Bruce Strugell, founder of Chubstr — a blogging site that helps big-bodied men of diverse backgrounds create, find and share their style — offers his insight about the modern body-positivity movement.
Body positivity — or at the very least neutrality — is integral to psychological well-being. Sadly, the body-positivity movement is not perfect.
BIPOC, bodies with disabilities and masculine folks are often left out of images and campaigns, leaving a massive gap in coverage of these identities in the movement.
Luckily, Chubstr is a safe space for all of these identities. The creator of Chubstr, Bruce Sturgell, is this week’s StyleCrush.
Tired of a lack of choice in his midwestern hometown, Sturgell took to the internet for images of people whose bodies looked like his own and for inspiration. In turn, he posted outfits that he was proud of from what little he could find in his size, sharing resources and calling out brands that fell short.
What Sturgell ended up finding quite a few big-bodied folks who were fed up with the same things and looking to create a safe community of support, visibility and solidarity. With that, Chubstr was born.
Name: Bruce Sturgell
Location: Portland, Oregon
Where can we find you on the web? @chubstr on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can find us on Tumblr, as well.
Wear Your Voice: How do you describe your style?
Bruce Sturgell: My style is pretty classic and toned down. I come from a blue-collar, working-class family, so a lot of the things I like tend to head in that direction. A lot of the things I wear are classic but might have some modern cuts and touches.
WYV: What inspired Chubstr?
BS: Frustration! Six years ago when I still lived in the Midwest, my small town had one mall, and that was basically where you went for clothes. I was at the line where, if I was lucky, I could maybe find one or two pieces of clothing that fit, but usually not. After repeatedly trying to shop for clothes that I wanted to wear that actually fit me, I left empty-handed and I decided I was fed up.
I went to Tumblr and started a blog to complain and call out brands that didn’t make clothes in extended sizes, or that hid them away online. I started sharing photos of looks I put together that I was proud of, and I shared tips and resources to help other people find what I was wearing in their own size.
A community of people started to grow around that, and I realized that there was more benefit to helping people than there was in simply complaining about the way the industry was, so Chubstr started from that. Our mission is to help men of size find, create and share their style with the world, and it feels like we’re helping some people accomplish that.
WYV: Who are your three top StyleCrushes?
BS: First, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. He makes style and swagger look effortless, and in my opinion, that’s what it’s all about. He’s a go-to for my personal style inspiration. As for my second, this isn’t one person, exactly, but I’m really into ’40s and ’50s workwear right now. Just durable, functional clothing that gets the job done.
I find that the older I get, I value simplicity when it comes to style, and I love how we’re seeing certain aspects of that era persist or come back around. Clothes for big guys can be more functional and form-fitting without being too tight, and that’s one of the reasons a lot of what I see from back then inspires me.
Lastly, I find a great deal of inspiration from Chubstr readers. We get a ton of reader photo submissions from people who put together such unique and interesting looks that run the spectrum from classic to high fashion. There’s this myth that fat guys don’t care about style and don’t know how to dress, and the people sending us their photos show me every day that this isn’t the case at all.
WYV: Where do you shop? What are your favorite brands or designers?
BS: I shop everywhere! One of the things I’ve learned as a fat guy is that if you want to create unique and diverse looks, you can’t shop at one place — they won’t have what you need. I might pick up some jeans from Zip Fit Denim, then get a shirt from Nordstrom, or go and check out what’s available in the masculine section of Fat Fancy here in Portland.
I think right now, it’s important to shop at different stores, test things out, and really search for the things you want. It’s out there somewhere. Then, I write about it for Chubstr! As far as favorites, I really like what JCRT is doing with their plaid shirts, I think the most comfortable underwear ever made come from Duluth Trading Company, and I’m a sucker for extended-width shoes from Allen Edmonds and boots from Wolverine.
WYV: What would your dream campaign be? While we would all love to see all brands be size-inclusive; who in particular do you wish would extend their sizes?
BS: It’s amazing that in the past year, we’ve started to see some focus on plus-size male models — I think it’s a great step in the right direction when introducing the mainstream to the idea that people can look great, no matter what size they are.
What I ultimately want to see is more in the models we’re seeing in fashion. I want to see different body types, ethnicities, abilities. I think the industry is very, very slowly starting to come around to the fact that people want to see themselves represented in the advertising, websites and publications that are trying to market to them. My hope is that this understanding translates into action. I would love to see a few fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara put a focus on extended sizes. People need affordable clothing that fits them, and that’s not easy to find.
WYV: How can the body positive movement be more inclusive to masculine folks?
BS: I think understanding and talking about the problems that masculine people experience when it comes to body acceptance is important. When I started Chubstr, there wasn’t anyone out there offering support to someone like me who felt alienated, not just because I couldn’t find clothing that fit, but because society has told me for most of my life that my size defines me as less worthy than someone smaller. Including masculine folks in the conversation, or in photo shoots and blog posts about plus size fashion, can only help.
WYV: Why is it important for there to be a separate niche for masculine body positivity?
BS: People identify with so many subcategories, niches and lifestyles, and masculine body-positivity is one of them. I started doing this because I wasn’t seeing anyone out there doing anything that I felt represented me, and since doing it, we’ve grown this community of people who feel like Chubstr is a safe space for them to ask questions, share photos and discuss the challenges of being a plus-size person who wants to express themself by wearing masculine clothing. Knowing you’re not alone out there makes such a difference.
WYV: What do you feel the main difference between media portrayal of big-bodied men and masculine folks is versus that of big bodied women and femmes?
BS: I think there are a lot of similarities in the way they’re both portrayed. You see a lot of funny fat people on TV, in films, magazines. There’s a specific role that we’ve traditionally fit into and that seems to be how you usually see bigger people represented: funny or evil. As a fat man and a father of two young children, I want to see more people of size featured in a positive light as role models.
WYV: Are there any other causes that are particularly important to you?
BS: Reading was always really important in my family, and my Grandmother was part of a literacy council in the small town I grew up in. I remember her tutoring lots of children over the years. I’ve done some tutoring in the past, and it’s something I want to start doing again in the near future.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
BS: I wear my voice by championing the amazing people out there who aren’t normally noticed because of their size. Teachers, activists, artists, entertainers, athletes — you don’t have to be a specific size to do phenomenal things and I think the world needs to know it.