This empowering photoshoot is making an important point about male body image

10 men have taken part in an empowering shoot to raise awareness about male body image [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]
10 men have taken part in an empowering shoot to raise awareness about male body image [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]

A body positive campaigner has staged a near nude photoshoot with ‘alternative’ models to challenge the increasing pressure men feel to have ‘perfect’ bodies and raise awareness about male body image.

Jane Bellis has worked in the fashion and beauty industry for 20 years and has grown steadily jaded by the constant drip feed of unobtainable images of perfection that people are expected to aspire to.

“I could see the damage being caused in society with regard to mental health, bullying, hate crime, low self esteem, anxiety, eating disorders etc from the lack of diversity within the industry,” she tells Yahoo Style UK.

“With that in mind I decided to set up the Alternative Fashion Fest (AFF), a ‘fashion show’ to reflect ‘real’ people and all of the amazingly different versions of ‘beautiful’. We have all shapes and sizes, gender identities, abilities, ethnicities etc any with varying mental health issues – all coming together in solidarity to put on a kick ass show with some serious social messages.”

The shoot aimed to highlight the increasing pressure men feel to conform to certain body standards [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]
The shoot aimed to highlight the increasing pressure men feel to conform to certain body standards [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]

Until now Jane’s battle to fight against stereotypical ideas of beauty has mainly focussed on women, but realising men are also suffering from body image issues, she decided to stage an all male shoot.

“We realised we had failed to acknowledge that low self-esteem, low self worth, negative body image and social anxiety aren’t just issues affecting women, but also the majority of men out there, but there is a significant lack of support for the fellas,” she explains.

“It’s just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie!”

Jane says that men are also presented with ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ images of six packs, bronzed 6ft gym bodied alpha males with ‘on trend’ hair styles and designer outfits.

“[Men] are collectively made to feel that they need to change and conform to these aspirational images in order to be accepted, respected and loved. That they are somehow inadequate just as they are,” she says.

So Jane put out a casting call for brave men to take part in a shoot similar to the body positive shoot AFF staged last year for women. And a group of men of different shapes and sizes travelled from all over the UK to get involved in the empowering shoot, which was photographed by Bri Mansy.

“These amazing guys put all of their own hang ups to one side and stripped down to their shorts in an act of solidarity to help all of the men out there who suffer in silence. Who feel that they are ‘too fat’, ‘too skinny’, ‘too hairy’, ‘too short’, ‘too tall’ or worst of all ‘not good enough’,” Jane continued.

The shoot was organised by body positive campaigner Jane Bellis [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]
The shoot was organised by body positive campaigner Jane Bellis [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]

Jane said the men involved seemed more nervous than female models she has used in previous shoots.

“Maybe because for men to admit these feelings of inadequacy is way less socially acceptable than it is for women, which makes the problem even worse,” she explained.

Speaking about his decision to take part in the shoot one of the models Nick Gregory explains how important it was to push aside his own body fears.

“I’m a guy who had to wear a tee shirt to go swimming in the sea. I never get my belly out,” he said. “Today is a game changer because the potential difference we may make is bigger than any hang ups I might have about my dad bod. We got this lads.”

John Bird has publicly talked on his vlogs about his self esteem issues and body hang ups as has Stephen Higginson with his sometimes crippling anxiety – yet both men were keen to take part to raise awareness about the issue.

The men's shoot followed a similar shoot organised for women last year [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]
The men’s shoot followed a similar shoot organised for women last year [Photo: Bri Mansy/Alternative Fashion Fest]

Jane says the shoot isn’t about body-shaming men whose natural shape and size is 6ft with a six-pack, but about showing that isn’t the only body shape out there.

“All body’s are beautiful. Why try to fit into a mould that society wants to force you into when you have your very own uniqueness to celebrate?”

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