Whether you’re big and bulging, or wiry and quick, finding a suit to fit a fit body can be tricky. But fear not, our tailoring experts can help you look your best.
At the gym you’re rocking the confidence that makes you feel like you’ve got some swagger thanks to your clothing choices. You probably like the way the T-shirt hangs on your wide shoulders, and the way the fabric lies softly to reveal your pecs or biceps. But when it comes to formalwear, it’s an entirely different situation. The shoulders fit but your biceps are literally splitting the seams of your shirt; the buttons do up all the way… nearly to the top, but your muscular neck makes the collars splay out in a way that makes wearing a tie tricky. This is simply because off-the-shelf formalwear isn’t made for anyone who would look good naked, it’s made for sedentary office guys that need to conceal their pear shape. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look great in a suit, you just need to know what to look out for and how to adjust the fit to fit your uniquely built body so you look like the man of the hour at the next summer wedding.
All men want their rear to look good – who doesn’t check out their behind when trying on jeans or pants? – but when you do a lot of squats those glutes can make a suit tight and uncomfortable. The answer is two-tiered, say the tailors: “Firstly it’s important to select the right fabric. Those with big thighs often wear through fabric quite quickly, so it is important to go for a cloth that is durable. We suggest cottons, worsted wools, and performance fabrics (with a little elastane). Secondly, the cut of your trousers should allow enough room for freedom of movement. This will ensure the trousers are comfortable and not stretched.”
Shouldering A Burden
The guy with the office-body loves his suit jacket because it gives him shoulders like you already have – wider, bigger, more powerful-looking. Trouble is, when you put your shoulders inside that kind of suit jacket the extra padding can make you look comical rather than powerful. The jacket shoulder should only extend slightly above your natural shoulder, maybe by 2cm; equally, though, you must avoid a shoulder that’s so tight that the fabric wrinkles because of stretching. “Jackets typically have shoulder padding, which acts to increase the shoulder size,” say the expert tailors at Cad & The Dandy, Savile Row (@cadandthedandy). “This increases the visual drop from the shoulders to the waist to give the impression of a smaller waist. For those that already have a small waist and broader shoulders, we suggest opting for a softer shoulder, with less padding, which will serve to highlight one’s natural shoulder shape.”
The Thick Of It
With big shoulders, pecs and biceps comes a noticeably bigger neck that’ll challenge the stitching on the toughest of top buttons. There’s no way around this but it can make the simple act of buying a shirt a nightmare, let alone wearing a tie. A shirt needs to fit comfortably, it shouldn’t dig into your neck like a fighter choking you out, but you also don’t want it to be too loose – you should be able to fit one or two fingers between your neck and collar when it’s buttoned up. “For men with big necks we suggest classic or button down collars,” say the tailors at Cad & The Dandy, “both of which visually narrow the neck.” But don’t worry if you suffer with a chicken neck: “Wider/spread collars give the impression of width, which makes sense for smaller necks,” they say. Bear this in mind when you’re choosing off the rack.
Arms And the man
Buying a shirt is hard when you have huge arms. Does this mean that tailor-made is the only option? Basically yes. Unless you’re willing to forego a good fit around your hard-won six-pack by wearing a size that fits your biceps rather than your chest and waist, then yes, custom-made is the only way, say the tailors. But you don’t necessarily need to visit a tailor store. There are plenty of options when it comes to finding a custom-made shirt. Try your favorite clothing store first, for example, Nordstrom and Men’s Wearhouse offer this service. Or you could try Thomas & More London (thomasandmore.com) who have designed premium shirts by partnering with leading London tailors to create a V taper collection, hand cut in Italy that’ll hug all your hard-earned muscle striations. You measure yourself up, ping them your digits and they’ll mail you a shirt that will make you stand out in the crowd.
Tying Things Up
Ties present special kinds of problems for big-necked guys that sport traps so big they could catch bears. The problem is that it’s not even something you’ve probably considered until you come home with the store-bought tie only to discover that when tied, the end is nowhere near long enough! There are stores (The Tie Bar, for example) that sell extra-long ties and these places should be on your radar.
Between the Thighs
While few men may admit this out loud, it’s a small pleasure to find a pair of pants that are genuinely comfortable when you sit down (ie there’s enough room in the business end of things) but aren’t so loose-fitting that when you stand, the saggy crotch area looks well hung in a reverse way. The key to achieve the right fit here, says Cole, is communication. “Whatever you are trying to achieve with your look, just let your tailor know,” he says. “He’ll be happy to accommodate requests, but if he doesn’t know, he can’t help. For this particular choice, it comes down to build, but will typically be a case of reducing the rise (crotch) of the pants so they sit tighter on the package. I wouldn’t advise it though, as it will be less comfortable, and the absolute best way of looking amazing in your suit (and the magic of a tailor-made garment) is being comfortable in it. Everyone will notice and appreciate that, not just the wearer.”
Big Leg Skinny Ankle Conundrum
You’ve worked hard on your farmer’s walks to generate those calf muscles so don’t ruin it by squeezing them into skinny-style pants that are intended for pale-faced pencil necks. The problem here is that your ankles will always be slim, and the bigger your calf muscles, the greater the difference between the two – highlight the difference with calf-hugging pants and you’ll look odd. But there are rules you can follow to look good, explains Alex Cole, of Tailor on Ten, Bangkok’s renowned bespoke tailor. “Don’t go too skinny,” he says. “Suit pants are not jeans, and shouldn’t have to stretch around your muscles. It’s all about balance, making sure the whole suit looks harmonious. For a gentleman with large thighs, cuffs (turn-ups) at the bottom of the pants are a good idea, as they give some weight to the bottom part of the suit (in both a visual and physical sense), making the transition to shoe more natural, while weighing down the fabric of the pants to make them wrinkle up less around the muscles.”
Mind The Gap
This is one of those subtle details that shouts off-the-shelf suit to those in the know. A collar gap occurs when there’s too much space between the collar of your suit jacket and the shirt collar underneath it. And the more unusual your shape, the more likely you are to suffer with this problem. This, say The Cad & The Dandy tailors, is really something they can help with. “Collar gaps are practically impossible to fix on a ready-to-wear garment. With custom tailoring an extensive set of measurements are taken for each individual, creating an entirely unique paper pattern, from which the jacket is made. During the fitting stage, any minor tweaks can be made to deliver a garment that will fit perfectly with a collar that sits as it should.” If you’ve got this problem, it’s wise to pick up on it when you’re shopping off the rack. It’s a subtle indicator that your suit doesn’t fit correctly so be sure to choose the right fit at the point of purchase.
And The Other Gap
You slip the suit jacket on and you’re thrilled to note that the sleeves aren’t too short. Nice, you think, as you do up the buttons, only to discover that it gapes across your chest when done up. Of course you could buy the jacket and never do it up but that’s not going to look good. This problem is in part because the suit jacket has been designed for someone with a narrower chest, but also because there’s not enough under-arm room, making the suit pull in ways it shouldn’t. While one solution is obviously a tailor-made fit, you can also try a suit jacket from Topman’s Muscle Fit suits collection. These are designed specifically with fit men’s physiques in mind, allowing for bigger shoulders, necks, biceps and so on.
The Final Touches
They say God is in the details, so don’t forget to add accessories. Cufflinks are a great way to add a touch of class, bling or even humor to your look, and French cuffs are a classy look. A colored pocket square is a great way to stand out too. Finally, a watch can suggest something of your personality that may be more difficult to get across with the suit – but the style of your watch should match the formality of your suit. You can still wear a sports watch, but it needs to be a stylish one. For black-tie events, however, only a dress watch will do – bank the Fitbit steps for another occasion.