IMG Models, one of the largest modeling agencies in the world, has just launched a plus-sized division for male models.
The division is called Brawn, pushing aside “big and tall” and “husky” as the preferred marketing term for the gentleman of larger stature. The first model signed is 6-foot, 6-inch Zach Miko.
“The body positive messaging and size diversity is something that’s relevant and something that continues to be on everybody’s mind. We have to extend the conversation for men,” IMG president Ivan Bart told WWD. “I want every man in America to say, ‘I can do that’ when they see Zach.”
Women’s wear has long overshadowed men’s fashion in terms of media coverage, advertising, and visibility. As a result, opportunities for male models of diverse body types have lagged behind their female counterparts. Top international agencies like IMG and Ford Models have had divisions for plus-size female models for several years now. A few boutique modeling agencies cater specifically to fuller-figured female talent.
This attention has resulted in high-profile bookings. IMG model Ashley Graham became the first plus-sized model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in February.
Brawn is a step in the right direction. Unrealistic representations in the media result in body anxiety for men as well as women. More representation of models who look like the world around them in terms of size (or race, or disability, or any other element the media has held to a strict template) can only be a good thing.
But while the fashion world may be narrow-minded in its embrace of diverse body types, men with less-than-airbrushed figures still enjoy a leeway in popular culture that is not yet available to women.
Hollywood routinely pairs perfectly average-looking men (see Rogen, Seth; James, Kevin; Vaughn, Vince) with actresses who look like, well, movie stars. Men’s fashion retailers like Chubbies can celebrate their customers’ proportions in ad campaigns with a sense of humor.
Even “dad bod,” the Internet term invented last year to describe the shape the human male body takes as a result of the natural aging processes, has an affectionate ring to it that, say “Mom jeans” does not. Dad bod inspired a lot of think pieces about how dad bod is its own type of beauty, whose softness belies time and attention devoted to family, work, and other priorities apart from the quest for perfect abs.
Women are not eligible for such acceptance at this time, but are left with a narrow spectrum of socially-approved body types to choose from: Beyonce, 26-year-old childless yoga instructor, old Barbie.
“I don’t give a shit if I ever have ripped abs and look like an Abercrombie and Fitch model,” Miko told Mic last year after appearing in a Target ad campaign.
His signing with IMG is a great step for men. The freedom to not give a shit about abs would be a great step for women.