Thanks to the push in recent years for body positive assortments and representation, phrases like ‘inclusivity’ and ‘extended sizing’ have become more than just buzzwords. The plus size industry was valued at $21.4 billion as of 2016, and continues as one of the most rapidly growing apparel categories. For womenswear, that is. In a report from IBIS World, the plus-size men's clothing industry only grew by 0.2% over five years to $1 billion in revenue in 2018, while the number of businesses has risen 1.6%. A corner of the men's market dubbed "big and tall," sometimes there's often some misunderstandings around what that means and who it includes. In fact, as Don Howard, Executive Director of Alvanon, a provider of fit consulting and technology, stated, "There is no data in the world that confirms a correlation with size and height.”
So, despite the hefty girths and towering heights among a percentage of men in the U.S., inclusive sizing remains an untapped market segment across the retail industry. Let’s dive into why, and which retailers lead the pack in catering to men’s plus sizing.
LACK OF REPRESENTATION
Societal norms have influenced retailers thoughts on men’s inclusive sizing, preventing open dialogue for plus size needs. While figureheads like Ashley Graham or Tess Holliday serve as a voice for women in the body positive movement, public representation for menswear remains unfulfilled. Blogs like Chubstr and Notoriously Dapper provide men with a resource for style and product inspiration where national recognition falls short.
“Now, we just need more of it. More short and wide models. More models of various ethnicities. More plus size trans male models. Different styles, different abilities.” notes Bruce Sturgell, author at Chubstr.
As of 2014, the average American male's waist measured 40 inches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nevertheless, popular fast-fashion stores like Forever 21, Unif, and Urban Outfitters fail to carry sizes above a 38-inch waist. A few companies including Gap, Eddie Bauer, American Eagle, offer select pant styles with 48-inch waistbands, only accessible online.
We’ve seen solid progression with companies like Asos offering men’s clothing to 6X, but the vast majority of brands and designers aren’t making clothes for larger bodies. This sector in retail has a handful of well known participants, including JCPenney and DXL. Where DXL carries assortment strictly for Big & Tall, Asos and JCPenney demonstrate a strong number of products in Big & Tall sizes. Nearly 14% of Asos and 37% of JCP's products are available in men's plus sizes.
At JCPenney, peak periods for men's plus size releases were in November 2018 (11%) and March 2019 (16%), while at Asos, May 2019 saw the highest release rates (25%), when looking back over the past twelve months. Other retailers including Gap and Old Navy have also been adding significant numbers to their men's plus ranges, an increase of 165% and 18%, respectively, since one year ago.
Men desire a clear cut and simplified shopping process--and the plus size sector is no different. Opportunities for inclusivity in men’s sizing lie in more than extended sizing and stylish options. There’s a future in building awareness through marketing, where retailers like J.C. Penney teamed up with Wilhelmina Models and Shaquille O’Neal to launch Shaq’s Big & Tall Model Search. Winners from the search were signed to Wilhelmina’s plus size male model division, Titans.
More quantitative opportunities incorporate AI for 3D, such as previously mentioned Alvanon, whose central database of virtual bodies, helps brands get sizing right. Other companies like StitchFix are experimenting with AI in order to provide a better fit, but it remains to be seen which retailer will master the process. For now, custom tailoring and retailers like DXL provide good, consistent fit with specific sizing requirements for most.
Just like we've spoken about previously with women's inclusive sizing, the opportunities in men's sizing lie in delivering a great fitting product that makes shoppers of all sizes feel included.