Suit Yourself: Dressing for Your Body Type
While there are general rules to follow in men’s fashion, your body type will have a profound effect on what you look for in a suit. What works for a shorter man can serve to exaggerate a tall, thin man’s stalklike build or draw attention to a huskier man’s girth. Regardless of your body type, a basic goal of men’s fashion should always be to make you seem proportional. How you achieve that, however, varies substantially depending on your build.
Don’t know where to start? Not to worry–we’re here to help. Here’s some advice that will help you achieve the best look for your body type.
Primary goal: Elongate your figure.
Fit: A close, proper fit will help ensure it doesn’t look like you’re swimming in your suit. Showing slightly more of your shirt cuffs will make your arms appear longer; so will having slightly less break in your pant legs. Make sure your jacket isn’t too long. Excess material in the crotch can make your legs appear stubby.
Pattern: Vertical lines are key. Features like pinstripes help draw the eye up and down, making you appear taller. Avoid horizontal lines as much as possible. If you opt for a pattern, try to keep it on the smaller side, so it remains in proportion to your body.
Color: Dark colors have a slimming effect, which can help you appear taller by narrowing your proportions.
Accessories: Opt for narrower shoes, but make sure they aren’t too long.
Other tips: Subtle details like higher lapels or a jacket with more widely-spaced buttons make a big difference.
Primary goal: Interrupt your body’s vertical lines.
Fit: Show only a small amount of your shirt cuffs and have your pants tailored with slightly more break; that way, your suit sleeves and pants won’t look too short. A three-button coat adds extra details to disrupt your large stature.
Pattern: Horizontal lines (e.g. a pocket square or a striped tie), help make your body appear in proportion, rather than exaggerating your height. Larger, bolder patterns can look great on a taller man.
Color: Variation is key. Stay away from monochromatic looks, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors.
Accessories: A pocket square or striped tie helps break up your stature. Shoes with slightly rounded toes avoid adding unnecessary length to your feet.
Other tips: A wider tie and lapels will help keep you looking in proportion and avoid unnecessary vertical lines.
Primary goal: Keep your figure in proportion.
Fit: Many muscular, athletic men have difficulties because their chest is so much wider than their waist. Look for slim-fitting dress shirts to help minimize excess fabric. For the same reason, you’ll likely have to get your jacket taken in at the sides. Keep padding in the shoulders to a minimum to avoid exaggerating a V-shaped torso. A slightly longer jacket can help with this as well.
Pattern: Simplicity is key. Subtle pinstripes can look great, but often solid colors work best.
Color: Darker colors won’t exaggerate your physique.
Accessories: If your torso is large and muscular, you don’t need to draw more attention to it; try to avoid pocket squares and other ornamentation and opt for a solid-color tie. Shoes with a bit of ornamentation, like wingtips, will help your lower body feel like more than an afterthought.
Other tips: Wider lapels and ties will keep your chest looking in proportion.
Primary goal: Prevent yourself from looking overly thin.
Fit: Keep things slim-fitting to avoid excess fabric but, weather permitting, don’t be afraid to layer for a little extra bulk. A double-breasted jacket can look great on a thinner man, particularly a tall one; the horizontal lines drawn by the buttons and lapels help widen the profile.
Pattern: A larger pattern can add some heft to your frame, but make sure it’s in proportion to your height.
Color: Lighter colors (e.g. lighter gray, tan or pastels) add the illusion of bulk.
Accessories: Accessories that add horizontal lines, such as a striped tie in combination with a pocket square, can look good on thinner individuals.
Other tips: How the thin man chooses to dress will vary depending on his height. A short, thin man, for example, might be able to pull off a double-breasted, pinstriped coat more successfully than a much taller man of comparable thinness.
Primary goal: Avoid exaggerating your girth.
Fit: For heavier-set men, making sure your clothes fit correctly (e.g. neither too tight nor too loose) is of paramount importance. Baggy clothing will look sloppy, while too-tight clothing will make you look like you’re about to burst at the seams.
Pattern: Vertical stripes can make you appear thinner (avoid horizontal stripes, however, which have the opposite effect). Subtle patterns add flair to your wardrobe, but bolder designs can add bulk.
Color: Opt for dark, monochromatic colors for their slimming effect.
Accessories: A pocket square will focus attention on your chest and allows you to be creative with your style. Suspenders will hold your pants up without the risk of having your belly spill over a belt, and keep your waistline higher, making your legs look longer.
Other tips: Pleated pants sit higher on the waist, feature slimming vertical lines, and are roomier when you sit down. However, don’t be afraid to wear flat-front pants either–many are designed with plenty of fabric to allow you to sit comfortably. Choose solid shoes.