Shopping tips for the young, lanky urbanite?
February 21, 2007 9:14 AM   Subscribe

TallGuyFilter: Where can a tall/lanky (6'7", about 200 lbs.) young Canadian guy such as myself purchase clothes reliably?

I know that there are Big & Tall shops pretty much everywhere -- in my experience, these tend to cater to men who are BOTH big AND tall (I am really only the latter), and who like to spend lots of money on tapered/pleated polyester dress pants. This is not for me. Please don't suggest one of these unless there is a secret gem one that I have probably overlooked.

If I had my way, I'd be wearing a combination of nice vintage pieces (boot-cut jeans, non-pleated wool pants, v-neck sweaters, single-breasted blazers, long/slim t-shirts, etc.) and new-but-relatively-classic stuff (button-downs, polos, etc.). I'm not too much of a sucker for right-now-this-moment trends, but I am known to indulge in them every once in a while.

I'm also the kind of person that doesn't mind spending a bit more on something that is classic and will last. Current places that I SOMETIMES have some luck: Club Monaco (shirts), the Gap (ugh, I know, but they make long bootcut leans), American Apparel (for basic t's and stuff, they make 'em long), the J. Crew catalogue (pants for work, etc.), and random vintage shops.

C'mon, people, I know there are others like me! Let's unite in our quest to find and frequent business that acknowledge our existence and our disposable income! I live in Toronto, if that helps. Oh, and sorry about the rambling.

posted by freudenschade to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
six-foot-seven is not monstrously tall, I'm six-foot-three myself -- doesn't Brooks Brothers work for you?
posted by matteo at 9:34 AM on February 21, 2007

I can only find pants at NBC (Name Brand Clothing), which is essentially an overstock and damaged goods store. I'm only 6'5", my real problem is that my legs are much bigger than my waist and most pants make me look like Yakko from the Animaniacs. However, I have noticed that NBC stores also have pants made for very tall, relatively skinny people. The last time I was at an NBC, they had several pairs of 40 length, 36 waist boot cut jeans, is that close to your size? They were a very trendy brand (Armani exchange or some such) in perfect condition; most of the big and tall stuff NBC gets is not damaged, it just wouldn't sell. I just looked up NBC's website and found that they are not in Canada, but maybe you can find a similar overstock store. 95th to 100th percenters of the world untie... unite!
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 9:57 AM on February 21, 2007

I see from your question you've already discovered The Gap usually carries some pretty long pants.

The overstock store similar to the one Derive the Hamiltonian of... speaks of in Canada would be Winners. They do have good stuff but not reliably, as the selection changes weekly.

For Vintage stuff, I've had some good luck at Value Village, especially with shirts. I'm 6' 5' with long arms and was surprised and delighted to fairly consistently find shirts that go all the way down to my wrist.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: matteo: I would guess that being 6'3" keeps you within that upper-echelon-of-normal range that includes things like 34 inseam pants (98% of manufacturers don't go beyond this, and I need at least a 36), and 34 sleeve length shirts (again, I'm around a 36, with a small 16 inch neck). Also, there is no Brooks Brothers in Canada.

Derive: This NBC store sounds intriguing. I would almost consider taking a trip down to Buffalo or Rochester to check it out. Thanks for the tip on that one. And I'm all for untie-ing!

Fuzzy: Yeah, Winners. I have had a very small amount of success in there (like, about 1 in every 15 times I pop in, I might find something). Always worth a look, I agree, but never consistent. And Value Village is definitely worth trying, but again hit and miss. It's been a while since I've been there, so I'll check out my local location soon.

Thanks all. Keep 'em coming!
posted by freudenschade at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2007

Since you're mostly looking for classic styles, try checking out Land's End or L.L. Bean if you don't mind doing US mail-order. Land's End has lots of pants styles with waists as small as 28 or 30, inseams as long as 36 to 40 in some styles...for shirts, they've got collars as small as 14 and sleeves as long as 40. Bean doesn't go quite as far towards the small/long sizes on quite as many products as Land's End -- most of their jeans and casual pants seem to stop at a 34 inseam; but most of their dressier chinos, etc. go up to 40 inseams, and their shirts pretty much all go as small as 14.5 collars and up to 37 sleeves. (I'm not a regular customer of either, but I've purchased from both retailers over the years when looking for stuff for hard-to-fit friends, and the garment quality has always seemed pretty decent.)

L.L. Bean has a handful of retail stores and outlets, but none of them seem like they're very conveniently located for you. Land's End doesn't have standalone stores, although you can get some of their merchandise in Sears, and there are enough Sears stores that you could probably find a reasonably accessible one if you're ever making a New York trip. However, in my experience the stuff in the brick-and-mortar stores doesn't reflect the full range of sizes you can get online: you can at least check out the cut and styles and get a feel for the quality, but you might still need to order online to get the exact waist/inseam or collar/sleeve combos you need.

As far as big-and-tall menswear stores go, the one US chain I'm aware of that seems to do the best on avoiding the huge-polyester-pants phenomenon is Rochester Big and Tall -- sure they've got the odd token pair of Sansabelt polyester slacks and the like, but their selection is much more about the Nautica / Burberry/ Ralph Lauren side of things. Pricy, but they'd definitely have some stuff that would fit you. They do at least have a few New York stores, but none of them look like they'd be terribly convenient for a quick trip over the border.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 4:26 PM on February 21, 2007

I'm 6'6" @ 225-240 lbs depending on time of year or exercise or whatever; it is a pain to find clothing.

Since I found Eddie Bauer I buy from them a lot; every item they sell they also sell in a very generous tall size. I take a large tall, based upon your weight I'd guess you'd go medium tall, maybe large tall in some items, dependent upon the clothing. Their medium tall actually is 'tall' in my experience. I buy all my jeans from them; they sell 'long rise' ie all their pants are available for us, a longer rise to the pants, maybe an inch or two.

It's a real pain in the ass, so much of what they sell is in "The East Coast Golfer" look, some mope from Connecticut or some such, so you have to wait them out, keep your eyes peeled for decent stuff that you'd want to wear; over time, I've found pretty decent stuff.

Maybe twice a year they have burning hot sales, where you can get a couple or three pair of jeans for maybe 12 bucks each if you check their outlet online.

Last, I'll second Lands End, but they also are into the whole East Coast Golfer Mope look, so you'll have to pick your spots...
posted by dancestoblue at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: I am definitely familiar with both Land's End and L.L. Bean, and use their catalogues from time to time for certain items. It is true that L.L. Bean (as well as J. Crew) doesn't even carry tall fit stuff in their retail stores, but that's okay because I don't live near any of them anyhow. Eddie Bauer is actually also an option...

dancestoblue has actually hit the nail on the head -- I really want to avoid that "East Coast Golfer"/mall suburban Dad kind of look, which it seems makes up the vast majority of clothes in this size range. When I say classic, I mean tailored-looking, not-so-trendy, 70s-influenced kind of stuff. Not khaki pants and baggy Cosby sweaters. You all know what I mean.

This may all be a bit of a pipe dream, but I would be very happy to be proven wrong -- more suggestions would be great! Thanks to all for the digging. I'm gonna go look at that Rochester Big & Tall site now to see if they ship stuff up to Canadia.
posted by freudenschade at 5:37 PM on February 21, 2007

I think you may find that the JC Penney Tall Men's catalog may have some things that you might like. Their "St Johns Bay" items tend to have a classic look and they are usually very good quality. More importantly, they have tall "athletic" sized dress shirts that fit skinny people better because they're less baggy at the waist. I tend to buy shirts, t-shirts and an occasional outdoor jacket or sweater from them. They're mail order of course, but they make it easy to return things and they have frequent sales.

I'm 6'5" and I don't usually have too much trouble finding extra-long suits and jackets at the better mens stores. However, I've found that the selection can vary throughout the year and from store to store, even at chains like Men's Wearhouse.

I also think that the quality of the fit can be more important than the quality of the clothes. So it's very important, at least to me, to buy from a store with a really good tailor who is easy to talk with. I've found that someone like that is usually much harder to find than the right clothes. So you may just have to pound the pavement until you find a place with a good salesperson, a good tailor and the right clothes.

BTW, the style of dress that you're trying to achieve sounds a lot like what Alan Flusser talks about in his book Dressing the Man. In addition to explaining the "classic" look and correct fit, he offers a lot of advice on how to chose clothes and colors that are appropriate for your complexion and proportions. I highly recommend it. It's a large hardcover book and it costs more than $50 (US) new, but I got a good used copy on eBay for less than $30 shipped.
posted by 14580 at 6:30 PM on February 21, 2007

freudenschaude, Rochester B&T may still not be quite what you're looking for -- from what I've seen in their DC store, they've certainly got much nicer textiles and fancier name-brands than the average big-and-tall, and they're a wee bit more fashion-forward than Bean or LE...but they've still got something of that East Coast WASP look. A bit more designer-conscious-yuppie than suburban-golfer-dad, perhaps, but still not that huge of a shift in style.

As far as finding a store that has good clothing, good salesstaff, AND good tailors all at the same time such as 14580 suggests...once again there seems to be no Canadian branch, but if you're ever spending a slightly longer visit stateside it is hard to beat Nordstrom, at least so far as department store chains go. They are pretty legendary for their customer service, and with good reason. I've seen it in action -- a former coworker once needed to get kitted out in a hurry, there was an unexpected death in the family and he had the sort of stereotypical nerd wardrobe that didn't have anything remotely formal. He and his girlfriend walked into the menswear department of Nordstrom's, explaining the situation, and the incredibly tight travel schedule. They walked out of the store at closing time with everything he needed -- shirt, tie, shoes, suit, all alterations done on the spot. (Mind you, they also walked out with considerably lighter pockets -- but under those circumstances it was worth it to them to be able to get everything taken care of so thoroughly and at such speed.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:36 PM on February 21, 2007

I also think that the quality of the fit can be more important than the quality of the clothes.

Speaking as a seamstress here, I'd have to say yes and no to that. Fit is very, very important, it's probably the area where folks have the most trouble with off-the-rack and, unless you're going for really eye-catching prints/colors or really unusual styles, it's what will make the biggest single part of the impression you present. Proper fit really makes a huge difference in your look, no argument there.

But, while this may be a little harder to appreciate or judge for folks who don't sew, there is a lot to be said for quality of fabric and the skill and care with which a garment is constructed. These are more subtle things, but if you've got the eye to tell the difference in texture, drape, and sheen between, say, the cheapie poly twill dress pants and a nice smooth silk/wool gabardine in a similar style, then you're on the way to judging stuff on this front, too. Garments that are made of fabrics that are a poor choice of weight/texture etc. for the style, or just poor quality in general, just won't look as good; you'll have stuff that wrinkles and bags where it shouldn't, or is excessively stiff and doesn't drape properly -- not the most flattering of looks, even if the garment fits. And of course if the fabric is too flimsy or the construction too sloppy, your garments just won't last the way they should; it's perhaps not an issue if you're getting trendy stuff that you're ready to discard at much the same time they're wearing out, but if you want more classic pieces, why not go for quality on all fronts? If you aren't sure what to look for, if you have friends who sew seriously, see if they'd be willing to go shopping with you and point things out. (While there is some correlation between price and quality of fabric and construction, it's not something you can always count on -- I've seen some pricy stuff with remarkably shoddy construction, and some more affordable things that were put together fairly well.)

A good salesperson can help on this front -- but they may not always be as conscious of these things as you'd hope. I still remember a rather startling experience I had about a year ago, helping folks looking for dress clothes for a funeral yet again, sadly enough. It was Michigan in late autumn, the weather was seriously nippy, the elderly grandfather of the bereaved family needed new dress pants in a difficult size, and the first pair another family member procured did not pass muster with grandmother. (With good reason -- they were far too thin for the season, and just a really nasty, flimsy, cheap poly twill to boot.) I promised her that I'd find something more suitable ASAP, and hit the nearest Men's Wearhouse with the grandson. While he went off to look for a new tie, I marched right over to the suiting side and told the salesman that I needed medium-to-heavy-weight wool or wool-blend dress trousers in a cool-toned gray, such-and-such size; he pointed me to exactly the right selection, I spent about a minute-and-a-half comparing a few suitable pairs to find the one that looked best with grandpa's navy blazer, and we were set. Meanwhile, the grandson had wandered over to pick up a spare dress shirt; they didn't seem to be displayed in quite so organized a fashion as the suits, so I headed over to help wade through the shelves. A saleswoman spotted us and asked if we needed assistance: expecting a repeat of the good experience in suiting, I told her I was looking for a white Oxford shirt in such-and-such measurements. She promptly chirped reassuringly "Oh, all of our shirts are made of cotton!"

My eyes rolled so far back, I could see the inside of my skull.

(I found the appropriate shirt myself, although it took a few minutes of searching through the somewhat random shelves while simultaneously delivering an impromptu lecture on what Oxford cloth was and how its weave differentiates it from other types of shirting materials, regardless of any particular fiber content. She stared at me the whole time like I was reading from the Rosetta Stone.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:20 PM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

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