I was lucky enough to be able to speak with the founder and blog writer of Chubstr.com Bruce Sturgell and he has kindly answered questions relating to his website and his thoughts on the outsize fashion industry as a whole.
Firstly a bit on Chubstr.com for those who aren’t aware. Chubstr describe themselves as a style destination. They produce regular high quality articles and reviews on clothing accessories and lifestyle products for the bigger guy.
They also actively encourage their followers to be part of the experience, whether it’s uploading a picture of yourself looking particularly stylish or if it’s a fashion/lifestyle question that you simply need answering. Chubstr.com are more than happy to oblige.
Thank you Bruce for taking time to speak to us at OHBigmanClothing.com,
Happy to chat!
Tell us briefly the story around Chubstr.com, why and how did it come into being?
5 or so years ago, I was really frustrated with the fact that I couldn't find anything that fit me in a style I wanted to wear in my local shopping mall. After one particularly terrible experience at a store, I left empty-handed, and headed home to complain about it on the internet. I started a Tumblr blog and began calling out brands that didn't carry extended sizes, and sharing photos of looks I had been able to put together. I told readers where they could get the clothes I was wearing, and what sizes were available.
People started liking, commenting, sharing, and submitting their own photos. I have a marketing background, so I was aware that there was something here - something that nobody else was doing at the time. I decided to take it from a blog on Tumblr to something more memorable - that's basically how Chubstr began. In March of this year, we'll celebrate the site's 5 year anniversary. I can't believe it - 5 years of helping men of size find, create, and share their style with the world. Pretty awesome!
At Chubstr.com you promote a very positive message about body image and style for the larger man. Did you feel that having your followers being able to upload images of themselves and attaching them to questions in positive environment such as the one you have provided important to the overall cause of chubstr.com?
I realized early on that I wasn't alone in this community - there are so many other people trying to find clothes, trying to create their own style, I wanted to include those people in what I was trying to build. At the time, my only real inspiration was the plus size women's bloggers I saw out there, a few men's style magazines, and all the people I saw expressing themselves positively on Tumblr.
I think you can help more people with a strong community that supports one another than you can by simply making yourself the focal point, so we went that route, and it has been successful. I think it helps people see that they're not alone, and doing that has been one of the keys to our growth, and the amazing community we have.
From speaking to our customers at Ohbigman we have found that quite a few of the larger clothing manufacturers don’t seem to have the correct understanding about proportions in their sizing of their garments. Do you feel that there should be a greater understanding for the needs of the consumer in the outsize fashion industry?
Most of the clothing we're wearing, even clothing in extended sizes, isn't made specifically for a larger, or "non-traditional" body type. This means that the shirt you just bought from the fast fashion shop down the street might say 3X, but it doesn't really fit you as well as it should. We want clothes that are made to fit us, or at least show that some consideration was given to fitting big men's bodies, and we're not seeing a lot of that right now. There's a profitable audience here that many businesses are missing, and there needs to be a better understanding of a bigger customer's needs.
Again feeding from our own experiences at Ohbigman we have personally seen two high profile manufacturers (with whom we had dealt with very successfully in the past) completely discontinue producing bigger men’s clothing. Their reason given for stopping production was that it no longer fitted within their company profile. Is this something you have experienced in the US?
Your experience doesn't surprise me - many companies find the challenges of fitting non-traditional sizes to be more than they can handle. We're not seeing a lot of that at Chubstr, just from the fact that we're really one of the only established outlets to read when you're looking for tips, resources, and info for big men's style. Companies are starting to realize that they can reach this audience through us, and smaller businesses or individuals that are making extended size clothing know about us and reach out.
Though things are moving slowly, we're still seeing progress, and I'd say over the last year or so, we're seeing things start to really ramp up. I think the next few years will be good for big guys looking for stylish options.
Relating to T-shirts and shirts in particular, within the UK we often see manufacturers in the outsize fashion industry airing more on the conservative side of patterns, designs and colour. Seeing mainly greys, navy’s and blacks used as safety colours rather than something different. Do you think the larger mans wardrobe is dictated by the designer, rather than the personality of the wearer?
I think you have to work really hard to create a unique and interesting style when you're a man of size. Fun and interesting designs, unique patterns, and even some mainstream styles are difficult to find above size L.
Many designers just aren't focused on the plus size man, so if they are offering something, it's pretty basic. They aren't putting much, if anything, into marketing the fact that they have extended sizes, so the stuff doesn't sell. You go into a store, and they don't carry those extended sizes in-shop, so again, you don't know it's available. Since they don't get the word out, less people buy it, and the designers think that means that plus size people don't care about style. They just don't get it.
Would you a agree that rather than just an online presence, the way forward is a retail environment where the customer can go and speak with a person who is able to understand and answer the necessary questions and find the correct fitting garments.
In a perfect world, a retail presence would be wonderful. Someone who can work with you to find exactly what you're looking for in the size you need - that would be great. There are very few retailers able to pull that off well. I think what we'll see prior to that is companies starting to do this really well online. With a focus on what the customer needs, the problems they run into when trying to purchase online, and a direct way to get assistance either via phone or over the internet, that's probably what we're going to see crop up before we really see a national or worldwide presence come out and do this well.
A lot of people are just starting to figure out their style, and they need assistance to get what they're looking for in the sizes they need. I think we'll see a lot of that done virtually, probably sooner than later.
We have read a lot of online forums where the big man has been left to fend for themselves where the sales advisors have given sub-standard service because of his size. Have you read or received anything like this from your followers where the bigger man is stigmatised?
Yeah, I hear horror stories about bad experiences for big guys from time to time, but generally, a lot of our readers are just finding that there aren't options for them out there. They go to a store, and an associate there doesn't know what to tell them because these stores just don't have extended size offerings
Lastly would you say that there is more acceptance of a man’s size in the US as opposed to the UK?
I tend to look for the best in people, and I believe that the vast majority of people working in stores want to help, but they just aren't equipped with the information, expertise, or product to do so. I do think this will change for us in the near future, as we all keep doing our best to get the word out that big men do care about this stuff, and have the money to spend on quality product.
Our thanks once again to Bruce for taking the time to talk to us. We hope that this has shed some light on the issues and problems that we all face when searching for fashion for the bigger guy.
I also hope that this serves as a call to action to the mens fashion industry that we are here, we want to be heard and we want to be thought of when ranges are being designed.
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