Frustrated by lack of choices and representation, Bruce Sturgell created Chubstr to chronicle his awesome men’s plus-size looks and where to find them. In doing so, he became a voice for others who were struggling to see men with bodies reflective of their own, creating a map of accessible fashion for all.
Today, Chubstr highlights other stylish plus-size men and continues to shine a light on brands creating accessible clothing for bigger bodies with masculine tastes. In addition to articles, Chubstr.com also features an online shop offering a curated selection of men’s clothing, accessories and products for plus size people with sizes from XL and up.
Since the start of Chubstr, Bruce has now been featured by outlets like the New York Times, Esquire, USA Today, LA Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Refinery29, Mic, and more. He’s become a hero and key representative for our chubby community.
Let’s get to know Bruce Sturgell!
A Leading Voice in Plus Size Men’s Fashion & Founder of Chubstr: Bruce Sturgell
Chubby Diaries: Where are you based?
Bruce: Portland, Oregon.
Chubby Diaries: Can you describe the moment you first became interested in fashion and the Big and Tall Fashion community?
Bruce: The idea for Chubstr started back in 2007 or 2008, after many years working a corporate job with a dress code. I realized that the khaki and polo combination wasn’t doing it for me anymore, and I wanted to wear clothes that felt more like “me.” For years, I tried to find things I actually wanted to wear in my size, but there just wasn’t anything on the market. In 2010, all that changed.
I lived in a small town where the options were the mall or the big & tall store. More often than not, I would leave the mall empty-handed after a negative experience. When I went to the big & tall shops, I realized that they were making clothes for my Dad, not for me. It was frustrating, and I wanted to try to do something about it. I decided to create a Tumblr blog to talk about the lack of stylish options that actually fit big guys, and to share tips and resources. People started to see it, share the posts, and even ask for advice!
Back then, nobody was writing about big & tall fashion on a regular basis. I realized there was something important here that was needed, and in March of 2011, I launched Chubstr with a mission to help big & tall guys find clothes they loved in the sizes they needed.
Chubby Diaries: How do people break into this industry?
Bruce: It takes a lot of work. Find an aspect of this that appeals to you – fashion, body image, the political aspects of being a bigger person in today’s society and talk about it. Write articles, comment on relevant social posts – find your place in the community. Focus on what you can contribute, how you can help, and what you bring to the table. I’ve been doing it for over a decade, and it’s A LOT of work.
Chubby Diaries: What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while working in the fashion and blogging industries?
Bruce: I’ve learned that if you want to see change, you have to find ways to make it happen yourself. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen companies go from offering no extended sizes to launching dedicated big & tall clothing lines with clothes that actually fit. I’ve seen plus size male representation go from just showing big guys as the butt of the joke to making them heroes in film or on TV, to making them actual models. I’ve learned that change can happen if you push for it and show why it’s needed.
Chubby Diaries: What advice do you wish you could tell your beginner entrepreneur self?
Bruce: I would tell my earlier self to create a more structured schedule, and to be less afraid to build out a team. Don’t be afraid to get help, especially when the thing you’re building really begins to grow.
Chubby Diaries: How does your audience impact you and your work? What do you hope they get from Chubstr?
Bruce: When I started Chubstr, I was really doing it for myself and based on my own experiences. I quickly realized that there are so many people out there with similar, yet unique experiences of their own. Readers share their stories with us every day, and they run the spectrum. I’ve also met amazing people doing amazing things who just happen to be fat. The Chubstr audience made me realize that I’m not alone and that this whole thing I started 10 years ago means something to people.
Chubby Diaries: How does social media play a role in your work? Do you like it?
Bruce: Social media is a great way to build community and bring people together. Chubstr started out on Tumblr before moving to Chubstr.com, which is the hub for everything we do. Social media is still important for us, and a great way to stay directly connected to our audience.
Chubby Diaries: What’s one thing you wish the greater fashion industry understood about plus size fashion?
Bruce: I wish more designers and companies in the fashion space understood that plus size people can be aspirational. That they want options in their size, they want to see models who look like them, and that when they do, they feel better about themselves and buy the products that are being made for them.
Chubby Diaries: Favorite plus size friendly fashion tip?
Bruce: Know your measurements! I mean, go to a professional, get measured, and keep your measurements on you. That way, if you’re buying something online, you can match your sizes to a website’s fit guide and have a much better chance of getting something that fits.
Chubby Diaries: Top 3 must pack items?
Bruce: My top 3 must pack items are:
- A good hoodie, for two reasons: It rains most of the year here in Portland, and because I run a little hot, so a coat is usually too much for me, but a hoodie works for the places I generally travel to.
- Chinos from Bonobos – they’re becoming more difficult to find in stores, but man, they fit like a glove. I have multiple pairs in different colors that are my go-to pants. They look great and are super comfortable and work just about anywhere I go.
- My Airpods Max – they are amazing for listening to music on flights and phenomenal for those times I just need to tune out the world and focus on work. They aren’t the easiest to travel with, but those headphones are almost as vital to me as my laptop.
Chubby Diaries: What is one of your favorite Chubstr memories or moments?
Bruce: Because of Chubstr I’ve done so many things I never thought I’d get to do. I modeled on a beach in Anguilla, I’ve written essays for books about life as a plus size person. I even got to hang out with Shaquille O’Neal! Those things are all great, but actually meeting people who get something out of the articles and videos on Chubstr is the most meaningful. Helping someone feel better about themselves and know that they are worthy is the reason I keep doing this work.
Chubby Diaries: What is your proudest moment of this year?
Bruce: We celebrated our 10th anniversary back in March, which is a huge milestone. In some ways, it feels like it flew by. In others, it definitely feels like it’s been a long 10 years.
Chubby Diaries: What’s in store for Chubstr in 2022?
Bruce: The pandemic put a lot of our bigger plans on hold, but in 2022, we’re getting back to it! We’re launching two new video series, expanding the Chubstr shop with more of the clothes and products that customers are looking for, and we might just be coming to a city near you. More on that early next year!