Spending thousands of dollars on a high-quality wardrobe won’t actually make you fashionable, stylish, or help you to look good if you don’t know which clothes you should be getting, and how you should be using them to make the most out of the natural attributes your body has. You must accept your body as it is and dress to accent the areas that are most appealing, while hiding away the aspects to your frame that are less than desirable. Only then will you know which clothes to pick for your closet and step into the 4th dimension of sartorial splendor.
Men’s bodies come in three basic shapes: an inverted triangle, a standard triangle or oval shape, and a rectangle. As life goes on, you’ll likely have each kind of body at some point in your existence, so it helps to know everything about each one, identify which shape best defines you, and learning the rules to dressing up or down so you know how to put your best foot forward. Even if you’re an Adonis under the fabric, it’s possible to look like a nit should you dress against type. Here’s how to ensure your clothes aren’t wearing you.
General Rules for All Body Shapes
Know Your Tailor
We’ve said before, but it bears repeating: You’re better off spending half as much on clothes and using the rest for a good tailor than blowing your whole budget on the clothes themselves. A tailor knows body types and is a wizard with cloth. Whatever shape your body is, if you’re serious about how to dress, have a good tailor that you use.
Skinny pants are popular now, as are undercut hairstyles, but if those things make you look like an awful 80’s throwback, don’t wear them. Dressing to your body type is always in fashion and will look far better than trying to stick with the times while ignoring your natural shape.
Don’t ignore the telltale signs that your body is not the shape you want. You’re better off accepting that you might have more around the middle than you did back when you played high school ball than trying to pretend you’re still the athlete you once were.
Body Type #1: The Inverted Triangle
The easiest body type of dress for, the inverted triangle body means you have shoulders far wider than your hips, usually through genetic bone structure and exercise. This is thought to be the “ideal” male body type and most clothes are made with this shape in mind. Since it’s so prized, having this body type makes buying clothes relatively easy.
Be Careful Buying Off The Rack
Though clothes are built with this body type in mind, many manufacturers know that only people who worship at the gym really attain it, so clothes you buy straight off the hangar might hide your physique, rather than accentuate it.
Show Off Your Body
The goal here is to make sure people see the amount of work you put into your physique, rather than hiding it. Your hours toiling away shouldn’t be hidden, but rather hinted at.
Don’t Show Too Much
Here’s the mistake that most inverted triangles make: They go with form-hugging clothes that scream at everyone how much they can bench. Being proud of your body is one thing, looking like a vain attention-seeker goes in the opposite direction.
Choose unstructured suits that don’t have any pads built in, and go for shirts that fit well, but aren’t grabbing every curve of your body.
Increase Your Pants
Seek a bigger drop measurement between the waistband and crotch of your pants, as this body needs a little more space in the seat and pelvic regions.
You’ll also want to avoid skinny pants that highlight how big your upper body is while showing off the relative depletion of your legs. Go with a straight fit pant that isn’t too relaxed and slovenly. While everything up top should be keeping close to the literal vest, your pants are meant to help hide your slender legs.
Too much noise, particularly on your shirt will draw attention upward, making you seem top-heavy and awkward. Keep it simple and flowing with colors that show exactly where your body ends.
Body Type #2: Rectangular
Tall, thin guys who are a straight drop from shoulders to hips form the relatively small group of rectangular body types.
Do The Opposite of the Inverted Triangle
The simple advice for men with a rectangular body is generally the opposite of what guys with inverted triangles want. While they are trying to imply fitness without screaming it, rectangular guys are doing everything they can to give their body more structure and build.
Do everything you can to emphasize your shoulders. Get items with pads, use horizontal stripes and prints to broaden your chest, then cinch up your waist to create the sense of a V-shaped upper body.
Since rectangular men have very little to naturally draw the eye upward, it’s necessary to work extra hard to get eyes right at about shoulder level. Pocket squares, lapel pins, fat ties, broad collars, scarves, tie pins, and other flashy bits and bobs around your chest and neck are never out of place for keeping the gaze upward.
Adding more mass to your torso is always a fast way to give this body shape a greater appeal. Seek out clothes that are bulky near the neckline and taper at the waist. This is most men’s clothes, so you’re unlikely to need much help.
Body Type #3: Triangle/Oval
Common among men, particularly in America, the triangular or ovoid body has a wider waist than shoulders. As men age, this body types becomes more prevalent, merely because gravity slowly drags on our frame throughout life, and everything sags toward the center. Heavier guys who have more heft right in the center that slopes inward toward the hips are said to be more oval than triangle, but the rules are basically the same either way.
The One Goal
If you look like this, and most of us do, then the aim is simple: Slim at every opportunity. We want eyes drawn away from the heavy midsection and pointed at the more masculine regions.
Jackets, Jackets Everywhere
When you have a broader body that you want to blur, jackets do the best job. They provide structure to the upper body and can be outfitted with all manner of sneaky pads and primps to give you more size in your shoulders, creating a greater sense of frame.
While big shoulders are the major goal, you also want to avoid anything that cinches too heavily at the waist. Jackets should have a very narrow taper, that is almost implied more than actually trying to go inward on bodies that go progressively outward as you head toward the midsection.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Colors that work best on guys who carry around a more robust frame are darker and more powerful. Science has shown that men with bigger frames – especially wider faces – are considered more intimidating and masculine. Play on that with a lot of severe dark colors that are naturally slimming, but also offer a sense of authority and gravitas.
Bright colors can quickly make a large man into a buffoon, so the more you show, the more you’re likely to be seen as laughable rather than menacing.
Stripes draw the eye upward or downward, so use them wherever possible to draw focus away from your center. Get people looking at your face. Jackets help with this as they can close your midsection in dark fabric, allowing a striped shirt and tie to do the work from the chest upward.
Avoid Form Fitting or Too Blousy
Sadly, us larger folks have bodies that we don’t want to show off. While it’s good to be proud of how you look, anything that fits tight only serves to make us look worse, and makes it seem like we’re unaware of our greater bulk. Don’t do it.
We also don’t want to seem bigger than we are by having oversized clothes. Work on a nice drape that entices people to look upward. Not too close, not too billowy.