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  • Paul Oluwadare

Men Have Body Image Issues Too, Why Are We Only Talking about This Now?

© Elay Neal Moses on Male Body Positivity

"Share Your Story" submitted by Paul Oluwadare, 20 years old

Body image problems have always existed in society. This is due to the constant changes in fashion, not only in clothing but also in the body types that are considered ideal in society. More needs to be done to normalise the male body within the fashion and fitness industries, as well as on social media.

The fashion and fitness industries play a big role in the issue of men's and women's body image, as they profit from capitalising on exclusive, popular trends rather than trends that are less profitable but more inclusive. The mental health foundation did a 2021 survey with millions of participants and found that one in five (21%) said concerns about body image had caused them to dress in a way that hid their body or parts of their body in the last year. To make their products more appealing to the consumer, most brands use models with ideal looks. Furthermore, video and photo editing software are used to create an aesthetic that most people would simply not be able to achieve, except for people with great genetics and the best gym routines. In women’s fashion, many brands have actively pushed to include models of different shapes and sizes in their marketing to appear more inclusive. For many years women have demanded greater representation and appreciation for natural-looking bodies and how much they can change over time, including; stretch marks, saggy skin, spots, pimples, and other imperfections. For men, however, the fashion industry continues to portray images of the ideal man based on toxic masculinity, which harms men more than it helps them. The mental health foundation found that one in five (22%) male respondents said they had negatively compared themselves to others because of body image in the last year. Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland said: “Body image is often seen as an issue that only affects women – but it is clear from our data that it is affecting millions of men in the UK as well”.

Some fashion brands have made minor effects to help combat this, such as increasing marketing around plus sized men. However, fashion brands could have further focused on marketing men with perfections such as belly fat, scars, stretch marks, and excess skin. This would make fashion feel more accessible, allowing more men to dress with confidence and try new styles. Giving a platform to men who have imperfections and promoting better habits for all men would also help in terms of social influencers for men.

© Elay Neal Moses on Male Body Positivity

In my experience, body image has always been something I have struggled with, even though it wasn’t obvious to most people. I grew up as a lean, unathletic dark-skinned child with a profound voice that didn't coordinate with his body. In my teen years, I was always comparing myself to others. I wished I was stronger, faster, and more intimidating as a whole, as it was that kind of guy who got the attention of the girls I liked at the time, no one would dare make fun of them (as they were often part of sports teams). In essence, even if you didn’t like them, you had no choice but to respect them. Being respected was the feeling I craved the most and occasionally still do. Like many teenagers in my position, I tried going to the gym, but I did not know what I was doing and could barely bench press the bar, while my gym clothes unintentionally had a baggy fit on them. This feeling of inadequacy continued until I got to university, where I slowly but surely gained more confidence.

© Elay Neal Moses on Male Body Positivity

Fitness-based body image issues would be reduced if companies focused more on average-looking people transforming their bodies or being healthier. I believe male body issues need to continue to be welcomed and talked about in day-to-day life as well as in the fashion industry and fitness industry and social media as a whole.

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