Clothes and the man
May 20, 2007 5:17 AM   Subscribe

How can a tall, mid-thirty's male put together an inexpensive but stylish wardrobe covering casual, business casual, going out, etc. using as few repeated pieces as possible...

...I'm thinking about simplicity as well as looking good. I see this sometimes covered in women's magazines but never in men's. Bonus for links to pictures, resources, and even bigger bonus for clothes that will actually fit someone tall with 37" arms...
posted by objdoc to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
um, without knowing you or your style or what you need to dress for, i would suggest investing in a bunch of good solid (or pinstriped, but not patterned) button-down shirts. wear them with khakis or trousers for work and jeans for the weekend.

personally, i would avoid shorts for going out at night and those awful patterned polo shirts that are so inexplicably popular. also, never ever wear pleated pants. ever. they don't look good on anyone. i don't know why they exist. ditto boat shoes.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:12 AM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think that because of your height, you are going to have to backwards-engineer this. That is, first find the few clothing companies that make clothes for tall men, and then work out what pieces will fit your needs. The usual advice of "shop at thrift stores" is useless for tall men (or at least for tall men who don't have tremendous patience and enjoy the process of needle-in-haystack shopping) because so few pieces will fit. (This depends, though, on how tall you really are -- there is a huge difference, in terms of easily finding clothes, between being 6' 2" and being 6' 6"; there is also a real difference between being tall and skinny or tall and big.)

For basics, tall sizes are offered at places like LLBean, Lands End, and Eddie Bauer. As you look at more particular items, having a good tailor/seamstress who can do good alterations will make all the difference.

If you are interested in more up-market options, it becomes real hit-and-miss in terms of tall offerings -- suits almost always have tall sizes (but if you have developed muscles, fitting will be harder), but casual clothes more rarely are offered in tall sizes.
posted by Forktine at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2007

For going out clothes, you can try H&M. It's very hip and cheap. Most of it is garbage and weird and you can't imagine anyone acually wearing the stuff, but you'll find the occasional shirt, coat or sweater that rocks and it's only $35. My husband has beautiful clothes and taste, but NO going out clothes. One trip to H&M about 5 years ago solved that problem-he's still wearing them and he looks hot!
posted by aacheson at 9:01 AM on May 20, 2007

Best answer: As with women's clothing, the key is not so much with what you wear, but how it fits. I know you wanted as few repeated pieces as possible, but building a wardrobe with a few, quality fundamental pieces really is the best way to start -- and it doesn't have to be expensive that way. Here are some things that I think would be good wardrobe builders:

- Long-sleeve shirts: The trend now is to fit slimmer through the body and arms; this goes for both dress shirts as well as ones you'd wear casually. For casual shirts, look for patterns (stripes or a subtle plaid -- no lumberjack plaid though) and/or bolder colors. Ideas here and here. For a dress shirts, look for solid colors or very subtle patterns. Also: the shirt shouldn't be billowy when you tuck it in: think this. If you find it difficult to get modern cut shirts in your size, try getting it tailored (it might be worth it to bring a slim-fit shirt to the tailor as an example so they know what you're looking for).

- Jeans: You can wear the nicest shirt and still look kind of square if you're wearing outdated jeans. Look for jeans with a lower rise (i.e. jeans that don't come up as high on your waist) and a straight -- as opposed to tapered -- leg. By high waist and tapered leg, I mean something like this. You want something more like this or this. (A lot of "normal" size brands carry extended ranges of inseams now too, so check those first before heading to the big & tall store). Look for darker, blackish- or brownish-tinted washes as opposed to lighter, bright blue jeans.

- A blazer: this is a great look. Again, you're looking for a slimmer fit, and for casual you want a more casual fabric: linen, canvas or corduroy as opposed to the wool blazers you'd find in the work/dressy section of the store. It can work over a graphic tee too (like this), but the tee's got to be stylish -- random oversized t-shirt you got from running a 10K or whatever won't really work. For dress blazers/sport coats or suit jackets, you'll obviously want the finer fabrics, but look for a sleek, slim profile and a two or three-button style, like this or this.

- A tennis/polo shirt: again: slim fit. (Notice a trend here?) And don't tuck it in! Ideas here, here and here.

- Pants: the big thing here is flat front, as opposed to pleated. Pleated-front pants look dated and aren't particularly flattering, either. These are perfect: the rise isn't too high, the lack of pleats gives them a sleek silhouette, and they still look crisp, sharp, and professional. See also: these (plus other similar ones on the same site).

- Shoes: Oh, I could write an entire post on what goes with what, but I'll just say this: running shoes are for running. Don't spoil a perfectly good casual outfit by wearing atheletic shoes with it! For casual, Chucks are great, as are the more old-school looking sneakers like Adidas Gazelles. For dress-casual, some updated slip-ons work well: look for square toes and a sleek profile rather than a "loafer"-y look. (No fringe or tassels!) If you're not into the slip-ons, oxfords work too. Again, look for something a little more squarish than the typical dress oxford.

Okay, so now you've got a few basics. They're tailored, if necessary, so that the shirts don't billow or gap/pull at the buttons; the blazers are not only the correct sleeve length but don't hang down too long/ride up too much, and aren't too big or tight in the shoulders; the hems of your pants and jeans don't ride up over your ankles when you sit down. Here are some ideas on how to put these pieces together:

Very casual (weekend, hanging out): graphic tee (not oversized or tucked in), jeans, sneakers.

Casual (like, dining at a casual chain restaurant): Button-down long sleeve shirt worn untucked with solid tee underneath, sneakers.

Casual: Casual blazer over a graphic tee (not tucked in), jeans, sneakers.

Casual: Striped polo/tennis shirt, not tucked in, jeans, sneakers. *or* solid polo/tennis shirt, not tucked in, jeans, slip-ons.

Dressier casual (like, going out for drinks): Casual blazer over a coordinating long-sleeve shirt (not tucked in), jeans and slip-ons.

Dress casual: Long-sleeve shirt in a print (stripes or a very subtle plaid) worn tucked or untucked with dress pants and slip-ons or oxfords.

Dressy (work, depending on your job; nice restaurants, etc.): Long-sleeve shirt, tucked in, dressy blazer, with or without tie, dress pants, dress shoes.

Note that none of these combinations are really anything out of the ordinary; as I said above, it's the individual pieces and how they fit that will make the outfit.

And finally, where to shop: higher-end department stores like Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor are good for stylish clothing, and often carry a range of sizes. They frequently have sales and coupons in the newspaper, which can make the more expensive items downright affordable. Stores like the Gap and Banana Republic are starting to carry big & tall sizes on their websites and in some of their stores in bigger cities, and again, if you catch them at the end of the season you can get some great buys on sale. I'm not familiar with the size availability in H&M's men's section, but they're a great place to go to for inexpensive, stylish clothes. Don't feel as though you need to get all your shopping done in one place, either: you might need a big & tall store for dress shirts, but still pick up a polo shirt at a trendy store like Urban Outfitters. Also: take a savvy friend shopping with you if you can (most girls are up to the task). There are a lot of style nuances that can't really be explained in a message board post, and another knowing set of eyes will be incredibly helpful if you're feeling clueless.

Whew! That was long. I hope it helped. Feel free to ask for clarification, or post your general location if the chains I mentioned aren't in your area and you need some ideas for where to shop. Have fun shopping!
posted by AV at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2007 [43 favorites]

oh, and don't forget that if you find something that fits well (especially basics, like jeans, shirts, and t-shirts) go ahead and buy several.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:01 AM on May 20, 2007

objdoc, I am following this topic with interest, since my husband is tall, wants to dress nicely, but we have a hell of a time finding clothes that fit him due to his long arms but general height, long arms, and skinniness.

AV has some great, detailed advice. In my experience, you'll do well with many of the places listed so far that sell tall sizes if you have a 34-36" waist or greater. If you're thinner than that, best of luck and let me know if you find anywhere that sells good-looking, fashionable 36" inseam jeans with a 32" waist!

We've had good luck with the Fred Perry polos. They're long enough and very well-made. His Ben Sherman polos aren't nearly as nice quality. We've also had some luck at Buckle, Lucky, Banana Republic, and Guess -- finding a few pieces after trying on piles and piles.

The department stores where we live are all terrible so no advice there. I don't care for Men's Wearhouse at all, but they do have a huge selection of men's dress shirts in all sizes. Drawback: most of them are not fitted.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2007

I see this sometimes covered in women's magazines but never in men's.

It sounds like you don't read men's magazines, then. Answering this question is pretty much the entire reason that Esquire and GQ exist.

You say you want to use as few repeating pieces as possible, and that is problematic, because the way to build a good wardrobe is to find as many repeatable pieces as possible. The more unrepeatable something is, the more likely it's going to sit in your closet after you wear it one time.
posted by bingo at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2007

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