I’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.
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.
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.”
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.
Thankfully, 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.