It’s fair to say the issues surrounding body image and body confidence are primarily targeted towards women and have long been a hot topic for conversation.
The pressure to ‘get in shape’ and succumb to the images we see across social media, film, television and the music industry, are said to be affecting people more than ever.
Yet this problem isn’t solely affecting women – their male counterparts are also facing the same struggles.
The fashion industry has long been subjected to criticism when it comes to models – they’re too thin being the biggest complaint – yet slowly, the industry has been giving a platform to ‘plus size’ models.
Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence are female examples of how society isn’t fixated on us having a particular body type or size, yet what about the men?
Six-packs, muscular arms, muscly legs – it’s evident there’s a fair amount of pressure for males to perfect this image.
25-year-old Raul Samuel is a ‘plus size’ model from Hornsey in north London and only made it his full time job earlier this year.
Raul told UNILAD about the pressure he faces and how he got into the industry:
I saw how hard it’s been for bigger guys like myself to get clothes that not only fit properly but also look good, as well as being current when it comes to style and fashion.
There was no one out there that looked like me, my shape and size, and I found it frustrating.
I felt a lot of pressure to look a certain way – I didn’t have a six pack or look like the men on the cover of magazines – it’s only human to get effected by what you see day today in the media.
The 25-year-old believes there is too much pressure, for both men and women, to look a certain way:
Now more then ever, with the rise of social media, the pressure is greater – most people want to look like the ‘Instagram models’ and the pressures are as real for men as it is for women.
I see it in the school I work at – young boys getting bullied and having issues with their shape and size because they don’t feel like they look like the guys in magazines.
The pressure isn’t just there for men, it’s starting with the kids at school and young boys are struggling, as well as young girls.
As the fashion industry continues to snowball in size, Raul hopes to see a much more diverse collection of people and instead of being a ‘voiceless clothes hanger’, he wants to make a difference too:
I think modelling is still portrayed as a very female world, but the 21st century man has a passion for fashion and we want to have more choice – we enjoy looking and feeling good too.
The men’s fashion industry is growing and as it does, so will the need for more male models – I just hope that includes a diverse range and representation in the industry.
A model can been seen as a voiceless clothes hanger – I don’t want to be that and I don’t think any other model does too.
With social media now we can bring down that fourth wall and put a dialogue towards the issues that matter to us – we’re meant to represent the consumer as well as the brands and that’s what I want to do.
Regardless of the type of problem, it’s not considered ‘manly’ to admit to struggling, even less so when it comes to body issues and self-confidence – Raul wants to change this.
I didn’t have a six pack or look like the men on the cover of magazines, its only human to get affected by what you see day-to-day in the media – I’m now confident in my shape and size and this past year has been a great journey getting towards that.
The modelling world can be difficult – I’ve been quite lucky and haven’t experienced anything really shocking.
There are pressures however most of the companies I have worked for have been great and have made me feel like a pro’ – It’s great to be on the front line of change and I am excited to see whats to come.
There are those who believe ‘plus size’ modelling is a glorification of obesity.
Dr Brad Frankum, the president of the Australian Medical Association in New South Wales, told the BBC:
If we send very overweight or obese people down the catwalk modelling clothes, what it is saying, in a way, is that we are celebrating obesity.
I think that is dangerous because we know it is a dangerous health condition.
Raul doesn’t agree – he told UNILAD:
Yes stay healthy, but being big is your body type – everyone is different.
Eating healthy and staying active helps with confidence and your long term well-being however that’s different then trying to reach an unreasonable goal of becoming like the boys in the magazine’s.
When you look good you feel good and what we wear plays a big part in that.
Asked whether he has any advice for those who may be regarded ‘plus size’, or people who struggle with confidence, Raul said:
I am very happy with how I look – I experiment with clothes and different styles depending on my mood and I find it fun.
My advice would be find what suits you, there is no ‘norm’ and that’s what’s amazing.
Work with ‘you’ – what suits you and makes you feel comfortable – look at Bridge models and see what the models are wearing – if they can do it so can you.
I guess Raul’s message is plain and clear for men and women – we all need to learn to love the body’s we’re in, while keeping health and happiness at the forefront.
A sports enthusiast with a BA (Hons) in Sports Journalism, who can be found predominantly at Villa Park. Having completed a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, she then went on to work at Sky Sports, the BBC, and the Mirror. When not engrossed in sport, it’s animals, guitars, and Liam Gallagher which take main focus.