There’s been a big boom in inclusive sizing within women’s fashion over the past few years. From smaller brands like Universal Standard to global brands like Old Navy, these companies have focused on expanding the number of sizes they carry, breaking down the barriers between size categories and ensuring every customer feels included.
But so far, the vast majority of these efforts have focused exclusively on women’s fashion. Universal Standard only makes clothes for women and Old Navy’s sweeping Bodequality campaign only affects its women’s clothes. Men’s fashion, comparatively, is far behind in terms of size inclusivity.
Data from Statista shows that men’s plus-size fashion has actually decreased in value over time, dropping from over a billion dollars in 2020 to $850 million in 2021. This hasn’t coincided with any change in the average American man’s size. The average American man’s waist size is 40 inches, with 38 inches usually being the start of “plus-size.”
But there are apparel brands that have made some progress toward expanding men’s size offerings. When Madewell launched men’s jeans in 2019, for example, one of the stated goals was to bring the same level of size inclusivity and the same focus on correct fit that the company was known for in women’s, to menswear, according to Joyce Lee, svp of design at Madewell.
Many men’s brands don’t make pants beyond a 38-inch waist, but Madewell’s men’s jeans go up to 43 inches. Lee said that men tend to be loyal shoppers and, once they find a fit they like, they stick to it. If brands were more open to making larger sizes for men, they could draw in a valuable, long-term customer.
“We found such a white space for men here that we can fill,” Lee said. “With men, he’s looking for things he can come back to all the time. It doesn’t have to be trendy, necessarily, but something that fits and he can wear every day. That’s the approach we took when designing men’s.”
Bonobos is another brand that has included larger men’s sizes alongside its straight sizes, offering men’s pants up to size 54. “A fit for every man” is part of Bonobos’ slogan. Larger sizes were added in 2018, 11 years after the brand was founded.
But mainstream brands that mingle larger sizes with straight sizes — the philosophy behind Universal Standard and Old Navy’s womebn’s inclusion pushes — are few and far between for men. The best bet for larger men is typically a specialty retailer or a specialty line at a mainstream retailer.
And there are more options there than there used to be. JCPenney, for instance, expanded its plus-size XLG line designed with Shaquille O’Neal to include sportswear on December 7. The line includes men’s shirts, pants, jackets, sweaters and suits, in sizes ranging from a medium tall all the way up to 6XL.
“At JCPenney, we’ve been serving the Big & Tall customer for decades, standing for quality, value and style that is accessible and affordable for everyone,” Michelle Wlazlow, JCpenney evp and chief merchandise officer, told Glossy in an emailed statement. “The expansion of Shaquille O’Neal XLG collection into sportswear delivers on that promise and speaks to our commitment to inclusion for all our customers over the years.”
Specialty brands like Otero, which caters to shorter men, have launched in the last few years based on the idea that men outside of a narrow range of sizes are ignored by most of fashion.
“When I was first starting the brand, I went to a conference in New York, and the whole thing was focused on women’s apparel,” said Otero founder Steve Villanueva, who relaunched the brand over the summer after soft launching in 2019. “My dream was to create a business that addressed a market that I felt was truly underserved.”
Men’s fashion as a whole continues to grow rapidly. The entire men’s apparel industry made more than $500 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 10% next year. Yet coupled with the declining revenue of men’s plus-size fashion, the data shows that there’s an untapped market for inclusive sizing for men.