It's a pretty good time to be a model. (Well, a white model, but that’s another story.) There's slightly more size inclusivity on runways and in campaigns, and a heightened focus on ensuring that models are healthy. But progress has basically been confined to women on the catwalk. Until now: Yesterday, major agency IMG Models added a plus-size male division to its repertoire. Or, in IMG president Ivan Bart's words, “brawn.”
Starting with Zach Miko, the first model signed to IMG's Brawn board, the agency hopes the new division will extend the conversation about body positivity to male as well as female models. “This is a call to all brands to offer the next generation options at any size," Bart told Refinery29. "Everyone feels good in an outfit that flatters them. It's that simple."
Coming in at 6-foot-6, with a 40-inch waist, Miko is a tall glass of water. In fact, he’s so tall, we wonder what designers are going to dress him in, exactly, considering the average male model height is about 5-foot-11. Miko's first big break was a Target campaign, for which the samples that arrived to set were all mediums; Miko's actually an XL to XXL, according to People. (Perhaps a campaign for size-inclusive men's line Chubbies is in Miko's future.)
A bit on the first Brawn model's background: "Miko graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is a member of the T. Schreiber Studio. On television, Miko has appeared in guest-starring roles on CBS’ Limitless and NBC’s Shades of Blue. He is also one half of the acclaimed musical comedy duo The Dreamstalks," according to an IMG rep.
IMG is debuting this new division at an opportune moment in the fashion industry, when being different pays. Like Hollywood, the male modeling industry has been filled pretty exclusively with six-pack abs and 30-inch waistlines since the 1950s. Back then, Marlon Brando didn’t have a washboard stomach in A Streetcar Named Desire when he stripped down in front of Vivien Leigh because his “shirt was uncomfortable." The scene is an iconic example of masculinity and brawniness, and evidence that a couple decades ago, body ideals weren't so unattainable. “Be comfortable. That’s my motto where I come from,” Brando says in the film. The launch of a plus-size male modeling division now perhaps signifies a return to more realistic physiques being in fashion.
For the past few years, the industry has gotten better at embracing different body types. We’re talking short, wide, curvy, busty...basically, anything that hadn't traditionally been widely seen and accepted.
"The success of our Curve business for women was an indicator that this cannot be a one-sided conversation," Bart told Refinery29. "In an ideal world, fashionable clothing should be an option in all sizes. We want people to feel good about themselves no matter their size."
In terms of diversity, the agency reps Ashley Graham (who recently brought life back to newsstands with her history-making Sports Illustrated cover), Precious Lee (a Lane Bryant face), and Jillian Mercado (a model with muscular dystrophy).
IMG's hope is that fashion labels will adapt accordingly. "Someone smart once told me that a great white button down, great fitting jeans, a strong blue blazer, designer belt, and a killer pair of shoes can change your mood and take you from day to night," Bart explained. "It seems like an easy ask, but men need the guidance and the options. We need suits that look good on us no matter our size, and casual wear that transitions easily."
And that tells us this is bigger than the dad bod craze, because really, it’s not a trend or a craze at all. It’s another step in the right direction for the body positivity movement. And for men suffering from the pressure of the riddling Adonis Complex, rest assured, things are looking up.