Let us talk men. Actually, let us talk the male body. This is for meninists who feel ignored in a woman’s world. So we will do the fully monty: biceps, triceps, breasts, shoulders, waists, muscles, six packs, (or is it eight now?) et al.
In this current volatile feminist environment, any word uttered about a woman needs to be measured and weighed twice over, especially if it has to do with her body shape or weight. I approach the issue of men and their bodies with equal trepidation. Fortunately, we have a euphemism for the F-word. We say Plus Size. It sounds more realistic and elegant.
However, I have pulled the male body out of the closet to ask that sensitive question: Who is the perfect-sized Indian man? Is he short, tall, lean, broad-shouldered, waif-thin? Is he an Extra Small (XS), Small (S), Extra Large (XL), Double Large (XXL) or an XXXL?
Recently, New York-based Zach Miko became the first plus-size model to be signed up by IMG, one of the largest agencies in the world. His big break came when he modelled for Target as the brand’s first and only plus-sized male model.
Is the fashion world ready for Mr Big? Is the male version of size-zero phasing out as men like Miko flex their muscles?
“The trend of waif boys never worked in India,” says designer Rajesh Pratap Singh. “In the 1990s, we had bulked up models pumped on steroids and weights. The clothes never suited them due to their giant biceps. But that was what was available then. Thankfully, that era is over and today there is a better understanding among models about their bodies, clothes and fashion.”
While women were weighing themselves to see how far they had reached their Victoria Beckham goal, the guy next door was trying to figure out where and how he fits in the fashion world.
Size matters, especially on ramps. On an average, Indian male models are expected to be a minimum of 5’10” with 46-inch large or 48-inch regular shoulders. That is the ‘perfect’ body for the ramp.
“I don’t think bulk is back nor will the waif look work in India,” says Sunil Sethi, president, FDCI. “The Fashion Design Council of India follows a standard size and the boys have to fit in because we need models who have a realistic body, that is neither too bulky nor thin. Most Indian models are naturally broad-shouldered and work out to build an athletic shape.”
The new Indian man is the toned and tanned family guy who crunches numbers from his corner office before a round of tennis or golf with his buddies. Designer Ashish Soni agrees, “Today, the perfect model is the real man. His size is either an XS Large or XL Regular and he has an athletic body. That is my customer and my model.”
When Zach Miko was signed up by IMG, the global fashion world called it the advent of brawn. Though Pratap does not believe XXXL models will be walking Indian ramps anytime soon, he says, “It is interesting to see that XL Regular is the size to watch out for – on and off the ramp.”
When more plus-size models such as Miko become regular on runways, it may be the beginning of a fashion industry that is less size-obsessed. We spare no one who does not match up to the established fashion stereotypes. For instance, every single interview of Sonakshi Sinha or Vidya Balan mentions their “size struggle”. When Parineeti Chopra decided to tone up recently, there were analyses and critiques on the matter.
Says Mumbai-based Troy Costa, who used Mumbai kabaddi players as models at the Delhi Fashion Week, “I used kabaddi players because, even though they were sportsmen, they did not have perfect bodies like professional models. Some were short, podgy, not exactly great looking. These are the kind of people I have to make clothes for. At the end of the day this is business. It is great to have a beautiful model showing your clothes, but the guy sitting in the audience must be able to relate to the clothes. Our brand is about masculinity, which is why we stick to models who look closer to the man on the street.”
The average guy today is someone who is health-conscious, hits the gym or plays some sport and pays attention to his looks. Rajesh Pratap has used unusual models in his shows including painter Subodh Gupta, musicians Midival Punditz, designer Rakesh Thakore and others.
“None of them are models, but our focus was on the intellectual interests of the person, and using regular people with regular bodies sent the signal that designer clothes can be worn by anyone,” he says.
Well, not by everyone perhaps, at least not yet. But the stereotype is changing.
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The writer is the editor-in-chief of L’Officiel India
From HT Brunch, August 14, 2016
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