For all the strides being made to make fashion more inclusive, one group of people is still notably absent from the conversation: men.
Zach Miko is helping to change that. Miko is an actor, musician and model who is 6'6" with a 40-inch waist. He is also, according to online media outlet Mic, Target's only plus-size male model. In a new interview with the site, he recalls his experience with the brand thus far as being "the first time I ever put on clothes that made me feel good about myself."
That discouraging sentiment is unfortunately not so uncommon. Many people have frustrations with shopping and finding clothing that fits the right way. Miko talked to The Huffington Post and explained his own relationship with shopping prior to being cast by Target.
"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. 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. My wife made a comment this summer when I was wearing a baggy pair of shorts, about how old and out of date they were.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," he said.
Miko praises the brand for its steps toward acceptance, saying he'd "love to help men feel as good about themselves as Target made me feel." Target, however, has not always had the best relationship with its plus-size customers. Recently, it has made strides through launching a new line and working with influencers to promote it, but this most recent development is arguably even more important in that it finally brings men into the conversation. And Miko admits men have just as many insecurities as women.
"As a man in America, you are raised with this idea of macho masculinity," Miko said. "What’s most important to a guy is confidence. Confidence is an amazing thing, but the way that this specific masculine confidence is stressed, guys are brought up believing that being unconfident or having insecurity is considered weakness. Men become ashamed of how they feel about themselves so they hide it, they never speak of it. This isn’t fair to themselves. And it’s not fair to women either. Because when these insecurities are internalized so deeply, men project these ideas on to women."
For now, Miko is playing an integral part in shifting things in the right direction, and enjoying it. "You show up in the morning to a beautiful studio in Tribeca or Soho or some other beautiful abbreviated NYC neighborhood. Then they feed you egg whites, fruit and yogurt with La Colombe coffee. Then you sit in hair and makeup, where an insanely stylish artist makes you look like you’re the lead in a Taylor Swift video, the one where she doesn’t break your heart," he said.
While he told The Huffington Post he hasn't "been in the game long enough to experience the 'bad' parts of modeling," he says the whole experience is pretty surreal. "If you told 13-year-old me that I would be a model living in New York City, I would probably still be laughing now."
Also on HuffPost Style: