British men are get taller, larger and broader and the high street is ultimately catching up

The energy at online attire storage Asos makes you as soon as you enter its artwork 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 director, John Mooney. He is spearheading Asoss drive to improve its offering to what might euphemistically be called the bigger humankind. 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 mother 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, went 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 realise me through. They were, in every sense, distress acquisitions, 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 ranges up to 6XL, to reflect the sizing that many blokes actually are, rather than what high-end designers might favor them to be. Its been catering for bigger women for the past five years( the curve sector reports for 20% of Asoss womenswear sales) but now bigger men are get the same care. The key, says head of menswear intend 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 body shapes tall and skinny, broad-spectrum and athletic, big and tubby. Its amazing how seriously this market has been catered for in the past, he says.

One problem has been discovering frameworks for the new sizes. Were having to qualify framework organizations eyes, tells Jordan Shiel, who volumes the menswear frameworks 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 went round, and has now switched careers. He supposes he is part of a major shifting in showing mens torsoes as they are, rather than as designers fetishise them, and says that can only be for the good: Ensure 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 celebration in Bristol. We understood him from afar, tells Shiel. He had a really cool outfit on and was personable and confident, and that always translates into sales. 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 market is ahead of the UKs.

One UK agency has already got the message Bridge, which has constructed plus-sized frameworks its USP. We launched two and a half years ago, initially just for the curve market, tells director Charlotte Griffiths. A years ago it introduced a mens division, with chunky, bearded personal trainer Ben Whit as its first model. Ben is unbelievably healthy, but he has a bit of a tummy and a broad-spectrum chest, tells Griffiths. He represents the 21 st-century humankind 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 competed for Team GB at London 2012.

There is an acceptance now that bigger guys can also be cool, tells Mooney, at Asos. Its a horrible 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 seem good. He mentions Brit award-winner RagnBone Man and singer MNEK as big guys who garment stylishly. You dont have to look like Harry Styles any more to get a break in music or, indeed, fashion.

In truth, I likely wont be wearing Asos, despite its admirable is committed to dressing all shapes and sizes: the hoodies, sweatshirts, rent jeans and floral shirts are targeted at twentysomethings, and I left my 20 s behind some time deep in the past century. But I can( just about) see myself wearing River Island, where I once bought some XL T-shirts that nearly fitted. In future, I will have more choice, because last month it also launched a Big and Tall range, widening 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 available is quite dull, tells Nick Tahir, River Islands head of menswear buying. Where we realise the opportunity is to offer way. Research suggests that one in five men “re looking for a” broader offering 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 men will be well above it, but you wouldnt are well aware that when you shop. At Bentalls department store there is a large part housing designer clothes for men, but discovering any waist sizes above 38 in in jeans or moderately trendy trousers is well-nigh impossible.

Nemar
Asoss Nemar Parchment was spotted in-house operating as a buyers admin helper. Photograph: Asos plus at Asos.com

I wander down Regent Street in central London one evening to learn what I can find in my sizing in some well-known storages. In H& M, where I feel like an alien, there is nothing bigger than XL. In Desigual I do find an XXL shirt, which is white, semi-transparent, has an ugly pattern, scarcely fits and attains me feel like a third-rate crooner on a cruise ship. Gap has nothing bigger than an XL; an helper tells me I should look online. In the Levis storage I do, to my surprise, find jeans up to a 44 in waist, but they are horribly broad in the leg bearing out the degree make use of Eley that clothes for larger men have to be carefully tailored. In J Crew the biggest waist sizing is 38in and the biggest chest sizing 46 in; again, an helper tells I should go online for bigger sizing( up to 40 in waist and 50 in chest ). Calvin Klein has nothing bigger than a 38 in waist in jeans and an XL in sweatshirts. An helper goes forlornly in search of an XXL sweatshirt, which at least gives me time to watch thin, pale frameworks writhing around on a huge TV screen set into the wall of the store.

Despite the reluctance of some retailers to change, something is definitely stirring. The buzzword now is inclusivity: big guys dont want to be treated like freaks. It is symptomatic of the lane world markets is moving that the N Brown Group is putting resources into its Jacamo brand which caters for all sizes but is best knows we clothes for bigger men, and is modelled by former cricketer Freddie Flintoff rather than its long-established specialist storage High And Mighty, which is saddled with a fusty, older-man image. I am the only patron in High And Mightys flagship store when I visit Discover stylish clothes in hard-to-find sizes, extol a sign in the window and you wonder whether it has any long-term future.

We try to make way easy and enjoyable regardless of size or shape, tells Ed Watson, communications director at Jacamo. We will go from small right up to 5XL. Previously youd have to have gone to functional specialists retailer for those sizes. In many cases a plus-sized store “wouldve been” hidden away, or the clothes were in the back of the storage and people would be a bit embarrassed about it, or theyd simply be available online. Its about being as inclusive as is practicable, an offering where someone who is small and someone who is a 5XL can shop in the same place.

Shopping should be as friendly and stress-free for a taller or broader guy as it is for any other, concurs Dave Binns, M& Ss head of design. The chain is also widening its Big& Tall range, and using the tree-like England rugby musician George Kruis as its public face. But why, I protest, have bigger sizes at M& S traditionally been are restricted to online? Thats something we are becoming more aware of, tells Binns, without quite promising it will change. I will only believe it when trousers with a 35 in leg are routinely available in stores. I dont want to have to operate a sub-post office to buy clothes.

I am at M& Ss HQ in Paddington in part because its dark-blue XXL jeans are the cornerstone of my own personal makeover, guided by Helen Seamons, menswear editor at the Guardian and Observer. She has called in lots of clothes for me in these new, bigger sizes denim coats, striped T-shirts, trendy shoes, neat coatings with furry collars. She is big on colouring, layers, panache. Clothes maketh the man even the big, rather ungainly man.

Stephen
Before: Stephen Moss in his usual outfit. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Guardian

The M& S XXL jeans just about big enough in the waist but narrow in the leg make me feel briefly stylish, and Im inspired to snap up two pairs from the storage in Marble Arch. There is just one trouble: they diminish when I wash them. Its possible they will stretching again when I wear them, but for the moment, sitting down is painful.This bargains a major blow to my way drive, forcing me back into my traditional black stretching jeans( also M& S ). My XXL buttoned-down shirt from River Island also demonstrates a little tight in the arms, which means I have to revert to the Lands End black top. A fortnight into the new me, I am back in the horrible uniform of the age-old me.

Seamons gives me some useful style tips-off, one of which is, A well-tailored coat draws a look together. I would always invest more on a coating than the jumper/ shirt underneath. I take this to heart and invest 500 on an Aquascutum camel-hair coating. Initially I feel really good about this the sheer act of spending a lot of money does give you an ego boost but then I catch sight of myself in profile in a mirror, and seem I carry an uncanny similarity to Oscar Wilde, but after his spell in jail: barrel-shaped and worryingly clapped out. I also invest in an expensive pair of pointy black suede shoes from Russell& Bromley, but when I wear them they rub my heels and I end up hobbling around seeming ridiculous. This fashion business is not easy.

Prospects are improving for bigger men, and in fact all men are proving a greater interest in fashion, leading to more requirement. Menswear is now growing at a faster rate than womenswear, tells Tamara Sender, senior way analyst at Mintel. A lot of retailers are expanding their menswear offer, theres more choice, and as part of that choice plus sizes are now being added.

Stephen
After: Stephen Moss wears jacket by Folk, from mrporter.com; sweatshirt, asos.com; shirt, riverisland.com; trousers, asos.com; boots, dunelondon.com. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Guardian

Sender tells obesity is also increasing faster among men than girls, especially among young men. Her research indicates 40% of young men are overweight or obese. You meditate where the latter are shopping before, she tells. In womenswear we started seeing this change a couple of years ago, and now menswear is catching up.

Some might wonder whether retailers should be catering for people like me, given the rampant rise in obesity the Peterborough-based company Bad Rhino proudly goes up to 8XL and specialist suppliers in the US go up to 15 XL. Are they acting like fizzy beverages manufacturers and feeding our craving? All are adamant that it isnt their occupation to nudge people into diet governments; they are just filling a gap in the market.

It is a good thing that suppliers are offering larger sizes for men, tells Lesley McCormack, founder of the charity Hoop( Helping Overcome Obesity Problems ). Obese people face being stigmatised and fat-shamed on a daily basis. This can negatively impact a persons wellbeing and in many cases lead to low confidence, nervousnes, depression and social exclusion. By offering larger sizes and choice, suppliers are not normalising obesity but enabling obese people to wear fashionable, well-fitting clothes and to feel better about themselves.

In any case, much of the increasing number of mankinds sizing is either natural the response to better diet or research results of men bulking up. Eric Down, senior style editor at Mens Health magazine, tells gym culture is forcing way retailers to increase sizes and to introduce ranges specifically targeted at young men who work out. He also believes social media is changing positions. Its dedicated people an opportunity to speak to brands in real hour, he explains, and to tell, Ive merely been in your storage and you dont have anything to fit me. The flow of information now is very immediate, and with online browse you can see instantly whats selling. Its a lot more customer-focused. Nobody wants to feel omitted. Just because a humankind has sizing 15 feet doesnt mean he doesnt want a nice pair of shoes.

In terms of social media encouraging retailers to give more choice, the UK is following the pattern in the US. In 2010 Bruce Sturgell founded Chubstr, a website that aims to help big men dress well and feel good about themselves. When I set up Chubstr I was living in the midwest and there merely werent a lot of options for bigger men, tells the bearded, boundlessly upbeat Sturgell. You could go to the big and tall storages, but they didnt offer much choice.

Ben
Personal trainer Ben Whit was the first framework for the three men division of relevant agencies Bridge. Photograph: Bridgemodels.co.uk

He set out to find places where big men could shop fashionably and put them online, alongside tips-off for confident living.

Sturgell, who is not scared to embrace the word fat( Im a fat guy and thats OK, he tells) guess he is winning the battle for acceptance. The scenery is changing. Corporations are popping up that offering extended-size attire that people actually want to wear. What began as a consumer blog has become something close to a crusade. We lately had our sixth anniversary party, he recalls, and it was interesting to talk to people to get their take on how the community has helped them deal with the prejudices they get in daily life. I feel really lucky that this thing that started out as a blog to call out brands for not offering bigger sizes turned into something useful.

For the moment, the new me is on hold. As well as fatness, I realise, part of my trouble has been laziness, about both seeming in stores and being willing to browse online. It is hard for bigger men to garment well, and only those willing to work at it will succeed. My distress acquisitions were in part a rationalisation of my own indolence.

I had asked Seamons for 10 tips-off, but it was pretty obvious to me what the 11 th should be: make a bleedin effort. In the past, world markets has let big blokes down, but this particular big bloke used that as an excuse to give up entirely. The transformation begins today. Possibly.

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Stephen Moss wears jacket, T-shirt, both by PS By Paul Smith from mrporter.com; Jeans, marksandspencer.com; boots, zara.com. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Guardian

Helen Seamons way tips-off for bigger blokes

1 Put aside a morning to go into shops and try things on. Start with a department store that inventories a wide range of brands, from high street to designer. Its useful for identifying brands you do and dont like; this will assist you filter faster when you shop online. If the storage doesnt have a certain sizing, the internet likely will. Belief of this as the groundwork to a long-term operation.

2 Be prepared to return material you buy online. If youre trying a new brand, buy two sizes to ensure the best fit: you may think youre XXXL but perhaps XXL fits better. The extra admin is offset by the saving on delivery( often higher spends equal free delivery ).

3 Dont be afraid of colouring. A bold T-shirt or sweatshirt breaches up black. Wearing all black wont persuade anyone that you are a generous medium.

4 Stripes dont need to be avoided.

5 Its a way cliche but its true-life: invest the most you can afford on the things you wear the most coating, jeans, boots/ shoes. You can tell the difference.

6 Layering is a useful styling trick and practical in a climate like ours. Overshirts are great at this time of time; heavier than a shirt but less structured than a jacket, they work over jersey, shirts and thin knittings and under a denim jacket. Wear open( ideal if something is slightly too snug ).

7 Tonal dressing( wearing the same shade head-to-toe) attains for an easy, smart seem. Navy blue always seems chic, whatever sizing you wear.

8 Get good jeans. Prefer a darknes laundry, on a selvedge denim. No faux-faded worn spots: they dont make anyones thighs seem slimmer. A straight leg is more slimming( never bootcut ). Skinny is out. And to avoid shrinkage, dont wash them for the first three months( an overnight spell in the freezer kills odour, or spritz with Mr Black denim freshen spray ).

9 A well-tailored coat draws a look together. I would always invest more on a coating than on the jumper/ shirt underneath.

10 Learn to enjoy shopping. Check out the latest fashions, spend time browsing, and dont merely buy the first item that nearly fits. Bigger men have never had more options.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ way/ 2017/ apr/ 22/ big-guys-fashion-plus-sized-menswear-revolution