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Body Positive Men | What The Media & Fashion World Won’t Tell You

body positive men - Kaftko

This story takes place in a public clothing store…

The year was 2013, and Kelvin Davis was out shopping for a much-needed blazer. As he made his way into the store, a sales associate approached him and said he “was too big to shop here.”

Stunned and embarrassed, Kelvin couldn’t help but notice that other shoppers overheard the rude exchange. He stated, “I felt very insecure and didn’t know how to deal with that.”

Kelvin, a school teacher who’s almost 6 ft tall with a 38-inch waist, didn’t go into that clothing store concerned about his male figure, but after being publicly body shamed, he began struggling with his body image.

That is until Kelvin took his body image struggles and decided to start a blog that not only explores, but reevaluates, what it means to have male body confidence in a world where the “ideal” body for men is toned abs, sculpted pecs, and ripped biceps… In other words, the Marvel superhero physique.

Little did Kelvin know that his experience would speak to thousands of people, and today he’s become a very successful fashion male blogger.

With over 115,000 Instagram followers, Kelvin has now modeled for popular clothing brands like the Gap and has become a loud and necessary voice for the male body-positive movement

So fellas, let us ask you… Have you ever had a similar experience to Kelvin?

Have you ever felt embarrassed to take off your shirt in public, step on a scale, or go shopping for clothes with friends?

Think about it for a minute… Do you have a positive male body image? Or is your image of the “perfect” shape unrealistic, and shaped by cultural suggestions?

Believe it or not, we know what it’s like to struggle with body image issues, and today we want to talk about something a little more serious…

Body Positivity For Guys

Actor Jonah Hill once posted this on Instagram:

“I don’t think I ever took my shirt off in a pool until I was in my mid-30s even in front of family and friends. Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my figure by press and interviewers.”

He went on to say…

“I’m 37 and finally love and accept myself. This isn’t a ‘good for me’ post. And it’s not a ‘feel bad for me post’. It’s for the kids who don’t take their shirts off at the pool. Have fun. You're wonderful and awesome and perfect. All my love.”

In a nutshell, male body positivity is all about accepting yourself for who you are: this could be height perception, scars, big or small stomachs, skinny legs or big thighs, stretch marks, thick chests, skinny frames, small or large booties included.

In other words… gorgeous, amazing, and yes, HOT men come in all shapes and sizes.

But modern, western pop culture has unfortunately warped our perspective.

What Are The Ideal Male Bodies In Western Pop Culture?

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up in a world where men weren’t compared to Brad Pitt from Fight Club? (Side note: Do you have any idea how much money, time, and effort these Hollywood celebrities spend to get their bodies into cover-model shape for a movie?)

Bobby Holland Hanton, the stunt double for Chris Hemsworth (the actor who plays Thor), told BuzzFeed and Muscle & Fitness how much of a struggle it was to maintain the insanely strict diet guidelines to obtain Thor’s superhero build.

He had to eat at least 8 meals a day, consume an outrageous amount of protein, and work out no less than twice every single day. Bobby stated, “It made me kind of unsociable in a way because you can’t go out with friends or family because you’re picking what you can and can’t eat on the menu… It was a big challenge for me.”

While we love the Marvel movies, we can’t help but notice that Bobby’s interview illustrated something far deeper than simply what it takes to maintain a superhero physique. It reveals just how much pressure men are constantly facing to be as fit, as big, and as muscular as humanly possible.

The same is true for fashion male models. Sure, male fashion has become a little more diverse over the years, but the male model requirements usually remain the same: a lean, muscular, and very fit physique. Again, maintaining that kind of figure for male models causes a ton of pressure, which doesn't always lead to a healthy lifestyle.

body positive movement - Kaftko

You see, in a world where social media and the male fashion industry glamorize chiseled abs, big muscles, and the abdominal “V” of a Ken doll, the definition of the “ideal male body” is unrealistic.

The truth is, “it’s just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie.” And it can be socially, emotionally, and physically debilitating to both achieve and maintain superhero and male model bodies.

Now, we love that our culture at large is finally starting to call out the objectification of women. And while it’s been a very slow, sometimes painful process, body positivity regarding women is starting to change for the better.

But does the body positivity movement include men? And if so, where is the men's body positivity movement these days? 

It seems the world has focused so much on teaching women to love and accept themselves no matter their body types, that somehow we have forgotten the fact that men suffer from unrealistic male body images too.

Sadly, the impact on men’s mental health from these issues is quite significant.

Let’s look at the…

Link Between Mental Health & Men’s Body Insecurity Image

When we think about body image positivity, women's bodies are usually the first to start the conversation. But in recent years, there’s been a rise in eating disorders, an obsession with exercising, and a maniacal focus on building the perfect body structure for men.

Social media and other media platforms have exacerbated the unrealistic images of male bodies. Think Magic Mike or any of the Marvel superheroes that we see on the silver screen. It’s no surprise that men are less likely to talk about their “body or muscle dysmorphia” than women.

Let’s look at a few male body image issue statistics…

In a survey involving 2,000 males, close to half of them reported that their male body image issues impacted their mental health. Experts even suggest that issues with body image in young boys raise potential suicidal feelings, self-harm, depression, anxiety, and even male cosmetic surgeries.

And that’s not all…

According to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 25 to 40% of men are struggling with an eating disorder, particularly binge eating and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

As far as male vs. female body image statistics… It seems that other eating disorders, like excessive fasting, purging, or abusing laxatives are surprisingly common in men, not just women. It’s also been found that a “quarter of people with anorexia are men”.

Since many social media platforms provide constant exposure to a “He-Man” physique image (the stronger and bigger you are, the happier you’ll be), men are more reluctant to seek help for their muscle dysmorphia.

Researchers stated, “Changes in body esteem and the internalization of media portrayals could contribute to problematic dieting, exercise, and steroid use in men…”

So guys, how do we address both male positivity and the image of men?

It’s not easy, but the answers are pretty straightforward…

How To Promote A Positive Body Image In Men

Indeed, men of all ages often have a much harder time finding a group or community that supports and provides guidance to help navigate their issues with an unrealistic muscle body image. But here are a few tips we’d like to share that can help establish healthier behaviors and attitudes when it comes to guys and body image concerns.

body positivity - Kaftko

First Things First | Recognize That A Healthy Male Body Comes In All Different Shapes & Sizes

  • There is no one “ideal” male size, shape, height, strength, tone, etc. Look at your body as a facet of your individuality. You and your body are a masterpiece of uniqueness.

Secondly | Be Honest About Your Body Image Struggles & Talk To Someone

  • More men struggle with their bodies than you probably think. By opening up about your physique issues, your story could influence someone else to find the help they need.

Third | Limit Your Time On Media Platforms That Portray Men's Bodies In An Unrealistic Light

  • Not all social media is bad… Some social media profiles promote a healthy and positive male body image. But it’s important to recognize how the media over-promotes and supports excessive muscle toning, bodybuilding, weight lifting, and shredding to lose weight. Obsessing these activities can increase unhealthy habits, body dysmorphia, and mental struggles.
  • Instead, we encourage you to flood your Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube feed with male body positivity campaigns and other accounts that focus on body positivity.

Fourth | Create Realistic Healthy Eating Habits & Exercise Routines That Help You Embrace Your Body Image… Not Change It 

  • While going to the gym is not a bad thing, we encourage you to change it up. Introduce nature hikes, outdoor swimming, bike riding, and volunteering at local organizations to get yourself moving.
  • Appreciate how your unique framework functions instead of obsessing about how it looks in the mirror (dad bods don't have to be a bad thing). By changing your scenery and atmosphere, you open up your perspective of what it means to be healthy and happy in your skin.

Finally | Be A Voice That Builds Up Male Body Image Positivity, & Don't Be Afraid Of The Power Of Vulnerability

  • Support your fellow man by encouraging them that their figure is perfect the way it is. Respect each other and be aware of the harsh, unrealistic, and negative messages certain media platforms and your perception have to say about your physique. Use positive self-affirmation any time you have a negative thought or when you’re blasted with unrealistic images of men.
  • Expand your idea and outlook of what “masculinity” really means. Because truth be told, masculinity is much deeper and fuller than being an athletic man with a muscular physique. It’s obtaining the qualities of being caring, brave, sensitive, loving, patient, creative, artistic, kind, and innovative.
  • Keep in mind fellas, Thor and Captain America are not real characters, and the actors who play them admit that maintaining a superhero physique is no easy or cheap feat.
  • This is how to think positively about your shape, men… By following these tips and joining together to create a community of support and acceptance no matter your shape, size, or style.

Kaftko & The Male Body Positive Movement

Here at Kaftko, we take body-positive men very seriously—because we too have struggled and suffered from our own perceived flaws surrounding unrealistic body images. It’s because of those images and struggles that we’ve created Kaftko clothing in the first place.

Believe it or not, the fashion industry has a lot of influence on male body positivity, and some of the most popular fashion trends aren’t necessarily promoting a positive or healthy body image for men. Instead, most of the fashion world is contributing to the struggle of guys and their body image issues.

Thankfully, there’s been a small shift in the male fashion world in the past decade, and we’re finally seeing more and more fashion companies jump on board with the male body-positive movement. We love it! Because all people, men, women, etc., come in various shapes and sizes. We want to embrace the uniqueness of each human body. Not just girls’ and guys’ bodies—all bodies!

male bodies - Kaftko

You see, our ethos at Kaftko is “Made For All''. So, instead of using the same ol’ terms like gender-neutral, size-inclusive, or age-appropriate, we’ve combined them all and created just one simple idea… Fashion Fluid!

We’re about freedom, comfortability, and truly expressing yourself through style and fashion in a way that is unique and positive to you. No hidden agendas or ulterior motives. Just highly fashionable clothing that accentuates your body most positively.

The ideal male figure is multi-layered, but somehow popular media platforms have turned it into a superficial subject that hinders the core of who we are, what we want to be, and who we wish we weren’t. 

But we say, No more! It’s about time to shine the light on this often-overlooked problem. It’s time for men of all shapes to embrace the confidence of who they are without the worry of what society thinks. And it’s time for you to flaunt what you’ve got in whatever makes you feel confident in your skin.

So men, let’s join the conversation and movement of what it means to have male body positivity today!

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