IMG's first (and only) brawn model, however, has gotten off to an impressive start.
Connecticut native Zach Miko caused a veritable internet firestorm when he joined IMG.
"We're absolutely impressed with his first photos because they scream one word — hot!" gushed AOL. The 6-foot-6 stunner topped BuzzFeed’s list of "plus-size guys who are too hot to handle," and even landed his own profile in The New York Times. He quickly booked gigs with Keihl's skincare and Old Navy.
And according to Miko, business has only improved from there.
"Its been nuts!" Miko told Revelist recently. "...There definitely is [a demand] and I think it's growing." The model quickly listed off campaigns with Levi’s, Dockers, and regular work with a big-and-tall men’s catalogue.
"I haven't had to bartend in months!" he joked.
The women's plus-size market, meanwhile, has almost gone mainstream.
The plus-size female modeling industry exploded over the past two years, taking over everything from Vogue covers to "America’s Next Top Model." Famously curvy model Iskra Lawrence is the face of Aerie, and plus-size teen sensation Barbie Ferreira hosts her own YouTube show for Teen Vogue.
IMG hopped on the female "curve model" bandwagon early, representing stars like Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, and Tara Lynn. Graham alone has landed the covers of Vogue, Glamour, Elle, and the highly-coveted Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue. She even has a Barbie modeled after her.
This spring, IMG executives seemed excited to take male plus-size modeling in the same direction.
"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," Bart said.
So why hasn't the fashion industry been able to extend that conversation in the way it has for women?
Miko has some ideas:
For some reason this whole idea of celebrating your body type or being proud of who you are is not considered a masculine trait. Admitting that you are insecure about things, admitting that there are parts of you that you like, parts of you that you don't like, things you want to work on … It's almost like admitting any flaw is considered a sign of weakness.
But all that silence hides the fact that many men (between 20% and 40%, according to some studies) do feel unhappy about their bodies. And unsurprisingly, heavier men tend to feel worse about their bodies than those classified as "normal weight." One USA Today poll found that 63% of men always feel like they could lose weight, and 44% feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit.
A recent ad campaign, however, shows the tides may be shifting. It may not be a major modeling agency like IMG, but clothing retailer ASOS cast its latest campaign with male brawn models — and customers loved it. Miko told Revelist that this positive consumer feedback is crucial.
The future of plus-size male modeling, he said, "is up to our clients; it's up to the designers, it's up to the brands to decide if this is going forward — which means it's ultimately up to the customers."