Hairstyles Are Size-Inclusive So Where Are All The Plus-Size Faces?

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Before there were as many plus-size clothing brands available to shop on e-shelves as there are in 2023, we fat babes had very few options when it came to our aesthetic self-expression. There is only so much one can do when relegated to the ill-fitting boot-cut jean and occasionally rhinestoned tunic top section of the local department store.
Many of us turned to beauty as a way of experimenting with our looks instead. Through makeup and hairstyling, we found truth in the often-misused sentiment 'one size fits all' for the first time in our young lives. Whether browsing the shelves at Superdrug or sitting atop our best friend’s toilet as they helped us dollop on some Tumblr-pink hair dye, for many fat folks the exploration of makeup and hairstyling has long been the most accessible means of making a statement to the world around us. Where clothing brands have attempted to justify our invisibility within their realms with a simple "We just don’t make those sizes" or "Plus-size people don’t really want these kinds of clothes anyway," there have never been any comparable size restrictions applied to lipsticks or haircuts. 
Yet here we are, over a decade after most of us first heard terms like 'body positivity' and 'fat representation', and it remains nearly impossible for plus-sizers to find anyone who looks like us in the world of beauty. Particularly in the hairstyling realm, despite hairstyles being free of a size tag.
Scan the Instagram accounts of beauty brands like Fenty and Glossier and you’ll spot at least a few adorable double chins and cherubim cheeks peppered throughout the grids. I’ll never forget MAC’s MACnificent Me campaign from 2015 — possibly the first time I saw a fat face not unlike my own modelling makeup, in the form of the ethereal Luzmaria Vargas. Since then, we have seen Ashley Graham collaborate with Revlon and Tess Holliday team up with tanning brand Isle of Paradise. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.

Taking a moment to google this summer's It hairstyles in the hope of discovering how they might look on someone with a couple of cute chins or a plump visage feels utterly fruitless.

When asked about memorable plus-size inclusion in hair campaigns or marketing, however, most folks invested in the subject struggle to think of a single occasion. Most have trouble finding plus-size representation anywhere in the hair industry, for that matter, apart from via a select few Instagram accounts.
Dutch hairstylist Giny Wind of Kinki Kappers (a salon chain that prides itself on its creative team comprised of folks of all shapes and sizes, and celebrating clients of all shapes and sizes) wonders if the continuing exclusion of plus-size faces from hair comes from the simple fact that humans are, often detrimentally, creatures of habit. "People like to follow the big masses," Giny tells Refinery29, "and if you are used to only using skinny models, it is difficult to break the habit. It takes a strong individual to do something different than everybody else does."
Giny believes that salons and stylists can play their part in championing change by including "all types of clients, whether young or old, of all sizes, and all types of hair" in the imagery they put out into the world. She personally advises clients about styles and cuts based not on their body size or face shape but on what will be possible with their hair type. Rhetoric like "that won’t suit your face" has no place in the salon chair. 
In the absence of mainstream representation, illustrator and whimsical fashionista Janna Morton finds hair inspiration through following individual social media accounts online — but in an undoubtedly fatphobic culture, this isn’t foolproof. "Unfortunately, due to the lack of financial and algorithmic support online for fat folks and people of colour with similar bodies and hair texture to mine, my selection in that realm is pretty limited," she tells Refinery29. "This is wild considering how many fat people there are across the planet. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to look through a hairstyle magazine or my For You page and see a bunch of models who look sort of like me sporting styles I'd like to try. But I have to hope that we can one day make that world a reality."

Hair theoretically cannot — and does not — have a weight limit so there is absolutely no reason outside of fatphobia that plus-size models can't be used.

Stephanie Yeboah
Because she has never seen plus-size models in hair marketing or mainstream campaigns, author and digital creator Stephanie Yeboah similarly seeks out individual Instagram accounts for her hairstyling inspo — or she simply wings it. "In the event that I'm looking for new ideas for hairstyles, I either take the risk and decide to do the hairstyle anyway or I check Instagram and hope to see a user who has the same hairstyle I'm looking to get," she explains. 
Taking a moment to google or social media-search this summer’s It hairstyles in the hope of discovering how they might look on someone with a couple of cute chins or a plump visage feels utterly fruitless. From the box bob to the shag and ‘90s layers, image results yield the same angular faces and high cheekbones we’ve seen celebrated in magazines since we were old enough to pick our own haircuts. Where things begin to feel a little different is on the grids of vocally inclusive or alternative stylists, as Janna suggests.
Portland-based hairstylist Amelia Hart is a delightful human to follow, as both her Instagram and website portfolio celebrate clients of all sizes, many of whom are rocking currently in-vogue cuts like the bob. Scan queer stylist and barber Shrunkn Heads’ page and you’ll see much more size diversity than the hair marketing in the pages of a glossy mag or on the side of a bus. The same is true of Manchester-based House of Joy salon and London-based Hair by Ope.
Specific brand representation, on the other hand, is nearly impossible to come across, though there is the odd outlier. In 2022, celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons cast plus-size model Charlie Reynolds in a shampoo campaign for Boots in which she dazzled in bold makeup and glossy, voluminous waves. Directions Hair Colour, a brand beloved by many, plasters its grid with photos of real customers, many of whom are visibly plus-size. The same is true of Schwarzkopf LIVE's Instagram, the company’s funky hue division.
Although this is lovely to see, what is not so lovely is that this representation is the exception, not the rule. That it's predominantly found in the 'alternative' hairstyling genre feels significant as well. It’s the sort of thing that, while wonderful, might accidentally send the message to more mainstream, historically exclusionary companies that to be plus-size or visibly fat remains a wacky internet scene, rather than the lived experience of 67% of women in the UK who are a size 18 or above.
As Stephanie says, "Hair theoretically cannot — and does not — have a weight limit so there is absolutely no reason outside of fatphobia that plus-size models can't be used." Shifting the narrative via exposure (in this case, exposure to people of all sizes rocking incredible hairstyles) seems like the only chance to instigate lasting change.
"When it comes to fashion, beauty and most media in general, the object is often to present something more aspirational than realistic, so that people will be compelled to buy into it in hopes of making that aspiration their new reality," says Janna. She adds that seeing a fat body negates that messaging for most people as they are unaccustomed to the idea of fat people having aspirational lives. "The more people see imagery of fat people living beautiful, full lives, the easier it will be for them to accept body diversity in every medium," says Janna. "But this won't happen until agents, casting directors, marketers, algorithms and other gatekeepers open the gates — and their wallets — to fat talent."
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