At this point, it's fair to say that body positivity by way of plus size fashion has made its way into mainstream women's media. What used to be considered a small, radical push for more plus size representation in fashion has transitioned into the world of billboards, headlines, and programming. Sometimes it feels like everywhere you look, another plus size celebrity or plus size women's clothing brand is cropping up and demanding visibility.
Still, in the midst of it all, there's still a woefully underserved demographic that's still fighting to get the representation it deserves: Plus size men. While the plus size women's fashion industry is booming, plus size men's fashion has remained under the radar, and subsequently less accessible for the men who crave it.
Luckily, Bruce Sturgell is around to help change that. Sturgell is a resident of Portland, Oregon and the founder and editor-in-chief of Chubstr, an online style destination for men of all sizes. Like so many independent endeavors in the plus size women's fashion world, Chubstr began after Sturgell saw a lack of fashion-related resources for plus size men.
"Chubstr grew out of frustration," Sturgell tells me in an email. "Back in 2010, I still lived in the Midwest, and the mall was the only place to shop. After one particularly bad visit, I left empty handed, and decided to go home, get online, and try to call out some of these companies for not offering clothes in extended sizes."
Since then, Chubstr has grown into the ultimate fashion resource for plus size men hoping to express themselves with their clothing.
"Chubstr's mission is to help men of size find, create, and share their style with the world," Sturgell says. "We carry out this mission by writing articles, doing interviews with newsmakers, celebrities, and stylish gents. We do photo shoots featuring bigger men wearing the clothing that companies usually try to market to us with models that look nothing like us. Our community has grown so much, and is so invested — they share their own tips, and even their own photos. It's where I get so much of my own style inspiration."
Clicking through Chubstr's website, it's immediately clear that the resources for plus size men to discover fashion are far greater than you might initially assume. The site offers inclusive insight into topics like "Clothes For Plus Size Trans Guys" in its "Answerland" section. There's also an "Entertainment" vertical, which spotlights plus size men in popular culture (and urged us all to wax nostalgic about the "Big Boys Of American Idol ." And its "Community" section allows readers to submit photos of their own, like beard king Adam, aka Dapper Delight.
All in all, Chubstr feels like the kind of website that is the perfect combination of community support and information for the sartorially-discerning plus size man. In other words, once he finds it, he never has to go anywhere else. And in addition to the heavy focus on fashion-related content, there's also an element of activism in the mix.
"I don't know if a lot of men realize what we're doing is a form of body positivity," Sturgell explains. "Though it definitely is, we're not regularly calling it a movement in our content or messaging. I want Chubstr to show that fat guys caring about fashion isn't an anomaly — it's the norm, and it's something that's been happening for a long time. We're a good doorway into the movement, and I think the site is able to cater to people who are in to that, as well as people that just want to know where to buy a shirt that fits. Just showing photos of bigger men looking great in clothing they like is a form of body positivity. I feel like it's a form of subversive activism."
As for 2016, Sturgell has big plans. "We're going to continue to grow our amazing writing team, start doing actual events in a few places around the country, expand the offerings in our shop, and generally make the website even better," he tells me. "There are a few other big things that we're working on, but I can't share them yet. I'm excited about where things are headed this year. Ultimately, I think Chubstr shows plus size men that they have options, and that your size doesn't make you any less of a person, even when the mainstream tries to tell them exactly that."
While the visibility and reach in women's plus size fashion site seems to grow exponentially by the week, Chubstr is a precious, far too rare resource for plus size men interested in dressing. Luckily, after six years going strong, Chubstr isn't going anywhere anytime soon.