Ah, James Corbin. The 23-year-old boy from Brixton, rising star of men’s fashion with a disarming cherubic look and the kind of big, beautiful eyes that strike like deep pools of joy and wisdom, is arguably the most beautiful person I’ve ever met in life. real, even though I found myself singing his name at the Jeremy Corbyn x Seven Nation Army mash-up. Maybe it’s all that revolutionary zeal: at 6 feet 1 inch, with a pout that could launch an ancient Greek army, young Corbin is making a sensation as one of the few – indeed, unique – plus-size male models in the game of luxury fashion. “I really want a change,” says Corbin, sitting at home in Kensal Rise. “I just want to have the full experience that a normal model would get and I feel I deserve it. Big-sized people deserve it and we don’t deserve to feel that we have been robbed of those experiences. I really want to enjoy what I do because I love it. ‘ This is a cursed moment.
Where are all the male plus size models? Ashley Graham, the first ‘curved’ female supermodel, can earn $ 5.5 million (£ 4.75 million) in a year, making her a pioneer for other plus-size riots Tess Holliday, Yumi Nu and Precious Lee. Yet the movement of body positivity has not moved a whiff in the world of menswear. True, there’s fiery New Yorker Zach Miko, 32, the face of IMG Models’ “Brawn” division, who exploded onto the scene in 2016 at 6 feet 6 inches with a 40-inch waist, regularly collecting films of the caliber of Dolce & Gabbana patinated. There’s Raul Samuel from the Bridge agency, 6 feet with a 49-inch chest and a 44-inch waist, who you may remember being plastered all over the subway in BoohooMAN countryside.
But compared to women, “it’s like Sunday League football versus Barclays Premier League,” says Ben James, 30. He is among “the most commercially committed models in the industry,” having worked with Burton, Ted Baker and Asos. But it’s a grueling job. In a good year, he says to him, “you’ll make between £ 30k and £ 60k if you’re lucky”, otherwise you’ll “pick up leftovers” – party or famine. This is the average salary for men in the industry – although James says he had to work furiously to compete with standard-sized models working all over Denmark, France, Germany, Norway – “commercial, ecomm, that sort of thing.” If you look at a top-tier male model, he says, “they would probably take it without even leaving the M62 aisle.”
When it comes to luxury, the choices are even more limited: only seven of the 77 brands in last year’s fall / winter collections featured men’s plus-size models, according to Vogue’s analysis. And, let’s face it, it’s good to be seen. Flabby guys like me who have too much gut and butt may want to dress in the hottest lewks this season, but have a hard time mentally squeezing themselves into what rascals like Timothée Chalamet are flaunting the runway. This is where Corbin comes in. After tracking him down for Supa Model Management, which now has six plus-size male models in her books, two years ago, Corbin’s agent Charlie Clark-Perry immediately “thought he was the most beautiful human I’ve ever seen.” , insisting that Corbin’s influence will be on par with that of Pat Cleveland or Alek Wek.
Corbin was spotted by a fashion photographer on Instagram “by accident” who encouraged him to send head shots to agencies like Supa. It was a whirlwind: shooting for Valentino, Charles Jeffrey, Tim Walker, a campaign for Levi’s and her first cover for Katie Grand’s Perfect magazine, then showing for Tommy Hilfiger in 2021 alongside Winnie Harlow and Erin O’Connor. Naomi Campbell is a fan, she goes through her Instagram account to leave words of encouragement (they met at Tommy’s show). “I’ve always been motivated by a desire to have a wide range of talent,” says Clark-Perry (his books include men in their seventies, trans and non-binary superstars like Casil and Aries Moross, and plus-size pioneers like Corbin). But ‘looking beautiful is not part of men’s culture,’ she says. This makes scouting for plus sizes difficult. “It’s much harder for them to understand.”
Often, the argument from fashion executives argues that plus size clothing simply doesn’t offer the same opportunities in men’s clothing as it does women’s, which, frankly, rings false to everyone I speak to. And some fanatics claim that plus size modeling glorifies obesity, but Corbin, who trains six times a week and runs marathons to top it off, denounces it. “We assume health when we think we are thinner, but you have to ask yourself what those parameters are for health.” If you look at athletes like heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, he is one of the fittest men in boxing with one of the “worst daddy bodies”. O ‘look at the encounters between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. You have a muscular god who appears to have been created from a sculpture of ancient Athens, then you have a chubby little Mexican who only seems to be here for a good time. And he cleaned it up within seven rounds. ‘
Times, however, are now changing. In 2020, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty chose plus-size model Steven G (green) for a men’s lingerie launch campaign. The collection sold out in 12 hours. It was Green’s first modeling job. She has since worked with Nike, Adidas and Lululemon, as well as the tools brand Haimer, which has partnered with Polo Ralph Lauren. Corbin, who has struggled with confidence in his own body, tells me that he only decided to try modeling after reading about Zach Miko: same build, same weight. He drank a “couple of bottles of wine”, googled “how to become a model, got some digital [photos] in my upstairs bedroom, I loaded them using [Miko’s] hashtag and got three agency offers the next day. ‘
Clark-Perry wants to see Corbin walk by Fendi or Versace. ‘They are the ones who have to come forward now. They are the ones who need to really start showing that they can do something different and that they can customize these clothes and make them look good on different bodies, that they are not just ponies with just one makeup putting things on skinny babies. ‘ He remembers a phone call from an unknown major luxury brand following a rehearsal with Corbin, who asked for another plus-size model because “the clothes were too tight.” He replied: “If the sample is too tight, you are not making plus size clothes.” Clark-Perry will now not send a model to a casting or rehearsal with no assurance that the clothes are suitable.
These oversights remain pending. “The reason brands aren’t seeing much success in the plus size range is that they’re not marketing it in a way that’s ambitious or sexy,” says Corbin. What about the high-end luxury? “It’s a class thing. We associate class with being thin and that sort of thing. And this is the last market where we will see any movement. ‘ He says she struggled with depression and binge eating after childhood trauma and had terrible physical security until he started modeling. As a child he internalized a lot of criticism from the family (he says he is not currently in contact with them). ‘If anyone called me fat, I felt I deserved to be silenced. I was saying really bad things to myself. And I would avoid the mirrors. I would wear a lot of black. ‘ He just wanted to feel like, you know, attractive to other people, handsome. I was tired of the comments. Over time, it’s something I’ve had to unlearn. ‘
Now he can recognize its beauty. “I realized that what I do can change people’s lives,” Corbin says. “If people are able to walk into stores and see their size clothes on the shelves, it makes a big difference in how people see and accept themselves. Moving forward as a company, my image is meant to open it brings it to many young people to walk behind me once I am there. They will be able to see someone who looks like me, represented like that in full glory and confidence. ‘ There is, he says, a little way to go. ‘I’d say the door is cracked and it has to be kicked open. And that’s what we’re working on, kicking that door open.’