If you are in any way affiliated with the body positive or male fashion communities, then you will likely have come across Bruce Sturgell, founder of plus-size male fashion line, Chubstr. Not only is Bruce paving the way for a newly body confident generation of plus-size men, but he is breaking through image stereotypes set out by a society that prefers ‘gym-bods’ over realistic bods.
Here, I talk to him about creating Chubstr, why male-body positivity matters, and how plus-size fashion really is revolutionary…
1. Hey Bruce! Why don’t you start by telling me a bit about yourself?
Hey Fran! I’m Bruce Sturgell, and I’m the founder of Chubstr.com – a fashion and lifestyle site for big guys.
2. How did you come to find yourself immersed in the body positive community?
I got into the community when I started blogging on Tumblr back in 2010, after finding myself frustrated with the lack of options out there for big men. I saw that there was this growing community around women’s plus size fashion, but there was virtually nothing for men. I wanted to change that.
3. Do you find it easy to be confident about your body?
Most of the time. I’m pretty happy with my body, but I think we’ve all kind of been trained to look at ourselves negatively. Years of being told that your body isn’t good enough (whether you’re fat, skinny, tall, or short, etc) stays with you, and tries to rear its ugly head from time to time. That said, I love my body, and 90% of the time, I’m happy with what I see in the mirror.
4. What compelled you to create Chubstr?
I lived in the midwest at the time, and I’d go to the mall to find clothes to wear, and I’d leave empty handed. I could go to the big and tall shop and get clothes that my Dad would be ok with wearing, but nothing I actually wanted to wear. After repeated trips to the mall with no luck, I decided to create a blog to complain about my experiences, share tips, information, and photos of looks I put together. People started to ask for advice, and share their own photos and tips. I realized that there was something bigger here, and Chubstr grew from that. It was about 6 months after I started the tumblr blog that Chubstr.com went live.
5. Did you ever think that it would have the impact on male fashion that it has?
I didn’t think this little grassroots blog would do much of anything, except provide me with an outlet to complain! It turns out that so many other people have the same frustrations, and a community grew out of it all. Even 6 years in, I’m consistently amazed by what Chubstr has become, what it’s hopefully going to be in the future, and by the people who read it.
6. Do you think that the clothes we wear have an effect on our confidence?
Absolutely. You feel better about yourself when you’re wearing clothes that fit you well and look great. The clothing you wear is an extension of your personality, and when you can accurately share your personality through your outfit, you’re going to be happier. Bigger people don’t get many opportunities to feel good about themselves, which is one reason plus size fashion in itself is revolutionary. You’re allowed to feel good about yourself, no matter what your size.
7. How do you think the body positive community treats male bodies?
I think male body positivity as a movement is still a small and growing thing. People are starting to
realize that there are a variety of issues related to men and the way they see their bodies, as well as the way they are told to accept themselves. When I started doing this, there wasn’t anyone else out there really doing it, or talking about male body positivity in any really meaningful way. In just the last few years, that has started to change. I’m excited to see where things are in 3 to 5 years.
The community as a whole seems to be welcoming when it comes to male body acceptance. It feels like there’s a place for everyone here.
8. What do you think the biggest challenges are for the BoPo & male communities at the moment?
I think the biggest issues we face in male body acceptance, from a commercial standpoint, is getting the fashion industry to understand that people who don’t have “mainstream” bodies are interested in and actively looking for the products they have to offer. Getting them to make products for bigger bodies (or smaller, or taller bodies, for that matter) is important, and so far, only a few brands are doing it with any widespread success.
Socially, I think we’ve got a long way to go to show the world that it’s okay for men to be vulnerable, to care about style and how we dress, and to be more open minded in general. If what I’m doing with Chubstr is helping move any of those things forward in some small way, then I feel successful.
9. What is your go-to for self-care & self-love?
My easiest go-to self care & self love strategy is listening to music, or going to concerts. Music is such a part of my life, I can’t really put it into words. When I feel like I need to recharge, or have some time to myself, I throw on my mighty expensive headphones and listen to music I love.
10. Who inspires you?
I get inspiration from artists, musicians, and really, the Chubstr community. I’ve met so many unique and interesting people by doing this – I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do. I look at people creating things, and getting out there doing what they love, and I’m inspired.
11. What do you think the biggest body image challenges are that we face in today’s society?
The biggest challenge is showing the world that people deserve dignity, and that they are worthwhile, regardless of their size.
12. What piece of advice would you offer to someone wanting to smash through body image ideals?
Don’t ever believe that because you’re a certain size, you’re worthless. Express yourself through fashion, art, music, business, and the way you help others. Never be afraid to show the world how amazing you are, in whatever way that manifests itself.