Men feeling self-conscious about the size of their breasts is nothing new—as members of the Seinfeld generation will recall, the episode in which Kramer invents “the Bro,” or the “Mansierre” to tame oversized “man boobs” first aired in 1995. Yet, according to the BBC, in recent years discomfort over what are colloquially known as “moobs,” is prompting increasing numbers of men to go under the knife. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the number of men who underwent breast reduction surgery in the U.K. increased from 323 in 2008 to 581 in 2009, a jump of 80%. Yet, instead of reflecting a surge in gynecomastia, the medical condition in which hormonal changes result in abnormal enlargement, swelling and discomfort in men’s breasts, experts suggest that the uptick in cosmetic surgeries is more likely a reflection of both obesity, and increased media scrutiny of “man boobs.” (Case and point, several gossip sites have entire photo galleries dedicated to male celebrities’ fleshy breasts.)
Of course, for some men, surgery may provide relief from what can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition. Yet, as plastic surgeon Rajiv Grover points out to the BBC, for many men, it’s not a hormonal imbalance, but simply being overweight, that is the root cause of bigger breasts. “Quite a few cases are caused by obesity, and we often say to men to look at their lifestyles before thinking about the scalpel,” Grover said.