Dressing the (Taller)Man

While most people don’t want to hear about it, being above six feet tall does come with its own difficulties in the realm of dressing well. For many men, finding something that is correct in length means they have to shop at big and tall stores. The problem with most of these places is that they’re not big OR tall, but big AND tall. These men are all ready at a disadvantage when it comes to proper proportions, and draping them in excess cloth is only going to exacerbate the problem.

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However, starting with a small disadvantage doesn’t mean the tall man is completely out of luck. By following a few guidelines, he’ll be able to dial in his style as well as anyone else. Here’s what he can do:

  • Embrace the fact that he’s taller and that finding correct clothing is going to be more difficult than it is for shorter men. For tall men this is especially true because their height (at least for most of them) stems from one particular area being larger than the rest of his body. Some may have longer legs while others may have a larger torso, but it’s very rare that tall men are proportionately bigger than the rest of us. The purpose is never to appear shorter, it’s to look more evenly proportioned.
  • Establish a good relationship with a tailor and/or custom clothier. In order to properly work out issues like sleeve length, jacket length, and other proportions, it’s imperative that he have someone on whom he can rely to create or alter clothing so it fits as it should.
  • Contrary to popular belief, taller men are not relegated to three-button jackets. The key is focusing on correct button stance. If he’s more legs than chest, the stance should be low enough that it brings down the visual center of gravity. Vice versa if he’s more torso than legs. This can be done with even a single-button jacket.
  • Avoid vertical stripes in too fine a gauge. Another common misconception is that a tall man should avoid stripes altogether. While they can over exaggerate his existing proportions, this can be balanced out by wearing a stripe that is thick enough as to appear normal in comparison to his body. Bengal stripes, butcher stripes, and awning stripes are all larger gauges that will flatter lankier men.
  • Wear a belt. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule when wearing a suit, but it certainly applies in more casual situations. The belt creates a visual point of separation, helping to temper the distance a viewer’s eye has to travel from the tall man’s head to his toes.
  • Wear boxes, checks, and plaid patterns. These add visual heft and can help balance out proportions.
  • Try a double-breasted jacket. These can help create more of the masculine V shape most men seek – especially when worn with a wider lapel.
  • Focus on proportions. A skinny tie will look very different on a man who is five feet tall than it will on a man of seven, even if their visual proportions are the same. Rather than paying too close attention to objective measurements, a focus on flattering proportions will create the necessary visual balance.
  • Add cuffs to pants. This is especially applicable to men who are more leg than torso. Adding the cuff on dress pants and rolling cuffs on jeans has a similar effect to wearing a belt, only down towards the ankles.
  • Focus on a moderate or slight break vs no break. Tall men are already running the risk of looking too big for their clothing. This effect is only made worse when their legs look like they’re six inches too long for their pants.

A great example of a man who embraces is proportions while still showing off his height is my friend Curtis. At well over six feet, he towers over almost anyone else in the room. However, his proportions are always spot on and without standing next to another person for reference, he doesn’t appear overly tall.

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If you want to keep up with him and get inspiration from his style, check out his Instagram feed over at instagram.com/curtisanewkirk.

Another great resource for taller men is to pay attention to they style revival that’s currently going on in the NBA. I’ve personally done fittings for a few pro ball players and it’s amazing to see the difference than can be made with a proper focus on proportion control. A lot of these guys not only nail it in their press-conference suits, but in their casual and street wear as well.

  • Drake

    This has been my continual clothing nightmare.

    I’m 6’4″, and while I do have longer legs, with a 39″ sleeve, it’s my torso that’s out of proportion. I have a hell of a time finding shirts that fit. Typical tall sizes for dress shirts are a 36/37 sleeve, making me not a tall, but a double tall. Trying to find shirts that have my sleeve length with my neck size (18 1/2) results in my buying a tent with an enormous waist. Not only that, but I’m pretty much limited to a single plain white shirt and sometimes a french blue option from most companies, even when I order online.

    I’ve been stuck buying these huge shirts and then having them tapered, but often they just look off. There is only so much you can take out of the sides of a shirt before the armholes start to look weird. And I’ve never really gotten the hang of figuring out which fit problems can be fixed by a tailor, and which ones just can’t. and since my income last year was around $15,000, I can’t exactly afford bespoke or the clothing stores geared toward athletes.

    Summer makes things easier since I can wear short sleeves. But in winter I generally resort to a lot of sweaters and pushing the sleeves up my forearm to hide the fact that the sleeves are about two inches too short.

    Pants don’t give me nearly the trouble that shirts do, but they are starting to become harder to find. I buy 38W/34I, though I really should be closer to a 37W/33I. The 38/34 used to be easier to find, but they are becoming scarcer. I can find my inseam in wider waists, and my waist in shorter and sometimes longer inseams, but that particular combination seems to be getting more limited in selection.

    • MasculineStyle

      Man Drake, it definitely sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place. While full bespoke can cost a pretty penny, there are certain online companies that will do MTM shirts on the cheap. You get the quality of material and construction you pay for, but at least you’ll be able to get a flattering fit.

  • Ivan

    Thanks for the article. At six-four, I struggle with finding well fitting formal clothing.

    • MasculineStyle

      Happy to post it. Hope it helps.

  • Peregrine John

    Another 6’4″ ape-armed gent here, with thanks for a good overview.

  • https://www.facebook.com/mattsteg Matt Stegmeir

    Another tall-ish, longer-armed guy here – at 6’1″ and 37 or slightly under sleeve I’m right on the edge where shirt-finding starts to become a challenge, especially after slimming down a bit. Collar/sleeve sized shirts might have a small handful in-stock in at least a semi-trim fit (so I can sort of shop in person, but it comes down to luck in a big way). Long-sleeve sport shirts are a complete crapshoot (even when I was 50-60 pounds heavier I was complaining about the amount of gut-room in typical/limited options with long enough sleeves), and I can only imagine the tents that the 39″ sleeve guys face if they can even find anything. At least dress shirts have reasonable options for MTM at most price points. Pants and such are fairly easy, other than that slimmer cuts are cut with way too much waist room relative to thigh.