The fashion industry is notoriously unforgiving for the larger man. Or at least, it used to be. Yes, runways are still populated by Amazonian ectomorphs, but on the high street, brands are waking up to the fact that the average man is getting bigger and no, he doesn’t want to be fobbed off by yet another black T-shirt.
The era of hiding a bigger body is over. It’s shameful that it took this long for people to realise that every shape is stylish with the right know-how. Still, at least it means that the plus size man now has options that let him embrace fashion. Here’s how to make the most of them.
5 Style Rules For Bigger Guys
It’s All About Fit
When carrying extra timber, the temptation is to either squeeze everything in with tight clothes or mask it by sizing up. Neither works. “That doesn’t hide your shape,” says Freddie Kemp from men’s styling service Thread. “It accentuates it.” Instead, look for clothes that fit and have some structure, which creates a flattering silhouette.
Use Colour Sparingly
Dark, plain colours are more flattering on bigger bodies, but that doesn’t mean you have to swerve bright shades completely. A colourful pocket square will lift the eye away from your waistline. This trick works for anything up top, from a mustard scarf to a red beanie.
Make Friends With A Tailor
Fashion brands make clothes to fit the everyman. Or, rather, their view of what the everyman looks like. The further you diverge from that vision, the harder it is to get dressed. A tailor is the bridge between vision and reality – they can give loose shirts shape, tight waistbands more room, and generally make your clothes fit you better. Which always makes them look better.
Think In Layers
If you don’t have the gym-honed body that fashion is so obsessed with, you can build your way to one with layering. You’re looking to create shape, not bulk, so opt for thin knits, chore jackets and overshirts. “They’re weighty enough not to cling,” says Kemp, “but also won’t turn you into the Michelin Man.”
Be Careful With Pattern
Pattern is a powerful thing, and the more of it there is on display, the more powerful its effects. On big physiques, busy prints can start to feel a bit overwhelming. Instead, think classic and straightforward, like a Breton top (and you can ignore that nonsense about horizontal stripes widening you).
Wardrobe Essentials For Bigger Guys
Tailoring has always been the rounder man’s best friend. A jacket with padding in the shoulders and a nipped-in waist will create a more flattering shape, especially when the buttons sit low. “A deep gorge with long lapels creates a V shape, which makes you look slimmer,” says Kemp.
That old saw about black being slimming is actually true; dark clothes don’t show shadows, so any lumps and bumps that sit underneath aren’t as visible. You don’t have to wear the stuff head-to-toe, but it’s especially good for tees, sweats and shirts, which act as a neutral and flattering base to build the rest of your look around.
Very skinny- or slim-fit trousers will cling and bunch over larger legs, so look for a pair that taper into your ankle but which leave some room around your thighs. “Pleated trousers are back in a big way and are really versatile for big guys,” says John Lewis menswear buyer Tom Saunders.
V-necks are still on fashion’s naughty step (for now), but that’s a shame, because they draw the eye up to – and broaden – your shoulders. You can get the same effect with other V-shaped collars, though, like the Henley top. It transforms bulk into muscle without any of the V-neck’s bro vibes.
When you’ve got more width than you might like, the best approach can be to add height. That doesn’t mean Cuban heels, but rather the optical illusion of a longer, leaner physique, achieved by sticking to a single colour. It means your top and bottom halves blend into each other and the eye is drawn up and down, not across.
Plus Size Style Icons For Men
Jonah Hill is proof that XL dressing should be about embracing fun, not avoiding risk. The actor-slash-streetwear star knows the fits that suit him – boxy tees, cropped jackets, trim tailoring – which lets him load up on everything from logos to tie-dye.
Kanye’s slimmed down since his 2016 liposuction procedure, but his style back then was still built around on-point streetwear, often in head-to-toe monochrome. He’s always been the king of the oversized fit, using boxy tees and drapey jackets to create a strong silhouette.
The former star of Man v Food became overweight by professional accident, and engineered his wardrobe to work with the bulk that came from eating his bodyweight in steak every day. His trick is tailoring, which covers his love handles and highlights his strong shoulders, giving him a more defined outline.
The Best Menswear Brands For Bigger Guys
Marks & Spencer
There are few wardrobes that haven’t featured a Marks & Spencer suit or shirt at some point, which is a testament to the variety of its fits and cuts. It might not be the most cutting edge brand, but M&S will always be a godsend for those basics that fast-fashion brands don’t seem to offer above a 38in waist.
The original plus size store has had a bit of a revamp recently. Its range has been overhauled, now stocking brands like Tommy Hilfiger – as well as its increasingly impressive own-label clothes – in sizes up to 5XL.
The denim gods took a while to get on the plus size train, but it’s made up for lost time with a Big & Tall collection that recuts its iconic style in waist sizes up to 50 inches. As well as the jeans, the collection also includes everything from denim jackets to T-shirts and hoodies.
Unless you go bespoke, it can be tricky to find suits that fit bigger frames well. Heritage tailoring brand Skopes has you covered with suits for chest sizes up to 62 inches, and trousers up to 48 inches. Helpfully, its range is equally big, covering everything from navy two-pieces to dinner suits and waistcoats.