Omnibus men's style questions post
January 2, 2010 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm a big guy, and as part of my effort to dress better for the new year, I have been reading up on style and purchasing better clothes. While many posts in the past have been terrificly helpful, I still have a few outlying questions that I'd appreciate your help with.

(1) I received a black overcoat for Christmas. In the past I've worn a ski jacket with a knit ski hat. In the climate I live in, a hat is rarely optional in winter. I need a new a hat that goes with the overcoat. My first instinct is a trilby or fedora, but some comments I have read on those styles make me hesitant. Should I go for it anyway? If it helps, my plan is to wear a sports coat and dress pants when I wear the overcoat.

(2) My current deodorant/antiperspirant leaves nasty stains on my shirts due to the aluminum. While I'm not inclined to believe in the cancer conspiracies, so to speak, I am seeking to avoid ruining my new shirts. As a big guy, I feel I need something strong in this department. Would simply replacing my undershirts frequently be enough to avoid ruining my shirts? Or is there an awesome deodorant/anitperspirant that doesn't do this? (Bonus points: I also got a sandalwood shaving cream for Christmas, are there certain scents that'll go better with it—both in terms of deodorant and aftershave?)

(3) Shoes. My current ones squeak and I'm thinking it's worth the expense to get some very high-quality ones. No one I work with wears a suit, and I plan on wearing a sports coat with dress pants. I'm looking for two pairs of shoes, of the Allen Edmunds sort, that will look good with this kind of look. Ideally, the brown pair I buy would be great with both dress pants and jeans. The black pair would be great with dress paints, suits, and if possible, jeans. That is to say, I'm willing for the brown pair to be less dressy than the black pair, provided at least one seems appropriate with jeans and the other goes well with a suit, but it would be awesome if the black pair went with jeans well too.

(4) Because of the hate, I avoided pleats in my pants purchase. I recently ordered them online from a place having a sale, and they haven't arrived yet. Will I regret not having pleats? Personal experience from larger gentlemen most appreciated!
posted by ifandonlyif to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
(2) Assuming the Tommy Bahama aftershave smells the same as their signature cologne (sandalwood is the primary scent), it should go with your shaving cream.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:28 PM on January 2, 2010

Best answer: My husband used to be a big guy - now not-so-big, but back in the day we did have to improve his wardrobe at one point.

The hat, I can't help with - I think it just depends on what looks right on you. Do you have someone you can trust to be honest that you can take along on a hat-shopping expedition, who will tell you truthfully if you look great or like a total dork in any given hat?

Deodorant: I have discarded more of my husband's trashed shirts than I care to think about. He switched to the Mitchum clear gel, which comes in an unscented option, and that has made a huge difference. A bit of a trim of the underarm hair can help as well, letting the deodorant get all the way to the skin. Also, make sure that everything is completely dried before you put your shirts on, and undershirts (especially slightly heavier ones, like the Stafford brand at JC Penney) will always help to protect your dress shirts.

Shoes: My husband has big feet, and is exceedingly picky about shoes. He wears these brown Rockports with everything short of a suit, and a pair of black Allen Edmonds loafer-style dress shoes very similar to these when he wears a suit. The Allen Edmonds shoes, in particular, were stupidly expensive, but he bought them over 10 years ago, and they look almost brand-new, because he takes good care of them. Good shoes, well maintained, will upgrade just about anything you put on. And life is so much more pleasant when your feet feel good!

Pleats: In his big-guy days, my husband wore pleats until we figured out that they did him no good whatsoever. If your pants are even a smidge too small, the pleats pull and make you look even heavier. Flat-front pants are your friend - and if they fit right (not too tight in the waist or short in the rise) they are much more flattering.

Good luck!
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:54 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

A decent trilby or fedora looks good on almost any guy. A bad one just looks bad. I own ~4 trilbies, 1 fedora, and a flat cap. My roommate, a very dapper and very large gentleman, has a couple of each as well.

The following advice assumes you are hetero. If not, please reverse the genders accordingly...

In order, if you don't trust your own opinions, take along for shopping advice:
1) women of the age you hope to date
2) gay man
3) fashionable male friend
4) saleslady

(The only problem with #4 is their interest in selling; however, many will be quite honest.)
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

One tip to live by: NEVER EVER WEAR FEDORAS.
posted by banannafish at 9:02 PM on January 2, 2010

I'd also highly recommend the Art of Manliness book for style advice - they have a fairly extensive section on hats if I remember correctly from paging through the copy I gave my husband for Christmas.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:05 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1) I need a new a hat that goes with the overcoat. My first instinct is a trilby or fedora, but some comments I have read on those styles make me hesitant.

A solid knit beanie is fine and is the option that will attract the least attention. Some people wear those fold-up fleece ear muffs--I see a lot suits wearing these since they're not that visible.

2) Would simply replacing my undershirts frequently be enough to avoid ruining my shirts?

I've ruined dozens of undershirts due to pit stains, but I've never had a problem with the stains extending to the dress shirt. As a big guy, I've found that Stafford heavyweight tees hold up very well (it's a JC Penney brand)--I buy the "tall" size, which stay tucked in.

(3) I plan on wearing a sports coat with dress pants. I'm looking for two pairs of shoes, of the Allen Edmunds sort, that will look good with this kind of look.

For suits: plain cap-toe Oxfords in black or dark brown with "balmoral"-style closed lacing, like these.

For not suits: Maybe something like these--"blucher"-style open lacing, split-toe lace-ups. I'd go with brown, but you can go other directions (black, suede, etc). Also, the more "broguing" there is, the more casual. For example, a pair of blucher wing-tips like these.

Allen Edmonds are great. Aldens are perhaps slightly better. Something like a Johnston & Murphy is cheaper and can be okay. If you can find your size on eBay, there are some good deals to be had.

(4) Because of the hate, I avoided pleats in my pants purchase. Will I regret not having pleats? Personal experience from larger gentlemen most appreciated!

All my trousers that are not part of a suit are flat front. My suits are all pleated--that seems to be more traditional, but I think flat fronts with a suit would be fine too. But definitely go with flat fronts for chinos and semi-casual pants.
posted by mullacc at 9:08 PM on January 2, 2010

Where do you live? If you're near a big city I would look for a store that has a personal shopper service.

Personal shoppers can answer a lot of these questions for you, in part because they can see you in the flesh and tell you what looks good on you.

Of course, they likely get a cut of the clothes they sell you, so you need to find one with whom you have a rapport and who you think is looking out for your interests.

As for black dress shoes: I have had a lot of success with an Italian brand called Magnanni.

These shoes are relatively expensive, however, they often are on sale at places like DSW. Get real leather shoes, not fake leather shoes. Unless you understand what you're buying with fake leather. Some fake leather actually looks/feels somewhat decent but the majority of it looks like crap.
posted by dfriedman at 9:20 PM on January 2, 2010

Here is Magnanni's link.

Here's a snazzy shoe @ DSW, though it's for narrow feet.
posted by dfriedman at 9:22 PM on January 2, 2010

1. Two guys in the past decade famously wore fedoras: Jack Abramoff and Adrian Fenty. Neither of them pulled it off. There is nothing wrong, however, with an unassuming plain beanie. It's cold; people understand that.

2. I personally use Old Spice High Endurance deodorant. My undershirts wear out faster than they can get yellow anywhere. However, correlation is not causation.

3. I'm probably unhelpful in regards to shoes, since I wear Doc Martens 99% of the time I'm not exercising.

4. Pleats are terrible. You won't miss them.
posted by General Malaise at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2010

Nthing solid knit beanie hat. No need for a fedora unless you really, really want to rock one.
posted by desuetude at 10:03 PM on January 2, 2010

Fedora's aren't very warm either. I'd vote for the plain black knit cap, that seems to be the default around here with a fur type hat for the more hipster-ish young men.
posted by fshgrl at 10:13 PM on January 2, 2010

Totally agree with dfriedman & get a personal shopper. A very good friend of mine is 6'5" w/ a large frame. He loves this place for personal shopper assistance. It's free. I'm a big believer in flat front pants (unless you gotta hide a rather large something) they are so much more flattering than pleats. They make you look taller & leaner. Plus get straight leg jeans, no pant shld be tapered or narrow towards the ankle. FIT. I cannot stress just spending that little bit more on a well fitted item is such an investment, you can keep & wear for years. Especially a larger frame needs good tailoring to hide the small flaws.
Also, a great pair of well made shoes can last years, just keep them maintained with regular visits to the cobbler. It's a good idea for hygiene reasons to rotate your shoes so 2 leather pairs wld be advisable. Your brown shoe, agreed, shld be more casual, how about a desert boot? FYI: ladies can tell a lot about a guy by their footwear. Simple rule, stay classic.......& congratulations on taking this positive step.
posted by sequin at 10:16 PM on January 2, 2010

I too came to voice my support for the solid knit beanie hat - they can be extremely versatile if you get them in neutral colours, and you can choose between slouchy or well fitting. Etsy has a lot of people making them, so you could even choose a local/ecofriendly seller if that's how you swing.

I'm probably unhelpful in regards to shoes, since I wear Doc Martens 99% of the time I'm not exercising.

You can get Doc Martens in dress shoe form and have all your needs taken care of at once!
posted by saturnine at 10:23 PM on January 2, 2010

OK. I'm a huge guy, I can sympathize.

1) Hat. Go buy a Woolrich Trout Lake hat, in black, and lose the little feather thing in the hat-band. Utterly indestructible, warm, weatherproof, and looks like you aren't even trying, which means it looks damn fine. Absolutely fat-man appropriate, and will follow you nicely if/when you thin up.

2) You are probably overdoing it in the armpits. Fat guys are always paranoid that they sweat and stink. It's generally not weight that makes for stinky pits, but genetics. I don't need deodorant, even in August, but my petite wife smells like an NFL locker room if she even perspires a single drop from her brow. I can easily get away with the "crystal" on the hottest of days... and you can probably get away with a lot less than you're using now. Experiment and see.

3) Got nuthin'. I wear a size EEEEEE width. My options are very narrow (snerk!). If I could wear what I wanted, I'd wear a) nice harness boots, like from Frye and b) low-top Chucks, or Chuck-alikes - in oxblood leather, or in cream canvas.

4) Buy pleated pants because you like the way they look/feel. Right now, they're really, really "out", but that pendulum can swing at any moment. Go for what feels and looks right, and screw the flat-front Nazis if you decide you like pleated pants.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:27 PM on January 2, 2010

Best answer: Go for a scarf with your new overcoat. Something a bit bold, like a wine-red, can be nice on guys. Something a bit out of the ordinary, but not flamboyant, shows a bit of style. Plus going from a ski jacket to a dressier jacket can leave bits not as warm as before-- a scarf is your solution here.

Hats are tricky and depend a lot on your own personal head. Try on something like this, a knit cap with a visor. They're pretty stylish right now, and the visor will do a lot more to frame your face, rather than just smooshing everything on your head flat. Fedoras are not going to be given any serious discussion on MetaFilter because of this creepster. That guy, plus 2 other creepy guys I personally know who favor fedoras have ruined fedoras for all of you guys. The anecdotal correlation= causation in my mind. NO FEDORAS.

As far a shoes, you've just gotta try em on. A casual boot shoe, possibly with a long square toe, can help visually lengthen you. One thing I've come to learn is true with mens fashion (but not necessarily women's) is that expensive equals quality. You're buying crappy shoes if they don't start at $100. Also, don't wear the same pair every day. Leather needs a day or two off or they'll wear much faster.

As far as general dressing advice for big guys, don't think that wearing something baggy hides you-- it makes you look much larger and worse. Wear clothing that fits. If it doesn't fit, don't buy it. That means that shopping sucks and takes a long time but it's worth it.

A great outfit for a big guy is a pair of well fitting boot-cut jeans (this means somewhat close in the butt and hips, wide at the foot) in a dark wash, a nice shirt that isn't too large in a lighter color, and a casual jacket in a darker color. Don't button the jacket, you want to keep long lines in your outfit. Stopping those lines on your stomach with a button only calls attention to it. Bonus points for nice belt and shoes.
posted by fontophilic at 10:34 PM on January 2, 2010

Us fat guys have a hard enough time trying to blend in without eccentric, anachronistic hats. You'll think you look cool and a little different. Everybody else just sees a fat dude in a stupid hat. Ditto with big-assed cufflinks, quirky socks, suspenders, bow ties and creative facial hair (think George Lucas' neck, or pork chop sideburns, or goatees). Just dress and groom like a normal guy, not a Kentucky lawyer or Winston Churchill.

I feel comfortable in flat-fronted and single pleat trousers, though I've come to prefer the former. Don't go double pleats.

Get some nice RM Williams boots. They go with everything and anything.

Take some antiperspirant to work to top up around lunch time. Take some cologne too, and maybe some mouthwash - it's nice to come back after lunch feeling refreshed.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:42 PM on January 2, 2010

I'm a larger guy also lacking in the hair department, so hat's are a necessity for me (keeping sun off in summer and warm in winter). It depends where you are going, and the weather, and the sort of people around.

Generally this time of year I'll be sporting a knit london beanie (without bobble) or a Jacaru australian walleroo outback hat depending upon clothing. I can get away with a wide-brimmed leather hat down here in the english Dorset countryside, and you do see them about at times as they're so practical. Wide brimmed hats are awesome when it's raining/snowing, and combined with an overcoat much easier than an umbrella.

During the summer I have a couple of panamas - a rough straw Jaxon for beach use and a proper panama for evenings etc.

Trilbies don't suit me that well, but they are pretty popular again at least in Europe, so are easier to 'blend in' with than a widebrim such as a fedora* or outback hat. Definitely get a good friend or squeeze to advise on the best look for you when you go shopping.

* Fedoras have become a bit of a douche marker of late, so wear with caution.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:48 AM on January 3, 2010

I would also recommend a nice beanie. As saturnine mentioned, check Etsy if you want a unique one. I'm lucky in that my wife loves to knit, so I have a custom knit cap that fits perfectly and looks sharp.

Stay away from pleats. I have to wear them with my work uniform (stocky guy here) and they do nothing but puff up my crotch-region. I hear they work well if you wear the pants at the WAIST (as opposed to the hips), but the prevailing style (and the gut) prevent many men from wearing pleated pants at the correct height.

As for shoes, I would recommend going to a higher end dept store shoe section and tell the person in the shoe dept what you're looking for. I did this when shopping for new work shoes (on my feet all day, but they have to go with a suit) and the guy there was SUPER helpful. I had no idea I had wide feet, and of the six of so shoes he brought out, the most expensive wasn't the most comfortable. You don't even have to buy the shoes from them. It may have been a dick move, but I just went online and got my black merrels for 20 bucks less.

Also, I think fontophilic was on the right track about a nice scarf. If you want high end, go cashmere, otherwise a nice wool scarf will take care of you. Poke around Etsy, or check at a nice mens store for snazzy scarves.

Good luck and good work!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:52 AM on January 3, 2010

One of the most fantastic men I know (who is also a bigger man) wears a fedora to very good effect. He likes it, it's flattering to him, and he doesn't tend to have issues with being cold. It does take a certain amount of confidence to pull off a structured hat, particularly as a person who takes up space in the landscape anyway, because they do draw the eye. It doesn't have to draw the eye in a "look at me, I'm an attention-hungry hipster" kind of way, though, which seems to be what launched the fedora hate train on MetaFilter. (Most of the attention-hungry hipsters around here wear cheap hats anyway, which really don't look as good as they seem to think they do.)

If you're confident that a fedora flatters you, suits the weather, and you're comfortable with drawing more attention, wear it. If not, a beanie that fits well (doesn't cover your eyebrows or form a puffy nipple at the top of your head), especially if it has a nice, chunky texture in the knit, will look just fine.

Absolutely buy good shoes (I like mullacc's suggestions a lot, especially the wingtips). Then check Yelp or a similar service for recommended cobblers in your area - in my experience, the best tend to be independent operators, rather than, say the franchise shoe repair at the mall (although some of those are good, too). A good pair of boots wouldn't be bad to have in the mix, either.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2010

I've also got to speak up in favor of the fedora. My husband is a tall man (6'4") who works in a conservative industry (suits daily) who often has to walk from place to place in the downtown during the day, and who has a LOT of hair. Traditional knit hats were giving him terrible hat-hair and he could hardly spend 10 minutes every time he arrived somewhere in the winter in the bathroom trying to tame his hair into presentability. A fedora keeps his head warm for those city walks and prevents hat hair. It also draws innumerable compliments from other men who love it that he's wearing an old-fashioned hat. (Women don't seem to notice.)

Here's the caveats: he only wears it with his woolen overcoat; it's a pretty standard fedora (it took us a loooooong time to find one that wasn't hipster-ish); it suits his face; and he kind-of looks like he stepped out of the 1950s anyway when he's in a suit. And it's such a conservative industry that there are a few older men who are still wearing them as holdovers from the pre-Kennedy era! And of course this is for short walks outdoors; a fedora isn't as warm as a ski cap or whatever.

I also like the suggestion about a nice scarf to go with the overcoat -- a pretty traditional touch in the North for men to add a bit of color in winter. (Actually, if you look at pictures from Obama's inauguration when it was so cold, all the Congressmen were wearing gorgeous scarves in all different colors; you could some nice ideas from that!) With black I like a bright red or a burgundy; cashmere scarves are warm and not terribly expensive. They go around the neck and sort-of tuck in the front to cover the area near the top and provide color near your face. Very sharp-looking, and I love a little color in the grey northern winter! (You can also provide your scarf to ladies in distress who neglected a hat because of their hair and find themselves unexpectedly outside ... it's so multipurpose!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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