The story of XLQ, THE fashion magazine for the Larger Man
|"XLQ", THE fashion mag for the larger man.|
Bernie Hughes was looking for a new outlet for his creative energies.
As owner of "Big Adventure", the most successful Big and Tall clothing chain in the USA, Bernie had achieved much over ten years, since hedeliberated started turning his designs and ideas for cooler clothes for bigger guys into reality. Back then, he could only imagine a world in which he and other big men could easily find cool clothes that fit well - where 'slim fit' would have its counterpart in 'wide fit'.
But changing markets, changing tastes, growing waistlines and even fate had a 'bigger adventure' in plan for Bernie. Big Adventure may have begun with clothes, but it has grown into much more than just a clothing chain. Big Adventure has widened into a lifestyle destination for the bigger man, and more - it's a positive force making fat guys loved and desired across America!
Big Adventure's provocative and appealing advertising has turned fat guys - the guys who need its 'Wide Fit' clothes - into sexy guys across the USA ... and beyond.
Taglines like "Once you'd had fat, you'll never go back," "more to love," "bigger is better," "huge 'n' sexy" - they're now turning up in memes, movies, songs, ... and in women's desires.
Big Adventure's 'coming of age', you might say, was when it was blamed, by name, by the US Surgeon General for encouraging the expanding waistlines of American teen boys and young men. This attempt at public shaming backfired - more women, and men, noticed Big Adventure, and were turned on by it's portrayal of bigger men - making big guys MORE desireable, not less!. With more women looking for fat guys, it's no wonder America has an 'obesity epidemic'.
Bernie, ever the opportunist, summed up this inadvertent promotion of his business by noting, "If you look at the early 21st century, American guys have been doing two things: living longer, and getting fatter. I believe these two facts are linked."
The early origins of Big Adventure's success can be traced to one decision in particular: Bernie's decision to hire his first full-time model, the poised, clean-cut Roger Craig, whose sex appeal began with his hefty charm, and came to transcend his growing, super-sized frame. Roger's massive good looks and 'boy next door' personality contributed heavily to Big Adventure vaulting out of the "niche retailer" zone into the big leagues of American retail fashion. Roger's success as a model was a major element in putting clothes for the bigger male squarely into the mainstream of the American fashion business. Even fashion folks who claimed to 'hate fat people' were susceptible to Roger's substantial charms.
Roger's own tale of change and success through growth led the growth and success of Big Adventure. At first, Roger's growth was his private goal - he was getting bigger because he wanted to, and because he and his wife Cindy enjoyed it. Her support went beyond the usual, however - she loved her steadily growing, sexy husband, and it was she who the employment ad, and who encouraged her expanding husband to try out for the advertised modelling position with Big Adventure. Cindy had discovered Big Adventure - then just one local store - when she was searching for stylish clothes for her growing Roger, whose burgeoning bulk had started to exceed the sizes carried in her favourite local department store.
When Cindy first suggested modelling to Roger, he dissembled - prancing on the catwalk was not his thing, he told Cindy - but Cindy would not give up. She was convinced he was a natural in front of the camera - she loved photographing him! So she sent some of her own photos of her Bernie in Big Adventure clothes to the store - and they ended up on Bernie's desk, as president. Bernie was quite taken by this wife so confident in her husband - and by the husband, who clearly looked good in Big Adventure's fashions. Bernie called Cindy and asked her to bring Roger in. When Cindy explained that Roger refused to consider the idea, Bernie suggested she bring him for a "special private fitting session". At that session/audition, together with clothes fitting, Bernie had served snacks and beer, so that by the time he suggested to Roger that he pose for a few photos, in return for free clothing, Roger was in a receptive mood. A few weeks later, at a second 'private fitting session,' Roger let himself be convinced by both Cindy and Bernie (and the beer?) to sign on as a model for Big Adventure.
Bernie was thrilled.
So was Cindy.
Bernie thought Roger was a natural - in fact, Bernie though that Roger had such an abundance of natural charisma and talent for modelling Big Adventure's larger fashions, that he offered Roger a full-time job after only a couple of modelling sessions. The offer did come with one condition though - a condition Bernie had cleared with Cindy in advance. Roger had to 'improve his weight' - he had to grow even bigger! Bernie's sales charts showed that the fastest growth area in Big Adventure's sales was to men substantially bigger than Roger's current size, and Bernie believed that if his potential customers could see Big Adventure's clothes on a model who more closely resembled them, sales would grow even faster. Cindy, who had enthusiastically encouraged and supported Roger's expansion to his current size, was thrilled that Roger had agreed to this condition,and was determined to help him accomplish this aim!
Freed of the travel and responsibilities of his old job, and with Cindy's enthusiastic help, Roger immediately set about attaining the size Bernie had stipulated in the contract - an 'improvement' in his weight all the way to 700 pounds - a level that Bernie was convinced that Roger could handle, and that would make Roger an ideal promotional spokesman - a man of a size that didn't just reflect the reality of many fat guys, but could serve as an aspiration to many men of smaller girth. Roger could be the man that smaller fat guys aspired to be!
Roger's new role as Bernie's massive male supermodel - as inspiration for fat guys to dress well, and as eye candy for lovers of larger men - required him to wear anything and everything in Big Adventure's expanding, upscale line of eye-catching, super stylish, yet rugged clothes for the sporty bigger man, the "Biggest Adventure" line.
Bernie consistently chose to feature Roger wearing the brightest colours and boldest patterns in Biggest Adventure's line in his advertising - ostensibly to show other fat guys that they didn't need to hide their gorgeous, lovable bulk under dark colours and baggy clothes. Of course, as with Roger's relationship with Cindy, it's not the fat guys the clothes need to appeal to, but the girlfriends and wives who in reality influence and buy most of the clothes for their 'big boys'.
Given all that, for Roger's time in front of the camera, only the most photogenic of "Biggest Adventure" clothes would do, including:
- the latest addition to the line, a suggestion of Cindy's - brilliant jewel tone tees, football jerseys, and sport shirts in body-skimming cuts
- pants and shorts in spandex-enhanced stretch fabrics that ride closely over (and under) massive guts and cloak tree-trunk thighs
- heavy cotton rugby shirts in richly toned horizontal striping or colour blocking, in cuts and sizess that really emphasize the bulk of chests and shoulders. Naturally, these are paired with bright canvas rugby shorts and chinos to match (the heavy fabric made easier to wear by coordinating and contrasting stretch panels, of course)
- body-hugging athletic spandex pants, shorts, shirts, and jerseys in rich shades and dayglo colours - like UnderArmour for the massive (though of course not labelled that way!),
- and rugged workwear, including vests and jackets, work shirts and pants, carpenter's pants and coveralls and even overalls, in bright colours and vast sizes for comfort and practicality.
Big Adventure scored its attention-getting initial successes with clothing lines aimed at America's hot fat young guys - beefy football players, massive powerlifters, heavyweight wrestlers, amateur sumos, potbellied ex-college jocks, and radical gainers - and more importantly with the growing numbers of fat teens and even fatter twenty-somethings who wanted to look like their beefy football heroes or their favourite sumo wrestlers. These later, the fat poseur types, and their girlfriends, flocked to Big Adventure's most radical lines.
Bernie soon backed up his choice of Roger as top model by hiring a stable of young SSBHM supermodels, including Coleman, a young cousin of Cindy, who at just 15 years old was already an awe-inspiring 400 pounds, and who Cindy had noticed was copying the more radical of the fashions his uncle Roger modeled.
With Coleman on board, flaunting his youth and phenomenal size in ads for Big Adventure's new "Teen Hero" line for ample teenage boys, Bernie saw total sales shoot upwards. This business growth enormously increased the value of the Big Adventure stock options Bernie had given Roger.
Then, on top of the clothing line expansions and new stores Big Adventure was opening, Bernie decided to further reinforce the success of Big Adventure by filling another unfilled need, a men's fashion magazine featuring the larger styles and fashions that were making Big Adventure famous, by launching XLQ, XtraLarge Quarterly, "THE fashion mag for the larger man".
Initially, XLQ was a house organ, intended to be given away to regular customers - a beautifully laid out dream catalog/promotion piece, but with a few additional articles, columnists, and op-ed pieces to round it out. The first issue came out with a front cover featuring Roger in "Indiana Jones" style, boots, sturdy cargo shorts, open-necked rugged canvas shirt, fedora and binoculars, while the back cover featured Coleman, in searing neon yellow striped spandex muscle top and electric blue shorts, body and gut seemingly suspended in the air, lunging to spike a volleyball.
Nearly as soon as the first issue appeared, however, requests began to come in for subscriptions. Many came from women wanting subscriptions for their bigger husbands/boyfriends/sons, and requests also arrived from gay men wanting subscriptions for their BHM partners. While Bernie had expected his catalog to be popular, this assumption that XLQ was a magazine and offered subscriptions caught him off-guard. He sat down with the crew of employees and friends who'd helped create XLQ, to see if they were prepared to greatly expand their publishing goals, by moving beyond being a house organ. Of course, they were, so Bernie hired an editor - another big guy - and XLQ is now bi-monthly - and growing.
XLQ has its detractors, of course, who refer to it as FQ - Fatso Quarterly. But, frankly, who cares what Richard Simmons, Paris Hilton or the US Surgeon-General think? Certainly not the women and men who read XLQ! Its mix of fashion-forward pieces, fat-positivism, sports reporting (on sports for the larger male, natch), news items on bigger guys and even male-focused recipes gives it a unique flair. Advertisers have been flocking to it.
Caution: this item is a work in progress