A Man’s Style in Relation to His Body Type

by Antonio on January 15, 2009 · 41 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

2009-01-15_1619

Men come in all shapes and sizes, and for every man there are fabrics and styles that best compliment his individual body type. A tall man in an overcoat wants to look regal, not like a giant. A short man in a suit wants to look professional, not like a kid wearing his older brother’s clothes. A large man wearing a blazer seeks to project a stately image, not of a sack about to burst at the seams. All men want to be taken seriously; to ensure our audience does not focus on our physical flaws, it’s important that we de-emphasize them. Let me be clear – no suit is going to hide 100 pounds of excess weight; you can, however, minimize the attention paid to certain physical features and thus downplay their significance. A large man will look big, but he doesn’t have to look fat.

Please note – In an effort to eliminate redundancy, I will state now that every man could improve his appearance with the help of a skilled tailor. A tailor with both talent and an eye for style is rare – if you find one, build and maintain this relationship. Also for this article I focus on working with what a man currently has; diet and exercise, although the ideal solution for many, are not considered here.

The Man of Average Build

The man of average build is neither tall, nor short; neither too heavy, nor too thin. He does not have huge muscles, and most clothing seems to just fit him off the rack. He is the average man, and he is fortunate in that almost anything looks great on his frame. If you are in this category thank your parents, dress neatly, pay attention to your complexion/fabric combinations, and wear the right clothing for the occasion.

The Tall Man

The first important choice a tall man has to make about a suit is what type of fabric will it be made from. Both checks and windowpane fabrics are excellent choices – besides being both unique and classy, the horizontal lines of these patterns help the tall man appear more substantial. Tall men can still wear stripes, but they should consider patterns that are spaced farther apart and have some weight to them such as chalk stripes (vs. thin pin stripes).

Garment style features that help the tall man look more proportional include a ticket pocket (a smaller pocket above the right side pocket on the jacket), larger trouser cuffs (try 1 7/8 inches), a jacket that’s ¾ to an inch past the bottom curve of the backside (to help cut the leg line), and details such as pocket squares and a boutonnière. Individually each of these has only a small effect, but together they work to break up the vertical lines which make tall men look abnormal. Overall the key to a tall man looking proportionally sound is to ensure that his clothing is built relative to his size. Thus when choosing a garment he should look at details like the pocket flaps and lapel widths and ask himself whether they appear too small for the garment they are attached to.

A great example of a modern tall man who downplays his height is Tim Robbins. At 6′ 5”, he is one of the tallest actors in the world. But most of us don’t pay attention to his height; instead we focus on his acting. And that’s the purpose of wearing clothes that proportion you correctly – to ensure the focus is on you and your talents, not your height.

The Short Man

The problems of the short man are in many ways the opposite of those the tall man faces. Where as a tall man wants eye catching detail, the short man should seek to streamline his outfit as to allow an observer a smooth path from the shoes to the face. Short men should avoid horizontal lines; whether they be in the fabric of his suit or in the subtle line drawn across his chest with a square pocket fold (instead opt for a double point fold). Vertical lines, especially thin ones close together, should find their way into your wardrobe. Solid fabrics are perfectly fine, especially dark colors that have a slimming effect, but a man shorter than average should be careful of textured solids such as plaids and bird’s eyes that cause the eyes to fixate vs. moving smoothly up and down.

A problem specific to the short man is that his head often appears a bit larger than it should in proportion to his body; to compensate, he should not only build out his jacket’s shoulders but also ensure his hair style does not exaggerate his head’s width. The short man is helped immensely by always wearing a matching jacket and trousers (a light/dark combination only serves to cut you in half) and he should ensure his jackets are cut as short as possible (just covering the bottom curve of his backside). Too much room in the crotch area is especially bad – it only makes short legs look shorter and the trouser rise should be paid close attention to when shopping. Finally, the short man should consider wearing his pants at their natural waist and moving to suspenders vs. belts. Doing this increases the apparent length of his legs, encourages him to keep his jacket on, and is considered by most who have made the switch to be more comfortable.

The Heavy Man

23138-3nicholassoamesmpBritish Parliament Member Nicholas Soames

Men whose waists are larger than their chests face the problem of finding clothes that do not make them appear larger than they actually are. Oftentimes what fits the heavy man in the shoulders is too small in the waist; therefore, the large man should seek a jacket with a generous cut and a flattering drape. Do not try to wear form fitting clothing; it’s better to have a loose fit around the midsection that says nothing than tight bunching that screams excess girth. The heavy man cannot conceal his size, but his clothing can serve the purpose of refocusing his observers’ attention to his face.

Vertical lines and dark solid colors are a friend of the heavy man. As mentioned before they create the illusion of height and thin the silhouette, and anything that stretches you in height helps with lessening the appearance of the midsection. Again, no fabric or pattern will make the large man look thin – but the right choice here will allow him to move about without drawing comment.

As for style, the heavy man should lean towards two button jackets with a deep “V” to help elongate the chest. Peak lapels on a single breasted suit can create more vertical lines (and their width helps the suit’s proportions), as do large slanted side pockets. Like the short man, a man with a large midsection is best served when he wears trousers higher than his hips. Instead of his trousers “squeezing” him, they drape over the bottom of the stomach and create the illusion of longer legs. For the large man who hasn’t discovered suspenders, please stop reading this and seriously explore this option.

The Thin Man

Thin men need to add weight to their bodies, and the fabric they choose is vitally important. Horizontal lines are a thin man’s friend, and textured fabrics such as tweeds and glen check will help add some substance to his frame. A thin man should be mindful of his clothing’s fit – too slim of a cut will only accentuate his narrow frame while too loose of one will exaggerate his lean structure.The thin man should look to overlap fabric in subtle ways such as with a double breasted jacket and double pleated trousers with cuffs. He should pay attention to his shirt’s fit, specifically in the neck (two finger allowed) and wrists (a man should not be able to slip his cuffs off without unbuttoning them). Details such as a pocket square and a medium spread collar will help give him a little more heft. Even his grooming can make a difference – allowing a little more hair to grow on his head can make a dramatic difference.

danieldaylewisImage from Bbrhuft

Actor Daniel Day Lewis is a perfect example of a thin man who has used all of these tactics to increase the weight of his appearance. Do a Google search on him and you’ll see his use of checks, layers, and longer hair (if you think I’m joking here, look at how much thinner he looks as a bald man!)

Combinations

Many hard to fit men are a combination of the above body types – the below short descriptions emphasize import issues facing these gentleman.

Tall & Heavy

The key here is proportion – you are a big man, and you want all aspects of your clothing to be a bit larger. Ensure your jacket pockets are proportional and the cut on your lapels are generous. Reduce the padding in your shoulders to avoid looking like a linebacker, and you can skip the check patterns and opt for solids and thick stripes.

Tall & Thin

The tall and thin man needs to be very conscious of his clothing’s fabric and fit, as that most of the shirts and trousers out there will make him appear like a lanky stork. Take the advice about checks and fabric texture to heart; seriously consider a double-breasted suit and heavier fabrics if the weather permits.

Short & Stout

One of the hardest profiles to find clothing for, fit is imperative for the short and stout, especially if the man is muscular. You should always stick with solids and stripes, and avoid contrasts in your clothing combinations that create vertical lines (a navy blazer with light colored khakis is a bad idea here). Baggy clothing is also undesirable; instead, aim for a lean, straight silhouette that will enhance your height. Many argue for double vents for the short man’s jacket; however, for the short and stout, I recommend no vents. Although not as versatile (no putting your hands in your pockets), the no vent jacket option is the most slimming with no risk of a flap flaring out like a tail.

Short and Thin

Small men need to ensure their clothing is proportionally smaller, not just a larger cut made to fit their frame. Oversized lapels, cuffs that are too large, and jackets lengths that are too long, do not flatter the small man; instead, they only make him look even smaller. Beware of the quick fix on trousers where a tailor only shortens the pant legs – the result is a pair of trousers with a low rise that makes your legs look short and a trouser cuff size too large for your feet (your cuff should cover 2/3 to ¾ of your shoe).

The Muscular Man (Both Top and Bottom Heavy)

arnie

Most men have a drop (difference between chest and waist circumference) of only a few inches. Muscular men however often have a much more substantial drop, in many cases closer to 10 inches. As a result they face a unique set of problems.

Suits that fit a muscular man in the shoulders and chest are hopelessly too large in the stomach, and even when he does find something that can be tailored, he runs into the issue of his lower body looking like an afterthought. The muscular man wants to downplay his upper body while increasing the presence of his lower half with the intention of creating a unified, natural look that only hints at his muscular underlay. Starting with the jacket, the muscular man wants very soft shoulders with minimal padding. Larger lapels are in order to make his larger chest appear more proportional; peak lapels are a great option here. Avoid the tendency to suppress the waist, a man’s figure should not be shaped like an hourglass. For weightlifters and men with extreme drops, a slightly longer jacket can be employed to better hide a steep V shaped torso. Pleated trousers with ample room in the seat will help give a more weighted look to the hips, while a heavier shoe with some design (such as a wing tipped brogue) and a slightly smaller trouser with a larger cuff can help make the lower body appear better proportioned.

david-beckham-suit1

Another muscular profile, with the complete opposite problem, is the futbol/soccer player silhouette – a lean upper body with a large muscular lower body. For men such as this, I recommend trousers carefully tailored around the hips (you want to ensure they are not too tight, otherwise pockets will bulge out and the wearer may even tear them with a quick jerk) and a jacket with no vents (a large backside can cause flaring on a double vent….but if cut properly it is a viable alternative).Finally, these men are best served by keeping their jackets on and thus their prominent backsides covered.Sorry ladies.

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President,
www.ATailoredSuit.com
Quality Custom Clothing & Sound Style Advice
Join our Facebook Page for a chance to Win Custom Clothing

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian January 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm

This post is a spectacular addition to a couple books I recently purchased:

“Dressing the Man” and “The Indispensable Guide to Classic Mens Clothing”.

Both are on the AoM recommended reading list and having increased my basic (and more advanced) knowledge of classy mens dress dramatically.

I love AoM so much, haha.

2 Pipps January 15, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Ectomorphs rule!!!

3 John W. January 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Excellent article. I am continually impressed Tony by your breadth of knowledge and superb writing ability.

Quick question: Shouldn’t Daniel Day-Lewis have avoided wearing pinstripes as they make him appear longer and leaner?

4 Bob Iger January 16, 2009 at 3:44 am

Excellent advice, as always.

5 Beat Attitude January 16, 2009 at 4:12 am

what about the average-sized man? say 5’11″, not too fat or skinny, slightly muscular?

This article should just encourage people to go to a tailor. Don’t try and do it on your own. Everyone has physical peculiarities, whether in posture, weight distribution, fat /muscle, gait. And everyone has a specific aim for their suit. Is it for business? What kind of business? There are pretty strict rules about e.g. shirt colour and cuffs if you work in certain sectors, and you should take good notes from the people around you before deciding on the suit. What image are you trying to project?

Go to a good tailor, ideally someone who is not too old-fashioned, but also not some apprentice who loves the latest trends. Make sure they are passionate about the new project that has just walked in their door. Make sure they ask you the questions: don’t give them the prompting, because they’re more likely to fob you off if they’ve not really thought about it.

Make sure the suit you walk away in actually feels good on you, because how you feel in it will affect how you look in it. It should present you at your best.

6 soo January 16, 2009 at 5:04 am

I’m a short guy with short legs and I definitely agree with Tony’s comment about not wearing pants with too much room in the crotch. After discovering low rise jeans, I can’t go back to wearing normal pants. The inner seem starts immediately below the crotch which makes my legs look much longer. Also, I kind of have fat thighs in proportion to the rest of my body and found that boot cut jeans, with larger openings at the feet, really help make my legs look skinnier and longer. I know this article was intended for more dressier type clothes, but for casual, you can’t go wrong with low rise boot cut jeans/khakis if you’re short and slim like me.

7 art January 16, 2009 at 6:19 am

I’m not sure about double breasted jackets on thin guys. They certainly don’t work on me. The first thing I see when I look at that picture of Daniel Day Lewis is that his pockets are way off to the sides. And that’s with the two rows of buttons reasonably close together.

8 sarah January 16, 2009 at 7:42 am

this is awesome. im forwarding it to all the boys i know.

9 P.R. January 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

For those looking for style tips for casual every use, try “The Style Bible.” The chapters on body types, jeans, accessories, and maintenance were invaluable to me.

And I agree with my fellow short-thin that low-rise boot cut jeans are the way to go.

10 Valla January 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

Well hold on now. You’re telling an athletic man NOT to look like he’s fit in his suit? Your article makes no mention of the use of athletic fit jackets and fitted shirts and their appropriate usage.

I’m a relatively young guy in pretty good shape, so I especially try to get fitted shirts (that’s not to mean they are tailored, they’re just thinner at the waist and they cost the same as regular fit shirts). I am sure that I look 100% better in them than regular fit, because regular fit shirts not only make me look as if I’ve never worked out, but they also bunch up above my belt no matter how many times I tuck it back in, further enhancing the “bulky-torso” look. Conversely, the fitted shirts remove that nuisance as well as give me a better look. A similar logic should work with athletic fit jackets (perhaps?). Has anyone else had the same kind of issue with regular fit shirts?

11 Tony January 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Brian – Great books….also check out “Carey Grant, a celebration of Style”. An awesome read with some great info and photos.

Pipps – Not in Sumo Wrestling:)

John W – According to the “Rules”, yes. But that’s the beauty of being a confident dresser – you can break them and often pull off the outfit.

Bob – Thanks!

Beat – I do encourage men to seek the advice of a competent tailor. The key word is competent, and it’s our responsibility as individuals to educate ourselves in ourder to make this determination. Please check out my article on how to choose a tailor if you’d like to see some of my criteria http://www.atailoredsuit.com/how-to-choose-tailor(a).html

Soo – Thanks for the additional info!

Art – Part of the problem with the double breasted jacket is that it is rarely seen nowadays…..even if it suits you, the fact it’s so unique may cause some to dismiss it as too fashion forward. I agree, that shot and that particular suit may not be the best for Mr. Lewis, but I have seen him on video in a solid Double Breasted and it looked great.

Sarah – Please do!

PR – A fine book, more for the beginner, but a very good foundation builder.

Valla – You misunderstand me – I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look fit, I’m simply saying that you shouldn’t look cartoon character like. A man’s silhouette should not be as curvy as woman’s – too much waist suppression on a man’s suit begins to make him look like an oddity instead of a bodybuilder – and the purpose of proper attire (especially in business) is allow you to communicate with your audience effectively, not have them talking about your figure. Finally, the shirt problem you mention is common as that off the rack clothing is designed to fit everyone so it fits no one. In my line of work, this isn’t an issue as that my team builds all clothing from the customer’s measurements.

Best,

Antonio

12 Charles January 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

This article is extremly informative, I shall think twice about wearing palid.

On the other hand I agree that we all come in different shapes and sizes and I seem to fit into more than one category here, short, slim and a muscular frame (I’m 5’6″ 28″ waist and 36″ chest with broad shoulders). It does limit me from double breasted jackets (as I would look shorter) and other styles, and I shall take note on the folded pocket square in future. These are a set of guidlines for a man to follow until he becomes a confidant dresser and then can break the rules and still look good.

Tony, I take my hat of to you sir.

13 Marlon January 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Fantastic post. Can we expect any more posts from you? If so, what about?

14 Lucas January 17, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Excellent article Antonio. I’m really impressed by your writing skills and sound advice.

Talking about books, what’s your opinion of Esquire’s “The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good”?
http://www.amazon.com/Esquire-Handbook-Style-Guide-Looking/dp/1588167461/

15 Tony January 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

Charles – Thank you for the kind words and you are correct; once you understand the rules, you are free to break them.

Marlon – over the next few months I’ll be writing about how to dress casual while still looking professional, the steps to building a wardrobe from scratch, common style blunders to avoid, and understanding quality when shopping for menswear. Anything you would like to see in particular?

Lucas – Thank you for the kind words. It appears that book is hot off the press, and I must admit I haven’t read it yet. The more thoughtful review seems to indicate it’s good and that it stresses timeless style, plus it has the Esquire name on it, a brand that although recently has slipped has none the less been a beacon in men’s fashion for almost a century. At $10, I would take a chance on it.

Best regards,

Antonio

16 Matt Fox January 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Great post. Falling into the tall and thin category, I often find myself swimming in off-the-rack American clothing.

17 Becky January 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I don’t mean to infringe on this testosterone party, but I’ve been reading for a while and couldn’t help but comment on this wonderful article. I’m a woman, yes, but I dress on the masculine side, but fashionably so, I believe. For a man, I am incredibly short (and rather short even for a woman!) and have a preposterously-sized chest (again, nearly so for a woman). However, I am quite muscular and thus do not fit women’s clothes well, even if I preferred that style, which I don’t. As a result I am always trying new combinations to minimize my chest and bring out my shoulders, to create the appearance of height, to be comfy and roomy but not add the appearance of weight. This article gave me some great new ideas of possible combinations to achieve my goals. Thanks so much–keep on keepin’ on!

18 Mike R January 20, 2009 at 9:34 am

Thanks for the article! I’m sure it’s a sliding scale, but what would you consider to be the defining points between average and the various other descriptions (particularly short and stocky)?

19 karmazon January 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

You are so right when you say that finding clothing for a short, wide and muscular man is the hardest. I can only wear skin tight tops, or I look like a box with tiny head.

20 B.Wilde January 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm

What a great thing to share. Now how often does a guy see all this info in once place all condensed? Thanks for sharing. It certainly helps.

21 Beat Attitude January 29, 2009 at 4:07 am

where is AOM???!!! Manliness waning….must…have…new…post

22 Rick B January 29, 2009 at 5:45 am

Seriously,

I feel like a crack feign coming to the site 3 times a day to see if anything new is there…

23 Dave January 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Yes where is AOM. I’m just a recent college grad. Where am I going to learn awesome manly tips?

24 Beat Attitude January 31, 2009 at 10:02 am

crack “fiend” (unless you’re pretending, in which case, crack “feign” is more apt…)
/pedant

25 Walter January 31, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Where has AOM gone? At first I thought there was something wrong with my feed reader!

26 MD January 31, 2009 at 12:38 pm

What happened to our regular AOM updates? I also thought my feed reader was broken!

27 Captain Will January 31, 2009 at 11:08 pm

First X-Entertainment.com… now AOM?

WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?!?!?!

*deep breath*

I am a very sad man… estrogen levels rising… rising…

28 OStar85 February 13, 2009 at 11:20 am

With the soccer sihouette, my problem has always been dress pants and jeans that are too tight in the thighs and the “pocket bulge/tears” as noted. …Why do we think guys with the futbol/soccer player silhouette should cover their “prominent backsides?” I thought this was a more desirable feature.

29 Sana April 15, 2009 at 11:57 am

hi there tony…u seem to be so well-informed about the fashion..
i am getting engaged to my boyfriend the next month..i’ve always been cribbing to him about his lean look..he’s been gymming so i see a lot of mass on the body..my problem is that he is not fashion conscious at all!
i want him to look best on the engagement day.
his height is somewher around 5’8” or 5’9”—is he tall?
his waist is too narrow and has thin legs.
a narrow neck and angular shaped face..
he’s got this inverted triangle torso shape.

which dress shirt size and type would suit him the best? i m having real great problems with choosing a nice shirt for him
does vertical pinstripes make lean people look more leaner or wider?
what kind of a trouser or pants must he wear to look a bit proportionate with his upper body?
and what kind of collars would make him look less leaner?

if you could have a complete article dedicated to the lean men/lean and average heighted men/lean and short heighted men…it would be of real helpul use.
And also how does “hairstyles” play in making/completing the entire look.

m desperately waiting for your comments on this!
Thanks in advance!

30 WriTa July 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I’m trying to distinguish between an “Average” body type and an “Athlethic” body type. I would appreciate responses

31 Red Mosquito April 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

So what does a guy do if he has a really broad chest, lean back (wide from the front, skinny looking from the side) and downright skinny chicken-legs? Working out has helped a bit, but I still have some wicked disparities between my upper body and my lower.

Advice?

32 Avel December 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Great article which I found very helpful, however I do find a bit confusing what constitutes a ‘Tall’ man and a ‘Short’ one. Is there a specific height measurment that categorizes each type? I’d really appreciate a # to refer by. Like I mentioned, great article otherwise.

33 jacob January 26, 2013 at 9:32 am

I’ve been browsing the internet to try and solve this issue I have. I am somewhat short, approximately 5’5″ approximately 206lbs and although am not fat, I’m big enough that i am extremely selfconscious about myself and the way I look. I wear between a 44s and 45s (when tailoring) and I’m just fed up with how I look these days. Working out is out of the question at the moment. What would you recommend for somebody of my build?

34 Marcus November 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Valla,

If you’re buying and wearing fitted shirts, you’re probably not the type of muscular man Tony’s referring to (see the picture of Arnold?). If you have a bodybuilder’s physique — even an amateur non-roided bodybuilder — it just opens up all sorts of problems trying to buy dress clothes off the shelf.

35 Vikky February 13, 2014 at 6:53 am

Hi,

Can any one give suggestion as what kind of dress will suit a small head and a broad and large body person (men). I myself find pretty difficult to get proper dress as I have a small head and very large body; My shoulder is 44″ and a pot belly (a little belly due to lack of exercise), but my head is small. If my hair is long then the face looks even smaller.

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