Esquire Castrates Big & Tall Men

4 Sep

SANDRA-3742_FotorI’m speechless. I’m offended. I’m pacing around my home grasping at my hair muttering, “I can’t even. I can’t even!” Esquire Magazine just blew my mind. In an age where the women’s fashion industry is beginning to embrace plus size models and queen size fashion choice is skyrocketing, Esquire Magazine just shined a big ol’ spotlight on how the men’s fashion industry disrespects, marginalizes and dehumanizes men because of their body size.

Let’s rewind. I’ve had a plus size boyfriend several times in my life. Soon into the relationship, I would discover that my partner had given up on fashion beyond generic basics. In my role, I would desperately search the racks and internets for interesting ways to help clothe my beau, finding only the dated polos of big & tall behemoths, the scratchy, boxy button downs of department stores and the preppy cashmere of Ralph Lauren. Major turn offs, all of them. I have found the plus sized men’s fashion industry to be a bleak landscape with a pauper’s helping of fashion advice to boot.

Enter Esquire Magazine’s article this month, titled “The Portly Man’s Guide to Style.” The piece tricks unsuspecting men earnestly searching for help with a reassurance that “all bodies are beautiful” before kicking them right where they’re prettiest, using language like “bloated”  “sagging” “repulsive” “dank” and “obese” to describe them. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 3.22.56 AM

I searched out the author, Josh Ozersky. On twitter, he responded to a tweet asking him about his cruel article with, “Um, yes. It is a joke.” Okaaaaaay. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 3.25.02 AM

Three short paragraphs in, Ozersky offers us a GIF of Homer Simpson sporting a MuuMuu as the solution to ill-fitting dress shirts. In a more enlightened era, that might be funny. I wouldn’t know. I don’t time travel. For now, if you find yourself in a body the world laughs at, finding an article like this in your Google search can be downright castrating. As a woman who has had to manage the fallout, I must admit I feel no tickle. 

I dug further. The author defended himself on twitter, saying that “I actually addressed this for real in an Esquire video I shot in Hong Kong.” So I looked up the video. “Addressing this” is a stretch as it follows his trip to a custom suit tailor and offers nothing in the way of paying off what his article promised. 


In the extensive fitting process, the self-described portly Ozersky reveals himself to be a man much like the victims of his farce-of-an-article. He struggles to look attractive:

“It’s a furtive hope, even possibly a long shot that I will look elegant after this. I have my fingers crossed.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 4.30.41 AM

He struggles to feel normal:

“This is actually very fun. I feel like a regular man.”

He struggles against the joke society dictates he must be:

“Here I am, transformed to an Esquire man from a mere gluttonous shlub. It’s an inspiration to men like us anywhere.”

Yes, an inspiration to men like him everywhere, until he tossed a MuuMuu right in their faces. Ozarsky looks dashing in his suit, just as most men do with a good tailor. But not all men have access to the bespoke, and in the search for hope, he took the frozen tundra of men’s plus size fashion and made it even icier. 

So let’s examine the broader problem by taking its temperature. Searching “Big & Tall Fashion” at Esquire.com brings up a first page of results about abortion, fast food, the Big Bang Theory, bitcoin and the Emmy’s. Nothing on Big & Tall tips or fashion. Esquire and most men’s fashion blogs do zip zero zilch for this corner of the market, with little more than a single article spouting off the same, uninspired advice found on every other site.

chubstr_logo_300x300_400x400Thankfully, help is on the horizon. Just look at fashion blog Chubstr.com, tagline, “Life in Your Size,” though some blokes flinch at the sound of their name choice. I’m also curious to see the stylings of the new Marc Ecko Cut & Sew line, as their size chart is mightily inclusive. (I heard about Cut & Sew on some obscure discussion forum of big & tall men at their wits end.) 

So, back to my flailing. I am still raging with a fire burning in a place that does not have words. I understand now where Ozarsky might be coming from. It’s familiar to me. I have loved men convinced of their own sexlessness, having never felt free to exist outside of a punchline. It’s a sad thing to see an industry strip so much dignity from someone I love so dear, and it’s a bullying thing to see one man thrust his suffering onto his brethren. 

Oh Esquire, it’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor. It’s just that I have a heart as well, and right now it’s broken. 

18 Responses to “Esquire Castrates Big & Tall Men”

  1. Don Gwinn September 4, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks, Sandra. You’re a nice lady. I think you’re more offended than I am (as a big fat man,) but then again I might be more used to this. And on the third hand, it could be that this sticks out more because this kind of overt shaming is less common for men. I’m in the process of losing a lot of weight to meet some athletic goals, and I’ve been struck by how hard people work (in person) to assure me that I “carried it well.”

  2. Steve Sealey September 4, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    I am stunned. Once again, Sandra, you have spoken out about something that nobody seems to consider, or deign to discuss. There exists a really nasty, hypocritical double standard regarding body size and sexuality. I know plenty of women who will rail against a society that keeps womens’ fashion magazines in business by airbrushing and photoshopping cover models until they are obscenely unrealistic, but those same furious women look down upon men who don’t fit the standard of what the popular media deems attractive.

    I’m 6’3″ and 240lbs, not rippling with glistening abdominals, or oversized pectoral muscles. I am built like a man who has been a laborer all his life. (probably because I have worked construction and metal fabrication all my life). But good luck finding clothes that look good in those dimensions. Men like me are subject to print tees and carpenter jeans. And while the blue collar look can be sexy on occasion, it becomes “frumpy” when pulled off on the daily.

    I personally have been guilty of telling women that looks, size, and shape don’t matter, while secretly I am shamed by the media for my OWN body size. How can my wife trust my opinion of HER body when I hide my insecurities regarding my own.

    Thank you, Sandra, for shining a light on the fact that even men can be unhappy in the skin they’re in. Kudos to you!

  3. Nate Burgdorf September 4, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Thank you for this post. I’m a 6’0, 290lb. male who is built like a linebacker. Wide shoulders, barrel-chested. I also happen to work in the hair industry, which means my appearance is insanely important. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is trying to find well-fit clothing that is fashion forward.

    I am, for all intents and purposes, a confident person. However, I, just like most heavy guys I know, can become very self conscious about my body. When the media portrays heavy people as sloppy, creepy, lazy morons, it unavoidably hurts a little. I work hard, I eat well and I am well versed in many facets of intelligencia. I have an amazing girlfriend of 8 years, and we have a fulfilled life together. She is beautiful, whip-smart, and my best friend; but even still, I know that society tells me I’m unworthy of confidence. Unworthy of positive sexual attraction and attention from “traditionally attractive” people.

    I suppose my point is that, with so much focus on female body issues, there still maintains a derogatory regarding men’s body issues. Your post was a breath of fresh air, I just wanted to thank you for it. Sorry if this got a little ranty!

  4. The Average Movie Nerd September 4, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    *HUGS* Thank you.

    • Meredith September 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      Sandra, Everything you write about is sharp as hell, provocative, well written, and thoughtful. How rare. Thank you for all you contribute to the world, for all genders, shapes, and sizes!

  5. Diana September 4, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Sandra, I love reading your blog. To use your word, it “tickles” the part of me that likes to get outraged at social injustices that disservice men and women alike. My husband has been with and cared for me through seven years, three children and a major illness, and has the extra 100 lbs to prove it. He struggles with his body image, and readily falls into the trap of praising my body for what it’s accomplished while berating his own in the same breath, even though he’s been on the same ride as me this whole time.

    Any suggestions for helping cultivate body-positive-ness in our larger-bodied male lovers? We do the sex a lot, and he tells me that he does feel sexy when he’s with me, but I struggle to think of ways to help him feel worthwhile during all the other minutes of the day.

  6. dougom September 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Good work, Esquire; instead of trying to *reduce* the amount of pressure on women with regard to body issues, to achieve equality you made the *awesome* decision to *increase* men’s body image issues. Good work there! Why help haul one group up, that’s too much work; much better to shove another group so that they can have “equality”. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

    Oy.

  7. infl8orama September 4, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    Ozarsky sounds like a hack trying to justify a failure to actually be funny. The “I’m one of this minority, so I can make fun of this minority” excuse is not a defense. If anything, it just makes him seem sadder.

    If he actually wanted to be funny, he could take a page from MAD Magazine, which in its hammering of the fashion industry 40 years ago made fun of designers who tried to fit regular sized men in “jockey shorts designed for Herve Villechaize.”

    Okay, the joke is hopelessly dated, but the point is that if you want to be funny, ridicule the deserving. Hell, what about (thankfully former) American Apparel CEO Dov Charney? He was an epic jerk to anyone, but particularly to plus-size people, and his company followed his example when they suddenly lost their sense of humor after model Nancy Upton turned the tables on them in 2011 and won a contest by ridiculing the company’s condescension toward people who wear sizes larger than their traditional target market. For that matter, what about Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson (also thankfully now gone), who actually blamed his customers when they reported lots of yoga pants turning up defective while being worn?

    Again, the point is, in comedy, don’t blame the victim.

    I know you and most of the other people who follow you already know this. It sounds like maybe Ozarsky needs to discover it.

  8. fritz365 September 5, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    As someone who has been the Big half of big and tall since High School, I guess I’m just resigned to the way things are. Clothes will be shitty unless you can squeeze down into at least a 2X. And even then, the selection is of Wal-Mart quality. I think 1X is the biggest you could be for most fashionable choices.

    Clothes shopping has become an exercise in depression for me. As I select things that look nice and put them into my cart. Only to get to the fitting room, and see how much they don’t fit or suit my shape. So I mostly do not shop for clothes anymore. Most of my clothes are at least four years old.

    Combined with how overweight men are typically portrayed, as bumbling excuses for ineptitude and humor; it’s just a really bad deal.

    I’m hoping that the huge body acceptance movement, that currently has most of its focus on women; will have some blowback into the men’s segment as well.

    Thank you for empathizing with the situation, Sandra. You prove over and over through such things, what a wonderful person you are.

  9. misserinblack September 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on Miss Erin Black and commented:
    This is everything; men’s fashion is as highly normalized as women’s fashion. Thanks Sandra, for addressing this. It also shows that plus-sized men handle their size with humor, even if it’s self directed. That humor isn’t necessarily healthy for everyone.

  10. Tom September 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Thank you! I’ve been trying to convey this to my friends and others but nobody seems to listen! Thank you for discussing this and helping me to feel like I’m not the only one that notices this. There are so few, if any shops where a person of my size can go and put together a flattering outfit, it’s so frustrating at times I want to rip my hair out and be done with it. Thank you again for pointing out the bias in men’s fashion!

  11. Sean September 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Thanks for the article, and the links! Someday, someone is going to make a LOT of money designing ready-to-wear clothes for the way a big man’s body is ACTUALLY shaped, with no dangly crotches, no shoulder seams halfway down the bicep, etc.
    And will someone please explain to me why, when the average American male’s waist is 40″, a store will sell a size 28, but not a size 50?!?!

  12. Ben September 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    “I’ve had a plus size boyfriend several times in my life.” Bless you Sandra, for giving us plus size men a chance at dating and for sticking up for us when you see something like this that’s demeaning to us. You are a wonderful woman and the world is much better for you in it!

  13. Rob September 13, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    As a guy who gained his “freshmen forty” over 30 years ago and never got it off, I thoroughly agree. I hate my weight and try not to buy clothes because I’m always going to lose that 100 lbs.

    I’ve also always wondered why do they put the largest sizes on the bottom? I’m 6’1″ and am tired of 30w29l jeans being at eye level for me. Get the 42s up where I don’t have to crawl on the floor to find them!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] that fit and look good when you’re big is a legitimate challenge – and all it does is swing for the balls instead. So even things that promise to be helpful are just insults in disguise. That sort of shit is […]

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