Zach Miko

Courtesy: Zach Miko

In one of the most recent public efforts to accommodate the male plus-size community, Target has embraced Zach Miko, the website's first plus-size male model. 

Standing over 6 feet tall with a full beard, it's hard not to notice the 26-year-old blue-eyed hunk, especially when his photo is surrounded by a sea of straight-sized models in a "big & tall" section.

"I never understood why looking at big and tall clothing, they show me these Abercrombie & Fitch-style, really cut, really fit guys," Miko said in an interview with People. "These guys aren't buying XXL tall T-shirts, these guys aren't buying 42-inch pants, but they're the guys you see modeling it."

This situation has been a decades-long problem with men and women's retailers, which have consistently promoted larger sizes with smaller models. Fortunately, plus-size models have been far more embraced in recent years, particularly due to the efforts of body positive pioneers like Ashley Grahamwho recently helped women's retailer Lane Bryant launch the #ImNoAngel campaign to redefine what kind of body is considered sexy. 

"With everything that's been going on with women's fashion and body inclusivity and self-image, it's interesting that male brands have [just started] stepping up to do the same thing," Miko said. "It's fun to be on the precipice of that."

Zach Miko, Target

Target

Miko is certainly forging an unchartered path for body acceptance within the male plus-size community, a particularly difficult feat because of deeply-engrained social expectations of masculinity. 

"I've struggled with self-esteem and self-image issues my entire life," he admitted to the magazine. "Being an attractive person was never something I thought of myself. I think as a man, you don't want to ever admit you have body image issues because it's not considered masculine or macho, but everyone struggles with it." 

Miko harbored his own body insecurities by avoiding clothing stores altogether. 

"I didn't shop. I wore the same clothes for over a decade at a time until they basically fell off of me. Shopping for clothing was terrifying and embarrassing," Miko told The Huffington Post. "You get a sick feeling walking into the 'trendy' stores knowing for a fact that there is nothing to fit you. So I just didn't shop." 

Zach Miko

Zach Miko/Facebook

Miko's wife was the one to finally bring his self-esteem issues to the forefront. "My wife made a comment this summer when I was wearing a baggy pair of shorts, about how old and out of date they were. Then she saw a picture of 15-year-old me from high school, wearing those exact same shorts," the musician and aspiring actor revealed to People.

It was also his wife who inevitably gave him the strength to not only walk back into stores, but also become the face of one. 

"Now I feel okay looking like I do and being like I am, but I never would have had the confidence to go model or do anything if it wasn't for my wife," Miko gushed. "She's who made me feel attractive for the first time. She made me feel okay with what I am." 

While it's only uphill for Miko, he encourages others suffering from similar strife to just let it all go. 

"My main message to people is, 'Why not now? Why can't you feel attractive the way you are right now?, '" he urged. "It's great to be more fit, more healthy, more active, but that doesn't mean who you are right now is invalid, or that who you are right now isn't an attractive person."

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