Aimed at Gay Size Queens, Underwear Ads Shun Girthful Gays
I have always been heavy. The earliest photos of me make it difficult to tell whether my mother was holding a newborn baby or a suckling pig headed for the dinner table. Throughout elementary school I faced the indignity of having to wear “Husky” jeans, and it wasn’t until my glorious growth spurt on the latter side of 12 that I finally stretched it all out enough to look like a reasonably fit boy with only the slightest bump of a belly. I bounced up and down and up again on high school gym class weight charts. I began to wear big, oversized shirts under the flawed perception that they would hide my fat. (They most certainly did not.)
I enjoyed the last of my “skinny” days about the time I turned 30, and when what little metabolism I’d ever had gave up the ghost and left me to my own devices, I began to balloon, growing steadily year after year from a trim, sexy 32-inch waist all the way up to my current size – a plump and pudgy 40 inches around. I let myself amass my way into Beardom without ever realizing it, and without ever feeling that Bearish self-esteem at all.
I’ve also always had a bit of an underwear fetish. I suppose it could be attributed to my early adolescent fondness of the Sears catalog, particularly the men’s underwear section. It only grew stronger as I got into middle and high school gym classes and began to endure the double-edged agony of seeing all the guys I was painfully attracted to stripping down naked while changing out of their sweaty gym uniforms into fresh, clean cotton briefs or boxer shorts right in front of my closeted gay eyes.
When I was old enough, I started buying myself all kinds of underwear, often falling hook, line, and sinker for the advertising gimmicks and believing for a while that wearing them made me look as hot and desirable as the hairy-chested athletes they’d paid to model them in the catalogs. Not an issue of International Male or Undergear left my bedroom without its pages tellingly stuck together with gay teen enthusiasm. And by the time I started having sex with men, my fetish had grown to the point of collecting their underwear as trophies of my sexual conquests – a collection I held onto for many years.
Only in recent years, with the rise of the gay focused brand marketing and the hypersexualization of men’s underwear advertising have these two aspects of my youth begun to collide. I was always able to get any style or brand of undies I wanted. Neither boxer brief, nor bikini, nor box cut trunk nor thong were outside the wanton reach of my debit card. And there was no end to how sexy I felt slipping into a new pair of drawers for the first time and visualizing the night ahead. Well, no that’s not quite true. There seems to be an end fast approaching, as a matter of fact. And it’s happening everywhere at once.
There is no denying the virtual invisibility that comes with being a heavy gay man in the presence of young, thin, narcissistic baby gays. We queens of size tend to blend into the scenery and remain unseen unless we happen to be inconveniently positioned between a young gay and his faggle or that faggle and a bartender. I don’t want to reinforce any negative stereotypes or imply that every gay man under the age of 30 is a vapid, self-absorbed body-obsessed elitist with an unhealthy amount of dependency on their social peers influencing their every decision in life, but. . .well, it’s not that hard to find walking, talking examples of these stereotypes, and I’ll leave it at that. These young, vibrant gay millennials are a clothing brand’s wet dream. There are entire marketing campaigns centered on promoting the body-centric sex-driven lifestyle these guys want to live, and they’ll spend a pretty penny to get it.
By 2012, the average American male over the age of 20 had a waist measuring 39.7 inches around, as published in a study by the CDC upon the conclusion of a 2-year nationwide effort to gather the measurements of over 20,000 men, women and children of various races and ages. That’s 40 inches, if you squint at it just a little – the national average is 40 inches. Yet in the gay world, designers have managed to pull off a miracle. Instead of blowing up at a pace similar to that of their heter-bro counterparts, gay men seem to be shrinking. Yes. You read that right. The sizes of most gay branded underwear are shrinking to the point that anyone with a waist even approaching the national average is styled right out of the club. A 40-inch waist doesn’t just make one invisible anymore, it makes their spending power vanish, too!
Have a look at what these underwear brands consider to be “average” for American men’s body’s, and what they call XL, or worse, XXL. One brand won’t even sully its name by producing anything in a size as vulgar and unattractive as “extra large” in its already size-skewed line of clothing. As if fat shaming weren’t already pervasive in our community, the people who make money from selling us things have discovered a new way to exclude a segment of our community from the fun and festive lifestyle it promises in its ads.
And watch this extended video advertisement for one line of underwear notorious for its cliquish exclusivity and mean-spirited body shaming of the one guy who clearly is not a go-go dancing underwear porn star. “Not Here!”, reads the sign held up by self-styled Hugh Hefner of the gay pornstar/go-go/rentboy world, Andrew Christian. It’s a cruel trip back in time to the taunting and teasing of mean little kids making fun of the fat boy on the playground, and this douche is raking it in, leveraging a who’s who of pseudo-celebrity gay YouTubers to bolster his gay cred.
Even fetish brands whose style comes from the very subcultures of the gay community that are known for bigger, beefier men, have begun to size the very men who want their products right out of the market. Nasty Pig only caters to kinky boys with tiny waists, and Cellblock 13 slams the cell door shut on anyone 4 inches below the national average size.
While I realize that there are bigger issues facing us and more dire and deadly injustices going on in the world that warrant more attention and outcry than my selfish woes over being too fat to fit in with the cool kids, imagine for a moment how it feels to see your options for trendy, fashionable, sexy clothes begin to disappear one faux leather jockstrap or assless brief at a time. Consider what it’s like to spend literally hours searching for a style you really want to wear made by a designer who hasn’t written you off as unworthy of his wares. It can be downright demeaning, people. And, yes, I know it’s not just the gay fatties who are ignored. Fashion as a whole ignores the fact that we exist or tries its best to stick plus sized clothes on a fitness model’s body and pass that off as selling big and tall. As Mallory Schlossberg writes in her July 15, 2015 article for Business Insider on the absence of the plus size male on the runway, mine seems to be very much a minority complaint. If it’s true that the modelling agencies would be snatching up fatties left and right if only there were more demand, then apparently my bulky brethren need a wakeup call. “But until men start speaking out about the lack of diversity on the runway, it’s unlikely that designers and agencies will respond.”
And that, my friend, is why size does matter. It matters very much. I am a gay man with a gut. Like millions of other gay men with guts, I face a certain amount of discrimination and a significant amount of rejection because of my size. That kinda sucks. So why not start pushing back against the machine that props up these ideals of masculine beauty? Why not start being the voice that demands more diversity on the runway, and in advertising. I can be one angry fat guy whose resistance against being marginalized inspires other fat guys to join in and demand to be heard. I mean, probably not, but it’s a nice thought. Screw Andrew Christian right in his his smug, bleached asshole with something that reminds him what XL is supposed to feel like. (No T, no shade.)
Gay men do, in fact, come in an assortment of sizes and shapes. We are not all cut out for modelling, and we certainly don’t all spend the same amount of time in the gym or on the cookie aisle as the others do. One thing we do have in common is a desire to feel sexy. Big or small, built or buxom, gay men like to put on a sexy pair of undies and know that they look good. By cutting off the thicker segment of that community, these underwear brands, whether intentionally or not, are further diminishing the few things we can all enjoy despite our differences and varying tastes. Why force the fluffy boys to choose between Puma and Jockey for something approaching sexy that still manages to fit? Will the advertising bottom dollar not bear the weight on a couple more inches of lycra and cotton? Is covering our ample asses with hot fetish gear or flattering junk lifting technology asking too much from an industry that earned $2.4 billion in 2014? I think there’s little harm in broadening your consumer base if selling merchandise is your ultimate goal, manty makers. Take a page from the smart, gorgeous, and career savvy underwear model turned underwear designer, Todd Sanfield’s book, and offer your product in normal sizes so that more of us have access to them. It’s certainly not hurting Todd’s popularity with his adoring fanbase.
So loosen up, N2N. Let it all hang out, Gregg Homme. There’s room for all of us in there, Rufskin. Just give us your jocks, Jack Adams!It’s about time, Timoteo. Nasty Pig, Nasty Pig, let us in! Because if you take the small step toward accepting the rest of us who only want your manties on our buns, when all is said and done, if you cover our asses, you can bet we’ll cover yours.