like the physical makeup of society would be a healthy thing,” says Andrew Shanahan, the founder of Man V Fat, an online weight loss magazine. “It would show that fashion isn’t just for skinny guys.”

In the end, though, those opinions won’t change men’s fashion unless there’s money behind the mouthing off. Until the industry believes that their clothes will sell better if they’re clinging to men’s curves, the dadbods will stay off the runway and in bed eating pizza.

“I see brands acting pretty conservatively these days,” says Chan. “Look at all of the group campaigns. There is less risk. Survival seems to be the priority. Fewer brands are standing behind an extraordinary model to say this is the face who speaks loudly about who we are and defines us powerfully to all of our audience. Unless the brands see a quick transition to incoming dollars from plus-size men’s fashion, my feeling is the status quo will remain the same.”

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