Friday, May 7, 2010

Male Mannequins with 27 Inch Waists? The Average Male has a 40 Inch Waist

Dang, we're doing the same shit to men we have been doing to women for decades in terms of body image issues. As a 6', 190 lb male with a 46" chest and a 31" waist, these mannequins bear no resemblance to my body - and I am a hell of a lot more fit than most American men.

Male mannequins go on a diet

The waifishly thin "Homme Nouveau" reminds us that skewed body expectations affect men, too

There was a time, I'm told, when mannequins were supposed to look like real people. They're forms for designers to use to fit clothes without having a real human being around. But increasingly, mannequins have become more aspirational models than reflective of the actual average human body. British mannequin maker Rootstein is rolling out a new model next month that looks more like Michael Cera than a Ken doll. The latest form, dubbed "Homme Nouveau," is waifishly thin, with a very Victorian 27-inch waist and a chest spanning 35 inches. According to New York magazine, this is a noticeable shift from the classic 1967 model, which had a 33-inch waist and a 42-inch chest. The measurements of male mannequins have been reducing steadily over the years, even as American men's actual pants size has been getting bigger: The average waist size in 2006 was 39.7 inches. L'homme nouveau, meet l'homme rél.

But obviously, fashion logic operates on a different plane. New York quotes Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, complaining that mannequins are usually so big "we can't even fit our largest size on them." Given the cultural obsession with skinniness -- the sleek, metrosexual look coupled with emaciated hipster chic -- it's sad, but not shocking that mannequins are much smaller than the people who wear the clothes they're flaunting. Some commenters on the New York story expressed hope that the new forms would usher in slimmer-fitting clothes, complaining that regular sizes are just too big. But for most American men, "Homme Nouveau" doesn't reflect any kind of physical reality. It's just enforcing the same unrealistic body expectations that have plagued fashion for decades. Body shame might help sell clothes, but it's still a bad model.

Here is another take on the same issue from a British newspaper, The Guardian UK.

Skinny male mannequins raise eating disorder fears

Eating disorder campaigners say mannequins with 27in waists portray unrealistic image and may encourage men to starve

Eating disorder campaigners have criticised a mannequin manufacturer for bringing out a super-skinny male model that they say could encourage vulnerable men to starve themselves.

Next month Rootstein, a British firm, will unveil its Young and Restless collection, which includes a mannequin with a 35in chest and a 27in waist, 11in smaller than the average British man.

The company says the mannequins were modelled on teenage boys who were not anorexic, but were perfect for modelling the skinny jeans and slim tailoring made popular by stars such as Russell Brand. But eating disorder charity Beat said more men were suffering from anorexia and bulimia, and that the mannequins portrayed an unrealistic and unattainable image.

It said: "We are certainly aware of more males seeking help for their eating problems and it is recognised that they are more likely to develop an eating disorder as a result of trying to achieve a certain body shape and size.

"Men nowadays are subject to the same insecurities around their body and self-image as women are. Unrealistic images in the fashion world – such as these mannequins – and in the media still abound and the pressures they bring can lead to low self-esteem in often young and vulnerable people."

Kevin Arpino, creative director at Rootstein, who designed the Young and Restless range, rejected any suggestion that his mannequins could fuel eating disorders.

"It is a collection dictated by current fashion trends for skinny jeans and very tight tailoring, as seen everywhere from Topman to Gucci and in the edgier fashion magazines like Numéro.

"None of the boys we used [as models for the mannequins] were remotely anorexic. They were just teenagers – the oldest one was 20, I think – so they were pubescent really.

"It's a trend which you can see in celebrities and rock stars – Russell Brand has a little bit to do with it. But I am sure that muscle boys will have their time again."

He said the measurements for last season's mannequins were bigger, with a 38in chest and 30in waist, but that there was increasing demand for smaller models.

Dov Charney, chief executive of youth clothing brand American Apparel, has said his firm struggled to find mannequins to fit his brand's clothes. "All the mannequins out there are these beefcakes, and we can't even fit our largest size on them," he was quoted as saying in New York magazine.

According to the latest NHS statistics, the average British male takes a 38in waist trouser.


Kevin Greene said...

I hate to say this, but I believe your article is entirely mis-informed.

I'm a 21-year old college student living in LA and I love-love-love trendy brands like American Apparel and Express -- not because I necessarily care about fashion, or because I even like their clothes all that much; I love these brands because they are the only brands that actually fit me.

Being naturally skinny (26-27" waist) and also decently tall (5'8") means I can't even pretend to think about shopping in "normal" stores like Nordstrom or JC Penney because the smallest pant size they carry is typically 32". No amount of tailoring can fix a waist that's 5 inches too big. The worst part is that I can't even buy child boy's pants or shirts because the legs and arm sleeves are much too short. Without these brands for skinny men, I would have no choice but to have all my clothes custom made. That's an expensive life sentence to impose on the oppressed, skinny minority. You're not weight-ist are you?

Stores like American Apparel aren't "encouraging eating disorders" and they're not promoting an "unrealistic and unattainable image". They're brilliantly tapping into a niche in the retail clothing market -- skinny guys like me need clothes too. And given American Apparel's success, this niche market is clearly bigger than you thought.

Please don't hate on skinny brands just because you can't wear them. Skinny men need clothes too. And why shouldn't we also be stylish? ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kevin.

As a naturally skinny male, it is near impossible to find any clothing that will fit me without stores that specialize in a slimmer fit, like American Apparel.

I was actually surprised to see this mannequin as it has the same dimensions as me! I know of a lot of males that are naturally slim like me and this mannequin is indeed representational. Not everyone is big and bulky.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other 2 comments.
I'm naturally extremely thin and fairly tall, about 5'9" with a 26" waist. So these skinnier mannequins are more normal to me than the usual extremely big ones. Not everyone has a 40" waist.

And besides most of the measurements for the average american are taken by older people that don't usually even shop for clothes at malls or decent retailers.

Anonymous said...

LOL.... the size of the pants you buy may say 31" but if you actually take the time to get some measuring tape and measure your waist, it will be much more than 31".
Companies do this to make people feel better about themselves.