Women’s fashion – particularly women’s high street fashion – has always placed a large focus on dressing the fairer sex for their body shape. Ask any woman and they’ll know whether they’re an apple, pear, hourglass, or whatever new shape Glamour magazine is peddling that month.
Menswear, however, is a different ball game completely. Many brush off the subtle complexities that sit behind men’s fashion design as ‘simple’, and think that just because men don’t have as many curves, it’s somehow easier to dress well, or to dress in the best way for one’s shape. Even the vocabulary around these conversations – shape, flattering, accentuate, all have feminine connotations, which can make it harder to figure out (or to ask) how to make the most of your build. The answer is yes, by the way – men should dress for their body shape. So how do they go about that?
Whilst we don’t have a go-to list of easy to explain shapes, men tend to fall into certain characteristic groups, or combinations of these characteristics. These tend to be a mix of what we’re born with, and how we’ve developed our bodies throughout out lives – tall, short, fat, thin, muscular etc.
In traditional tailoring, there’s certain templates of style which are followed closely – tall men should wear wider, horizontal patterns, whereas short men should wear vertical stripes which sit closer together. Classic men’s blog The Art of Manliness has a great rundown of these attributes, but for the modern man’s wardrobe there’s more choice, and more opportunity to experiment with what works. Printed shirts were popular on the high street this summer – intricate, smaller patterns that almost look like block colour from afar, are great for the shorter guy. And the opposite (unless things start to look garish) is true for taller men.
The key in dressing for your body shape is fit – if you’re on the heavier side, you don’t want to stretched fabric over your stomach, but you don’t want to look like you’re hiding everything under a tent. The opposite is true also – thin men shouldn’t wear clothes that are much too tight either. It seems to have become a trend of late, seeing skinny guys squeezing into XXS Topman shirts. Whatever size you are, your buttons should not be bulging – instead, wear something with moveable fabric around the middle (for the bigger man) or take advantages of your ability to pull off layers (if you’re thin).
Luckily niche shops for things like large menswear are great places to ensure your sleeve length sits at the right place and your trouser legs fall just right. We only have to look at some of the 90s trends that are threatening to come back to see that an ill-fitting shirt ala-Chandler Bing was never, ever, a good idea. We’re not saying don’t experiment (oversized vintage tees can look great on average or in proportion guys, for example), but if you want a fail-safe way to look timelessly stylish, dressing for your body shape, as a man, is most definitely the place to start.