For years, the world bemoaned the lack of plus-sized women in the modeling industry and fashion world. Women and girls of all backgrounds and ages wanted to see a representation that looked more like themselves. After all, if they were expected to shell out endless dollars for certain fashions, beauty items, and skincare, it was only right that the products be peddled by models with realistic bodies, rather than unhealthy figures that are largely unattainable. The fight still isn’t over, but the women’s plus sized modeling niche has done exceedingly well since its inception. It’s bolstered by women and men alike who want to see body positive and inclusive images in fashion, but many people have long asked one question: when will it be men’s turn?
Just as average and larger sized women felt they weren’t being well represented in fashion and media, men who aren’t blessed to have ripped arms, tall frames, and rock hard abs have been feeling left out as well. Indeed they are — there are very few men in movies, television, or advertisements that aren’t tall, conventionally attractive, and on the thin side. The other extreme often seen in the media is men who are very athletic with bodies to match. On high profile fashion runways men with an average build are unheard of, and it’s abundantly clear that the fashion industry isn’t inclusive of “normal” male bodies any more than it is of females bodies that aren’t a size 0. Sure, there have been memes and media showcasing so-called dad bods, and there are a handful of actors and well-known figures with a bit of bulk. However, if the average man looks at any given media image, chances are he will not see a physique that resembles his own.
For decades, companies and fashion houses have said that no one wants to see average looking men — this is the same thing that was said about female models. The public very clearly disagrees, as advertisements that feature male models who look more like the average guy attract more interest from men and women alike. Something’s got to give, and the masses aren’t buying the excuses any longer. Now, the plus sized male modeling industry has been created and is gaining steam. To say that the change is way past due is an understatement.
The plus sized male model is much like the female plus sized model: taller than average, but with a physique that’s not completely unattainable. One of the most prominent male models around is Zach Miko, who became the first ever larger sized man to model for Target. He’s set the standard for what a plus sized male model should be, and it’s good to note that it’s not a standard that’s far from what most average men look like. Zach Miko is tall to be sure — he stands 6 feet 6 inches tall — but he has rugged, guy next door looks. He also has a 40 inch waist, a beard that’s not finely manicured, and by no means are his abs rock solid.
Zach Miko looks very much like millions of husbands, boyfriends, pals, brothers, and sons in America, which is why the media and the public at large are going crazy over him. It’s because of people’s demand for more plus sized male representatives in fashion and the media that IMG Models has launched a Brawny division just for plus sized male models. The agency made plus sized females part of its roster in 2014.
While many in the US are celebrating this groundbreaking change, other parts of the world have long used male models who don’t fit the high fashion mold. Germany has many fashion agencies that have male models with large frames, which in that country is defined as being larger than a UK size 42. From a business standpoint, employing larger male models in their agencies just makes sense — if you want to sell a product to a particular audience, showing it off on someone who looks like most of the people in that audience is highly effective. Many men definitely aren’t enticed to buy products that don’t represent them.
In this country, larger men have less than 1,000 retailers that carry products and clothing in their sizes. Sales to plus sized men only generate about $1 billion in annual sales. By contrast, plus sized women have more than 6,000 stores where they can find suitable sizes and that industry generates $9 billion per year. The US has to play catch up to European retailers, and shorter men are still being left out of the equation, but it is a start.
Another name making his way into this burgeoning niche is Josh Ostrovsky, who has given himself the moniker “The Fat Jew”. He represents what’s edgy, modern, and weird in the best way, and many guys have expressed how thankful they are that there’s someone representing men who are unconventional and larger. It’s not just retail sales at stake, but the self esteem of men and boys as well. Just as it pounded on women’s views of themselves to only see stick thin models, men feel no better when all they see are bodies that they can only hope to attain by starving themselves, getting surgery, or taking dangerous steroids. These new male models are opening up important conversations and letting average men know that there’s nothing at all wrong with not looking a certain way.
Though plus sized male modeling is very new in the US, the buzz surrounding it has been huge and chatter has already come about involving the market’s name. Instead of calling it “plus sized” male modeling, many guys prefer the name “brawny”. Given how much more manly and rugged the latter sounds, it’s easy to see why. This is quite similar to how plus sized women championed the adoption of the term “curvy” to describe their market. It won’t be long before we’re all talking about the latest campaigns featuring the most popular “brawny” male models of the day, but for now, it’s just good to see the fashion industry changing and embracing a wider range of bodies.