When Michael-Anthony Spearman was growing up, he remembers that there was only one place for guys like him to shop: the big and tall department store. Now 36, she’s one of the fashion influencers on social media, steering the conversation around size and style.
Starting his Instagram account @TheBigGuyFashion in 2011 as a fun way to showcase his style, Spearman didn’t see anyone with the same aesthetic, so he decided to fill the void himself — and has been doing it ever since.
“I definitely want to present myself in such a way that I can be the guy that I wanted to see growing up,” he says. “I’m a person of color. I’m a certain size… Even though the industry doesn’t necessarily pay attention to this niche, that’s what always motivates me — providing that representation.”
Amanda Marzoff, a partner at management firm Underscore Talent, says “there’s not just a desire for plus-size fashion, there’s a need.” And while the need has long been invisible, she explains that “influencers have probably been the biggest force in changing and positively adding to the body and size conversation.”
And people notice it. Spearman’s Instagram has more than 43,600 followers, and this year he was nominated for New Fashion Influencer of the Year by the American Influencer Awards.
“We’re getting more and more recognition. Brands are starting to see that it’s a viable niche, a niche to serve and I’m so glad that even my little site, my blog or social media has played a part in that,” says Spearman, who runs @ MenofSize.
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Why are size-inclusive fashion influencers gaining followers?
- The average American woman wears a size 16-18 according to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education
- People want to see models and influencers who look like them; they want realistic fashion content.
- Social media has helped create a space for all kinds of fashion influencers.
What is midsize fashion?
Shelby Tomalin, a fashion influencer nominated in the bodypositivity influencer of the year category, was inspired to start her @shelbysaywhatblog account after giving birth to her first child.
“There’s so much pressure out there to get fit and lose the baby weight and it just wasn’t my way… I completely changed my size and weight and all the old clothes I loved in my closet, I could” I don’t wear anymore. I had to start from scratch.”
She shared her story online and now has more than 234,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 460,000 on TikTok.
Tomalin has connected with the medium size community, a term used to describe the size range around 10-16 that doesn’t fit into plus-size retail sizes, but is often hard to find in certain brands with industry standard sizes. The hashtag #midsize has exploded on TikTok in the past year with over 4 billion views and 2.5 billion for #midsizefashion.
Marzoff explains that it is significant that an influencer and her movement (MidSize Collective) coined this term, not the fashion industry.
“Consumers are craving more realistic fashion content and more general, normalized body conversations,” says Marzoff. “People need words to describe feelings, and with the advent of ‘medium size’ in our vernacular…, not only do consumers need more sizes and inclusivity, but they also need better ways to talk about bodies that aren’t hurtful and polarizing. “
Tomalin saw the same desires in the “overwhelming” response to her content from people who were “dying for this kind of content on the Internet, and they just hadn’t seen it anywhere.”
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Promoting body positivity
Now a mother of two, Tomalin says she gets emotional thinking about the influence she has on young people like her daughters when it comes to self-confidence and body acceptance.
“Fashion for me is not about following trends, it’s about confidence. If we can feel good in the clothes we wear, I think we feel at peace with ourselves,” explains Tomalin. “I think fashion is so much more than just a piece of clothing. It definitely prioritizes your self-worth.”
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Sometimes just a new outfit can change your outlook, says Spearman.
“You can actually feel that confidence from the outside in. Because once you look good, you automatically start to feel good and your perception of yourself will also start to change.”
Marzoff points to other fashion influencers like TikToker Remi Bader (also nominated for this year’s awards) who have “concretely added to the ‘body positivity’ conversation in an important way.”
“Remi is extremely transparent, sometimes heartbreaking, about it,” says Marzoff. “Not only is it important to talk about the size disparity in fashion, but it’s also important to show all sides of it and its emotional implications.”
So if consumers want more inclusivity, why aren’t brands meeting their needs?
The main problem occurs at the production level, says Marzoff.
“More sizes means more resources, samples and labor. When something is new and not widely accepted in the industry, it is considered ‘risky’ and the risk could affect the brand’s bottom line – the profit margin,” she says. “Despite compelling evidence of need, too few brands seem ready to take the leap, particularly in the luxury category. I believe this will continue to change and improve, but not as quickly as audiences and consumers need it to happen.”
Tomalin understands that it takes time for big fashion retailers to get out of their comfort zone, but she’s hopeful for the changes she’s already seen happening in the industry thanks to increased visibility and influencers speaking out online.
“That’s the great thing about social media, it drives change.”