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 has achieved much over the last ten years. On that day, ten years ago, as he set about turning his designs and ideas for cooler clothes for bigger guys into reality, he only imagined a world in which he and other larger men could easily find cool clothes that fit well. But the fates had a 'bigger adventure' in plan for Bernie. Big Adventure may have started with clothes, but it has turned into more than just a clothing chain, more even than just a lifestyle destination with products of all sorts for the larger man; it has become a positive force in the struggle for 'fat acceptance' in America.
Big Adventure's unique, provocative, sexy, and appealing advertising has helped turn bigger and fatter men into sex symbols across the USA ... and beyond.
Taglines like "Once you'd had fat, you'll never go back," are now turning up in memes, movies, songs, ... and women's desires.
One measure of Big Adventure's success is that it has been blamed, by name, by the US Surgeon General for encouraging the expanding waistlines of American teen boys and young men, and by influencing women to desire such bigger men, thus contributing to the American 'obesity epidemic'. To which Bernie ripostes, "Cool! If you look at the 20th century, Americans have been doing two things: living longer, and getting fatter. I believe these two are linked."
Tracing the origins of this success requires us to reference one man in particular, one of Bernie's early hires; namely, the poise, presence, and clean-cut sex appeal of Bernie's first super-sized male model, Roger Craig. Roger's massive good looks and attractive, charismatic personality contributed mightily to helping launch Big Adventure out of the "niche retailer" zone into the big leagues of American retail fashion. Roger's modelling, one might say, was responsible for putting clothes for the bigger male squarely into the mainstream of the American fashion business.
Roger's own tale of change and growth - and success - closely parallels the growth and success of Big Adventure. Initially, Roger's growth was a private affair - he was getting bigger because he wanted to, because he enjoyed it - a matter of personal interest, though with the avid and fulfilling support of his wife, Cindy. Cindy's support went beyond the usual, however, as it was she noticed the want ad, and who encouraged her rapidly enlarging husband to try out for the advertised modelling position with Big Adventure - the local store that she had discovered catered to the clothing needs of growing gentlemen such as her husband. Roger dissembled at first - the catwalk was not his thing, he was sure - but Cindy would not give up. She was convinced he was a natural in front of the camera. So convinced, in fact, that she sent photos of her husband 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 look good in Big Adventure's fashions. Bernie called Cindy and offered her and Roger a special private fitting session. At that session/audition, Bernie brought up the idea of posing for a few photos to Roger, in return for free clothing. Roger, letting himself be convinced by both Cindy and Bernie, agreed to be come 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 Man's clothes, that he offered Roger a full-time job after only a couple of modelling sessions. The full time job did come with one condition though - but it was a very big one. Roger had to grow more, because, in Bernie's opinion, he wasn't big enough! Cindy, of course, agreed wholeheartedly.
Freed of responsibilities to his old job, and with Cindy's enthusiastic help, Roger immediately set about 'improving' his weight to the 800 pound level that Bernie had stipulated in the contract. Bernie was convinced that an 800 pound Roger would be ideal as their new promotional spokesman - a man of a size not just reflecting the reality of many fat guys, but a man of a size for guys to aspire to.
Roger's new role as Bernie's massive male supermodel - inspiration for fat guys to dress well, and eye candy for lovers of the larger man - required him to wear anything and everything in Big Adventure's expanding, upscale line of eye-catching, super stylish, yet rugged and challenging 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, in reality it's the girlfriends and wives who Bernie is marketing to, as they're the ones who buy clothes for their big boys.
So, for Roger's time in front of the camera, only the most photogenic of "Biggest Adventure" clothes would do:
- 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 massive guts and thighs
- heavy cotton rugby shirts in richly toned horizontal striping or colour blocking, that really emphasize the size of chests and shoulders, with canvas rugby shorts and chinos to match (all with stretch panels, of course)
- body-hugging athletic spandex shorts and jerseys in rich shades and dayglo colours,
- and rugged workwear, in 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 the leading sumo wrestlers. These 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 450 lbs, and who Cindy had noticed was copying the more radical of the fashions his uncle Roger modelled. 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, 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), 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