Representation in the fashion industry is expanding in unforeseen ways. Last week, IMG—an international modeling agency home to prestigious models including Hailey Baldwin and the Hadid sisters—announced its launch of a plus-size men division called Brawn. The impact of this new division may in fact transcend the world of fashion.
IMG revealed Zach Miko as the first model to be signed to the division. The 26 year-old, who was also Target’s first and only plus-size model, stands tall and strong at 6’6” with a 42” waist. While his stats are considered plus-size in the fashion industry, visually Miko has the build of many normal men walking the streets. This is precisely why Miko feels he can serve as an inspiration to men just as Ashley Graham and Tess Holiday serve as inspirations to women.
In a recent interview with Vogue, Miko expressed his hopes for IMG’s new division.
“I want Brawn to relate to every man who wants to feel good about their self-esteem and self-image,” Miko said. “I want people to look at Brawn and say, “I can do that.””
Historically, plus-size models have been predominantly female, so any discussion about plus-size women in the fashion industry is inherently centered around women’s body image issues. With the launch of Brawn, men have gained the opportunity to join the conversation about body image and body positivity.
In the era of swimsuit models on Instagram, people are becoming increasingly concerned about their bodies, as posts are constant reminders of society’s definition of “beautiful.” The way we perceive our bodies is heavily molded by what we see and what people tell us, which both men and women experience.
CAS sophomore Elena Hatib agrees men and women share similar habits of measuring their appearance to others.
“A lot of men see the models and they want this perfect six-pack, or they see the athletes and they want all those muscles.” Hatib said. “A lot turn to methods in which they can gain that body just like women do. Body issues and body disorders are both suffered through for men and women, just differently.”
Miko, who revealed his personal struggles with body-image issues growing up, says he understands the damaging effects of hating one’s body and feeling different for the wrong reasons firsthand. He believes greater representation can change that.
“Being represented means that people care, it means the industry cares, it means people want you to feel good about who you are,” Miko told Vogue. “When men have self-esteem issues, it can lead to insecurity and depression, which can manifest itself as bullying, or imposing unrealistic standards which men then project onto women, objectifying them and keeping this disgusting cycle continuing forever.”
The fashion industry’s inclusion of variety in body-shape has been long overdue. Brawn is another step towards appreciating and accepting that people are built differently, and this difference is beautiful.
Medardo Perez is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.