Men’s underwear brand, Box & Scandal has launched a UK campaign to fight against unrealistic male body image representations and its toxic effect on men’s mental health.
This has rightly become a powerful issue for women, but the dangerous impact mainstream depictions of perfect male bodies has had on men was rarely discussed until Bodyguard actor, Richard Madden came forward last week, to insist it also happens to men. He explained that he has had fat rolls pinched; been forced to wear restrictive costumes and is concerned about the impact he will have on other men, by portraying a standard of beauty that he himself admits is almost impossible to achieve.
Box & Scandal has promised never to use ’traditional’ models amid a growing crisis for men’s mental health in the UK – something owner, Rob Nicholson, feels is due in part to the advertising, media and entertainment industries’ unrealistic portrayal of men’s appearances.
He explains: ‘There has been a backlash against emaciated female fashion models and the “body shaming” of women. But for men, there has been near silence on the same issue.
‘Men account for nearly three quarters of all suicides in the UK and 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem, and that’s only those who have spoken about their problems. For many years, we have accepted that women’s self-worth is affected by their portrayal in fashion, advertising and the media, so why are we not having the same conversations about men?
‘We decided at the outset of Box & Scandal that our underwear wasn’t just made for men with six-packs, so why only show it on men who spend all day in the gym?
‘Advertising isn’t just a reflection of trends, it can also shape them. Men and women compare themselves to these – often ruthlessly manipulated – images of “flawless bodies” that don’t exist. And failure to live up to them is unavoidable, because they are based on a level of perfection that is impossible.’
In a survey of 1,005 boys aged eight to 18, the Advertising Association found that 53% of participants said traditional advertising created pressure to look good. Most of the boys had a low awareness of the image alteration of men’s pictures in marketing.
Combined with the common belief they had that body-image issues are more likely to affect girls, this meant parents and teachers tended to be slower in recognising problems in boys, potentially affecting the level of support available to them.
Box & Scandal launches in May with a campaign featuring a wide variety of body shapes and ethnicities and Rob hopes other companies will follow suit.
He added: ‘Box & Scandal has a very tongue-in-cheek aesthetic and our campaign follows that. But even though the images are intended to be fun, the message behind them is very serious. This isn’t James Corden pretending to be David Beckham for a laugh – it’s normal men with normal bodies, wearing excellent pants.’
The brand will be working on a series of high-profile campaigns throughout the year, campaigning for positive male body image representations in mainstream media.