Fashions for larger guys
May 2, 2006 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Uh, what exactly looks good on a largish 30ish guy?

I'm a mid-30s man, 5'9", and am not fat by the classic definition but am not thin either. Here's my measurements: pants 30", waist 44", neck 16.5", weight 220. I don't work out but am in pretty good physical shape and can do heavy outdoor physical work for hours on end.

My usual attire has fallen into a rut: shorts & T-shirt. My impression is that thin people can successfully wear almost any fashion, but on a large person, the added square footage exxagerates clothing characteristics. Like a long button-up shirt worn open as loose outerwear on a lanky 25-year old musician will look like a linen shower curtain on a large man.

Furthermore, in the cold season there's more variety and I can often find a good combination of clothes (slacks/button-up shirt with coat). But it's getting into summer and I live in a warm climate, so I'm back to shorts & a T-shirt. The usual summer standby is blue jeans. But I find on large people they look like giant blue balloons (blue is a somewhat eyecatching color) and so I try to avoid it. The other option is lightweight casual, but when I go into a regular old chain clothing store I'm pretty much lost. I don't know what to get! And though I can easily find stuff my size, most of what's in there appears to me to be fashioned towards (1) willowy 20-year olds or (2) lean, trim, and active 40-year olds.

The only thing I've learned is to wear dark or black colors, which always look sharp on me. Beyond that I don't have a clue.

So what looks good on a large frame WITHOUT being some style posterboy? Or is this a question with no real answer? I'm not trying to sport a style! I just want something that doesn't look ugly. Do any wives have a husband who's kind of large and seems to have some good fashion sense?
posted by hodyoaten to Shopping (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'm a largeish 20ish guy (6' 1", 320lbs), but I can generally find good clothes at Walmart (go early in the season; you can find large sizes easier that way), or through LL Bean or Lands End. I usually stick to shorts for the summer, but I like olive green or khaki better than blue jean shorts. With these colors, you can get some good-looking golf/polo shirts and get a little more classy than T-shirts. Also a favorite look for me is a solid color T shirt with an unbuttoned or partially unbuttoned button-down patterned shirt on over that.
posted by fvox13 at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2006

A tan.
posted by holloway at 4:29 PM on May 2, 2006

If you like jeans, try some dark ones instead. I am not a guy, but this is what I would buy for you! Comes in dark indigo, 44/30 available.

IMO, khakis of some sort look good on most guys and avoid the potential sloppiness of shorts/T-shirt. You might want to avoid pleated pant styles unless they're needed for comfort.

I think solid, classic colors look good on most people, and linen is a nice summer alternative for keeping cool and pretending you're a grownup (at least that's what I feel like I'm doing when I wear any outfit that includes shoes).

Online stores have a better selection for the uh, non-willowy among us, I've found. You can usually return online purchases in stores (check first) if necessary. When you find an article of clothing that looks good, buy more than one.
posted by theredpen at 4:29 PM on May 2, 2006

I'm in a similar position -- 6'5" and 250 pounds -- certainly not fat, but not thin either (I have the additional pain in the ass of being very tall).

I've found that dark denim is really great. Spend a little bit of money (you needn't spend a ton -- jeans are $60 or so at Gap) and get some fitted dark jeans. They don't need to be super tight girl-jeans, but resist the urge to wear a size up. They have a slimming effect, and will look great in almost any situation. True, they're pushing light denim for the summertime, but the darker colors will always be appropriate for any situation up to dress-casual.

As for the shirts, find some light colored long sleeved shirts and roll the sleeves up. Wear with a colored T-shirt (pair them appropriately -- ask your SO for color advice if neccesary), and you're set.

Good luck!
posted by rossination at 4:34 PM on May 2, 2006

I think fit is the most important issue. Your clothes should skim your body, not too baggy, not too tight. Make sure your pants are hemmed to the right length, no bagging around your ankles. Finding a good tailor is worth the effort.

For warmer weather/climate, try some khakis or chinos. They are much cooler than denim and more polished than shorts. Add a pressed, button-down, collared shirt, tucked in, and you are good to go. And decent shoes, no scuffs. Land's End catalog and on-line is a good source for these types of things.

I would venture into the men's department of a mid- to high-end department store, and have them make suggestions. Also, if you can stand it, most nice department stores have personal shoppers. You call them up, tell them what you want, and the size, make an appointment, and when you go in, they have a selection of items to choose from. They often don't charge for the service if you make a purchase.

How about asking the women in your life for help? Women love to help men shop.
posted by socrateaser at 4:40 PM on May 2, 2006

The usual advice for larger folks is dark colors and vertical lines (not necessarily pinstripes, but a general vertical trend in clothing) work well. I've also read that boot-cut jeans are supposed to be good for those of up with larger thighs.

My advice is "you get what you pay for." I'm far from svelte, but I've found that I can pull off pretty much any style I want as long as I'm willing to get well made clothing. The long button-up shirt worn open works well, but you'll have to buy a well-made shirt and iron it or have it professionally pressed.

As socrateaser says, fit is the most important issue. Badly made clothes will make you look lumpy no matter what shape you're in. Take time to really check out the clothes you're shopping for, how it looks from all angles, sitting down, etc. And remember that you don't have to do all your shopping all at once - spend an hour picking out the pants that make you look great and go home. Next week do the same for a shirt.

Finally, there are tons of AskMe's about specific brands and stores so I'll skip recommending any specifics for now, but remember: Don't be afraid to spend some time and spend some money, you'll look like a million bucks when you're done.
posted by lekvar at 5:04 PM on May 2, 2006

I don't know where you live, but for a specific idea you sound like you'd look great in a Kweejibo shirt, like the short sleeved bowling type (the ones they call tuxbox) with the vertical stripes down the side. The cut is very flattering for bigger guys and the shirts are really beautifully designed and sewn. Throw one on (untucked) over jeans or a pair of khakis and you'll instantly look like a dapper adult among mere scruffy boys in t-shirts.
posted by tula at 5:36 PM on May 2, 2006

My boyfriend is 5'11" or so and has a large frame. (Super-broad shoulders, a bit of a paunch, and a well-muscled back, but a small butt.) This is what he always looks great in:

On top: Old Navy XL short-sleeve linen/cotton button-down shirts buttoned up to a couple buttons down from the top over a good XL t-shirt. He usually wears solid black, orange or tan button-downs and various solid-colored T-shirts. It looks really sharp, especially with a good haircut. And it's not too hot, 'cause the shirts are thin. The shirts are worn out/loose, not tucked in—they're very slimming that way, because they fall naturally from the shoulders, and don't hug the belly. The shirts to get have a hem that's straight across, not rounded whatsoever—the rounded hem on shirts meant to be tucked in makes a larger stomach look terrible.

On bottom: Dark carpenter-style wide-leg jeans, carpenter-style wide-leg khakis, khaki shorts, dark jean shorts. All a little baggy, in a flat-front, wide-leg style with a belt. Don't get pants that are at all tapered or pleated, as these will make your hips, butt and thighs look larger and more prominent, i.e. that "balloon" effect you talk about. As with the shirts, you can go somewhere like Old Navy and find pants that will fit the bill.

He's not the first "big guy" I've found to be attractive in the above combo, either. Old Navy is terrible for larger women, but their men's clothing makes big guys look great. Here's what it does: it fits well, but has some "hang" to it, thus creating the illusion that the man underneath is a little slimmer than he actually is. And the clothes are in general pretty classic—they look good on men of all ages. The wide-leg phenomenon is relatively recent, but that cut really does slim down those with a larger build (both men and women).

Also, consider buying a good tailored blazer or suit. I've never seen my boyfriend look better than he does in his tailored suit jacket, even with just a t-shirt underneath. You can get these in lightweight fabrics for summer (in gray and other light colors), and wear them with just a t-shirt and jeans, or a t-shirt and light linen or blended slacks.
posted by limeonaire at 5:40 PM on May 2, 2006

Incidentally, the undershirt in the above combo looks better tucked in—this makes it so a longer shirt won't keep the overshirt from skimming the stomach. If the t-shirt is left untucked, the overshirt can cling to it and accentuate the stomach's lines, which isn't what you want.
posted by limeonaire at 5:44 PM on May 2, 2006

Also, polo shirts with shorts in the above styles can be a great combo as well—Old Navy's XL ones look great on the BF. :)
posted by limeonaire at 5:53 PM on May 2, 2006

Layers. A shirt, open, or even partly buttoned over a colorful T-shirt, is great. If the shirt's open it gives you that vertical line mentioned above. If it's buttoned, the bright bit of T-shirt sticking out draws the eye upward, making you look tall.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:56 PM on May 2, 2006

Decani- thanks so much for revealing yourself as a stupid, hateful bigot. He asked for fashion advice, not weight loss advice. Your comment is completely inappropriate and only reveals your self-important, ill-informed attitudes. But I bet it made you feel better about yourself, didn't it?
posted by kimdog at 7:50 PM on May 2, 2006

How about The Harley motorcycle look?
posted by porpoise at 8:14 PM on May 2, 2006

As a husky gent I recommend the guayabera; they are appropriate almost anywhere from casual to formal (I used to wear them at my corporate office job), are generally quite nice looking, are generally inexpensive, and are cut rather loosely. eBay's a good place to look for them, and if you live in a city with Hispanic neighborhoods, check there.
posted by jtron at 9:25 PM on May 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all -- some really good suggestions here. And as far as the 'comment'... point taken, but for the time being I do want to address the clothes issue.
posted by hodyoaten at 10:14 PM on May 2, 2006

The best thing you can do for yourself is visit a professional. Be it an upscale department store like Neiman Marcus, a tailor, or whatever.. they do this for a living and they work at the best places because they are generally the best - note this is most true in large cities.

But yes, I think regular exercise helps most. Even if you don't drastically change your measurements, regular exercise will help you carry yourself properly and tone what shape you do have, both of which are important for ANYONE skinny or fat. A good workout is almost as good as being in shape to make you feel good in your clothes, and that matters a lot.

I second or third that you get what you pay for. Like you say, things are exaggerated, and that goes doubly for cheap clothing. Good, quality, well-cut clothes will fit you much better than any Wal-mart stuff ever will.
posted by kcm at 10:34 PM on May 2, 2006

Years ago I went from a 44" waist at 310 pounds to a 36" waist at a 195 to 210 pound flux.

I'm a little confused at what a person at 220 with a 44" waist would look like (90 pounds less than me at my fattest with the same waist). In fact, given the scope of body sizes and shapes experienced by me it makes little sense, as at my largest waist measurement I weighed 90 pounds more than you. It seems this would make most of your body content fat, cork, balsa, or pumice. Are you sure you gave us the right dimensions/mass?

From these numbers you must be spherical.
posted by sourwookie at 12:45 AM on May 3, 2006

Oh, and no pleats, don't slouch. A nice, high, bearing does wonders.

A collection of blazers. A haircut that is wider than the bottom half of your face. Pants that do not balloon at the hips like Levi's 517 boot cut (avoid low rise or relaxed fit). Contrasting tops and bottoms (monochrome doesn't work for us big dudes). Athletic wear, properly done, is flattering (think high end track suits if you can pull off Urban), though the age thing may be an issue.

My personal M.O. (other than to keep as active and as small as I can) is to go Western, mostly vintage Western.
posted by sourwookie at 1:02 AM on May 3, 2006

sourwookie: you don't mention how tall you are, but I'm 5'9" with a 30" inseam (same as the OP) and at 200 pounds I've got a 38-40" waist. I could easily see 220 pounds being 44". Of course also like the OP, I'm in "pretty good physical shape" which means I can run a few miles (but not enjoy it) and I carry most of my excess in waist. I'm not spherical but my gut is.

hodyoaten: Shoes. the difference between sharp and slob in identical outfits can sometimes be simply what shoes you're wearing. Better yet: boots. A good pair of boots (not cowboy boots unless you live in Texas) will add an inch to your height, improving your proportions.

Stick to long pants if you can - no man looks good in shorts. Swap out your t-shirts for polo shirts. Cheap ones aren't much more than decent t-shirts and they look much classier, even if they're untucked. BTW, the Gap some some new khakis that are cut like jeans - more flattering than slacks, more comfortable than jeans IMO.

Make sure your pants are "generous." Don't try to squeeze into a 44" if you're really a 46." Something ugly happens to the waist of pants near the fly when you try to squeeze into a size too small.
posted by zanni at 1:54 AM on May 3, 2006

I just love to wear big and long white T-shirts (either plain white or with graphics) untucked over my jeans. I like XXL and XXXL Tall and sometimes even XXXXL. The only problem is that I work in construction and boy, do I get my t-shirts dirty, as white shows everything. The front gets dirty because it hangs into what ever I am working on. The lower back gets dirty when I sit down at a site because my t-shirt is so long. Oh, well, at least my jeans stay pretty much clean. Let 'em hang loose and be comfortable!
posted by king of t-shirts at 4:49 AM on February 5, 2007

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