Photo: Natalie Michie

Ryerson fashion profs address men of “modest height”

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By Natalie Michie

When it comes to physical appearance and what is deemed attractive, societal norms have always existed.

Unrealistic expectations of good looks have left many groups underrepresented in the fashion industry.

Despite growing acceptance for size diversity among women, one demographic that is widely overlooked in the movement for body inclusivity is men. More specifically, men under the industry “standard” of five-foot-eight.

Two professors at the Ryerson School of Fashion, Henry Navarro and Osmud Rahman, are working to have this demographic recognized.

Both men, who are under 5”8 and identify with the term “men of modest height,” said they have found it extremely difficult to buy clothes that fit them right.

“It was mind-blowing for us that it seemed that the industry had totally forgotten about shorter guys,” said Navarro. “We kept thinking about that and we said, ‘why don’t we do something about this?’”

Last year, the two professors decided to start a project that focuses on height inclusion for men.

They established an outreach platform to connect with the demographic through a website, sastrocircle.com.  

“We use the site to provide advice, to show the terminology and demonstrate different things,” said Navarro. “We wanted to provide a platform of social support.”

Through their website, they hope to recruit other men who are under 5”8 to contribute to their research.

With the use of a 3D body scanner at the fashion school, they hope to gain the measurements of around 2,000 participants. They want to put together a new sizing chart that recognizes a shorter body type, as the current one in the industry does not, they said.

“We want to look at size specification based on the measurements from the body scanning, and hope that we can come up with an updated body sizing chart then recommend it to the industry,” said Rahman.

They are also addressing heightism, which is the prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on height.

“There is research that shows that men who are below the standard 5”8 of the industry are already perceived at a disadvantage,” said Navarro. “In terms of hiring practices, in terms of social settings, in terms of how they are perceived related to attractiveness.”

“You have a demographic that is already in a way disadvantaged. And then not finding clothes that fit, it further exacerbates that.”

We’ve all heard the term “tall, dark, and handsome” in reference to the ideal image of a man. However, a lot of men don’t meet those standards, especially when it comes to height. And unfortunately, they are judged because of it.

“There’s this mythology of the tall, muscular, handsome guy. Like, how many guys are really like that?” said Navarro.

“In the market place guys come in different sizes, shapes and heights and we need to be inclusive of everybody.”

When starting this project, Navarro and Rahman said they knew it would be difficult to gain recognition for a group that has been silent for so long.

“We have to look at the attitudes of what in general is considered masculine,” said Navarro. “One of these attitudes is that guys aren’t supposed to care about fashion. And if they care about fashion, they aren’t supposed to talk about things that are hurtful to them. They are not supposed to complain. They are supposed to just take it.”

For men in that demographic who are plus-sized, things are even worse.

With the term “curve women” largely replacing that of “plus-sized” in womenswear, Navarro and Rahman said there’s not a positive term like that in place for men.

“Some people say, ‘big and tall’,” said Rahman in reference to plus-sized men.

“There’s a problem with that as well,” said Navarro. “There are men who are big, meaning they are overweight or they are obese, but they are not tall. This is again a problem of height.”

Through their initiative, Navarro and Rahman want to see a more inclusive fashion industry that gives men of modest height the same opportunities as tall men.

The more the fashion industry recognizes underserved demographics like that of men of modest height, the closer it is to being the inclusive industry that so many people want to see.

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