While we often associate the ladies with dressing for their figures, guys could use just as much help. No matter if you’re into shopping at a premium boutique or your local mall, any well-dressed man will tell you that it always comes down to fit. There’s nothing more uncomfortable (or more unflattering) than wearing clothes that don’t fit your body correctly.
With this in mind, we’ve isolated four general body types (emphasis on general), and the strategies that will help each type of guy, regardless of size or shape, look great. Before you go insane, understand that these are general rules of advice. We understand that the body profiles are broad descriptions, and like anything in life, everybody is different—so when it comes to this advice, take it with a grain of salt.
A few basic points before we get into it. No matter what your body type, certain prints, and cuts will do things (visually) to any silhouette that will expand or reduce the size of a particular attribute.
Repeating, thin, vertical lines? They’ll slim you. Patterned pants? They’ll make your legs smaller. Skinny jeans? They widen the torso and midsection as they trim the leg.
Remember that any advice given to you on this topic is a blanket statement, but also that recommendations for certain clothes in relation to a particular body type are all about an aesthetic give-and-take. Certain things work better for specific body types because they enhance the positive and detract from the negative. Keep that in mind as we go forward.
Let’s start with a blank slate. Reasonable height for your respective age, broad shoulders with a taper down to the waist. This is what likely leaps to your mind when you think of the “average American build.” Shoulders are broader than the midsection, and the legs are lean, but still with a definition. While we can’t speak for every guy (literally, everybody is different), you’re likely the type that hits the gym occasionally and aren’t bulking up. Muscles are defined, but not overly athletic.
When it comes to dressing your body, you probably have the easier time than others. Basically, there’s a natural visual balance between your upper body and your waist, so wearing something slightly oversized (like a drapey shirt) or something slightly skinny (like stacked slim jeans) aren’t going to mess up your visual proportions too much. Unlike the other general body shapes on this list, the “trapezoid shaped” guy is also quite flexible when it comes to wearing prints. While there are usually general rules regarding what body types should avoid horizontal or vertical stripes, this shape has the visual balance to pull off either while not appearing stretched out (in the case of vertical stripes) or widened (in the case of horizontal stripes).
More to the point, you have the slight definition, so emphasize it to make you look lean and athletic.
If you’re dressing up for formal events, keep your trousers tapered, and your jackets too. This will emphasize the outline of your shape in a positive way, without leaving you with a billowing bottom half, or be busting out of the lapels of your jacket.
Simply put, this is the athlete. This shape is similar to the trapezoid shape that the “average” build may have, but with more extreme proportions. Moderate to heavy muscle definition means that your shoulders are broad; with a narrow, defined waist, and muscular arms and legs.
While slimmer guys may find that they can throw on a medium shirt right off the rack and walk out, you need some extra assistance when it comes to shirting. Considering your chest is broad, the conventional wisdom is that you should wear a v-neck. In theory, this creates a natural visual line that narrows your chest and draws the eye to your trim waistline. While that’s all well and good, V-necks are admittedly pretty corny when not worn under something else, so instead opt for crewneck shirts that utilize graphics, or horizontal stripes. Horizontal stripes (like Breton Stripes) broaden the figure. While this is ill-advised if you’re packing extra weight around your middle, the fact that your stomach is lean means that you can aesthetically add to this part of your figure without looking wide.
Always look for shirting that can accommodate your brawnier upper body, chest, and arms, while going for a tailored waist. If you’re looking for a department store trick, try going for a shirt that says “slim fit,” just buy one size larger than you normally would.
When it comes to bottoms, look for “slim” items, but not skinny. While your time on the treadmill may leave you able to fit into something skinny, your pants have a high chance of looking like running leggings—or worse, like you skip “leg day.” This doesn’t mean you should only wear straight leg trousers, just be mindful of when too skinny is, well, too skinny.
For suiting, opt for double-breasted suits, but be cautious. Double-breasted jackets make the body look bulky in the upper body, but when sculpted, can support the added visual weight of the shoulders and chest, while emphasizing a narrow waist. Think of a dark-colored, unstructured suit. You want to be aesthetically supported, but not disproportionate.
Skinny as a rail, or simply narrow in build, like a rectangle this body type is straight up and down. More pointedly, the waist and the shoulders are the same widths apart. This distinction makes this shape deviate slightly from an average, or athletic build, where the hips and waist are narrower than the shoulders and chest. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re skinny or undefined, it’s more of a shape that’s less likely to show muscle definition, or simply appears narrow.
The name of the game for this figure is to add definition where this is none. Adding this definition via clothing can be done in a few ways. Layering is really the simplest way to begin. With a smart layered knit, you’re adding to the upper half, while emphasizing your neutral waistline. Add a jacket to create depth and visual strength in the shoulders. These things will make you look muscular, even if you’re stuck skinny.
When it comes to bottoms, you should opt for a skinnier pant. This way, you’re creating an inverted triangular line that goes from your chest to your bottom—much like the inverted triangle type. Fortunately, considering this figure is generally lean looking, you’re able to be flexible with what you wear, and still look skinny.
However, be careful when buying things off the rack, as brands that provide more generous cuts—whether their T-shirts are—will leave you looking swallowed up by your clothing if you’re not careful. You can (and should) look for “slim fit” items, especially when it comes to button-downs and suit jackets. While other guys may pass on structured blazers, look for something that fills out your shoulders and chest.
And before you think that your trim physique means you don’t need to see the tailor, think again. Most clothing off the rack (particularly suits) will fit in one section, but swallow up your arms or waist. To avoid looking boxy and unbalanced, considering taking your jackets to a tailor to have the sleeves narrowed. The result will be a strong upper body, with the sculpted torso and slender leg that makes this silhouette distinctive.