Dressing the (Muscular)Man

Contrary to what most guys believe, dressing well is actually harder for muscular men than those with a more average build. While men’s clothing has gotten slimmer to accommodate us skinny guys, those of you with a bit more stature are still forced to choose between clothing that is too short and baggy, or too small and skinny. On top of that, the same things that can work in favor of many men (narrow lapel sizes, pleated pants, small patterns, etc.) will actually look goofy on a muscular guy.

As a result, a lot of body builders will dress like this.

post workout sweat suit

But obviously you can do better than sweat pants and a T-shirt, even if they are the easiest purchases to make that will fit you. Here are some tips:

  • Accept the fact that you are going to need a tailor and build a relationship with one. There are very few cons to being built the way you are and not having most clothes fit off the rack is a small one. The only difference between you and the rest of us is you have to have a tailor while we are better off if we have one. Look at it as extra motivation.
  • If you buy off-the-rack suits do so in places that sell them as separates. If you buy a suit from Men’s Warehouse or the suit department at Dillard’s you’re going to run into a major problem. If you have a 46R jacket, it’s most likely going to come with a pair of 36R pants – and you probably wear a 32 instead. Doesn’t matter how good your tailor is, he can’t take your pants in that much. Shopping at places that allow you to buy your jackets and pants separately gives you a lot more workability in your sizing. However, as addressed in a comment below, there will still be fit problems associated with the jacket.
  • Avoid narrow lapels and ties. These are popular with the revival of all things 60’s style but they will mess up your proportions. Instead of looking well-built, you’ll come across as hulkish or freakishly huge.
  • Make sure all your pants have little break or no break at all. While you don’t run the risk of having this make you appear scrawny, it does make you look stumpy because it gives the visual appearance of your legs being too short for your pants.
  • Swap out crew necks for V’s and polos. The opening will give you a little extra room in the chest and help you keep everything else the right size. You don’t want man cleavage, but showing some more skin keeps your face better framed as well.
  • Look for jeans from brands like Fidelity. They are made specifically for more muscular guys and have extra material in the seat and thighs to compensate for all the squats you do. They’re pricey but worth the investment.
  • When you find something that does fit well, buy multiples. Even if it’s a $10 T-shirt from H&M. Spend a little extra upfront and buy ten shirts so you’re set.
  • When buying chinos and dress pants, go with a pair that’s fuller in the leg and then have them altered. Most slim pants are going to be too small for you in the thighs. When I’ve worked with muscular clients in the past, this has been the largest hurdle to get over. Rather than buying slim pants, buy them in a fit that works in the butt and thighs, then have your tailor alter and taper them down from there. You’ll still get the right shape beneath the knee, but it won’t come with puckered pockets or stretched seems.
  • Go custom when you can. Thankfully the world of online custom clothing is really taking off and it’s getting to the point where you can have a custom shirt made for the same price you’d pay for something from Polo or J Crew.
  • Avoid shirts that are too tight. The idea of having shirts that drape is currently unpopular among a lot of men. This makes sense for guys who are rail thin because it gives the illusion of filling out your clothing. For you body builders, it ends up looking goofy to have a shirt or pants that look like they’re practically painted on. If a T-shirt or polo fits in the chest, back, and sleeves, it’s ok that it doesn’t perfectly hug your stomach. That little bit of drape actually ends up being flattering because it keeps your clothes from looking too stretched. Too tight is just as bad as too baggy when it comes to gauging proper fit.
  • Don’t wear gym clothes unless you’re on your way to the gym. Seriously though. I know the Underarmour stuff may fit better than anything else, but it makes you look singular. Let your body speak to your dedication to the gym and your clothing speak to the fact that you’re well-rounded. If all you wear are gym clothes, it looks like you don’t have a life outside of it.
  • Wear suit jackets with dual vents. The extreme taper from your shoulders to your waist can end up splitting a center vent – which makes your jacket look too small. A dual vent will help prevent the split and keeps things in proportion.
  • Wear larger patterns in all situations and bolder patterns in casual situations. Patterns that are too small will look wrong on you.
  • Opt for unstructured sport coats and suit jackets. If there’s any one who doesn’t need artificial shoulder padding, it’s you guys.

Stick with the guidelines above and you’ll be sure to communicate that you’re more than just a gym rat.

daniel craig cardigan

PS. Did you know I do private style consultations? I can help you dress better according to your budget and your needs.