Meet the bro clothing brand that unofficially started the dadbod craze

By now, you probably know all about “dad bod“: how men with soft, round bellies and thick arms are just as desirable as a bro with a six-pack. This “new trend” has set the internet aflame, spawning countless memes and thinkpieces. But in truth, the dad bod has been a thing for some time now. It just hasn’t had a catchy name. 

Go to the Instagram account for Chubbies mens shorts, for instance, and you’ll find various representations of the male form. The most popular of these forms is a physique that has recently become known as dad bod. 

Paint me like one of your French girls, Jack @seanmcelwrath

A photo posted by Chubbies (@chubbies) on

So what is dad bod? In a post on the college website The Odyssey, Clemson University student Mackenzie Pearson writes that a dad bod is a body that says “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.” She clarifies further: “It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”

The guys at Chubbies have been all about promoting the dad bod since they got into the flashy, patriotic shorts business back in 2011. And with more than one million Facebook fans, 142,000 Instagram followers and 102,000 Twitter followers, they have a massive platform for popularizing the once-frowned-upon body type. 

“We didn’t formalize the term,” Tom Montgomery, one of the co-founders of Chubbies, told the Daily Dot via phone. “It’s a concept we’re behind in general. Not necessarily unhealthiness, but just being confident in the way you are.”

Bladz for Dayz @thejonosborne

A photo posted by Chubbies (@chubbies) on

It’s not a surprise that the company is a fan of the dad bod, which has its roots at least in part in fraternity culture. One of Chubbies’ primary marketing tools is having brand ambassadors on college campuses across the country to spread the gospel of baring one’s thighs and gut—whether you’re toned or not. 

Montgomery says Chubbies’ ethos has always implicitly embraced the dad bod physique. But although Pearson’s post implies that dad bod is all about female acceptance of these men’s bodies, Montgomery says dad bod is actually all about how it makes guys feel.

“It’s something we’ve been doing for four years since the beginning of the company,” Montgomery said. “We don’t hire models. And if we do, we’re not selling a guy’s abs. We particularly don’t want to push that.”

Instead, they feature real dudes of a variety of shapes and sizes, which he says amounts to a “slight debunking in the traditional concept of what you need to take off your shirt.” It’s kind of like a male, frattier version of the Dove Real Beauty campaign for women. 

I’ll be out on the lawn spreading American pride throughout the land. If you need me, beep me.

A photo posted by Chubbies (@chubbies) on

This empowering take on dad bod is in stark contrast to the Daily Dot’s EJ Dickson’s assertion that the trend has wildly sexist undertones. 

“There’s no female equivalent to dadbod, because no matter how many MILF porn searches we do or Lane Bryant ad campaigns we share or tweets cheering on Kelly Clarkson for defending her post-baby body we favorite, no one actually finds mombod sexy,” Dickson writes. “In fact, judging by our reactions on social media, we find mombod pretty gross.”

Of course, the celebration of dad bods and the disdain for mombods are not mutually exclusive. Men suffer from low self-esteem and body image issues, just as women do. But even Montgomery admitted that he was hard-pressed to find a female-focused company carrying a similar message.

“Women have a tougher go,” he said. “Body issues are definitely tougher for women.”

Ultimately, Montgomery and his co-founders are in the menswear business. And while they hope there can be some equality between the sexes, there’s no stopping them from showing off their calves and praying at the altar of Will Ferrell, the patron saint of dad bod.

Photo via Chubbies/Instagram

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.