Style Tips for Muscular Guys feat. Justin Armstrong

March 25th, 2013

After realizing my college basketball career wasn’t going to workout the way I expected (I wasn’t the next Steve Nash and Coach and I didn’t really see eye-to-eye), I eventually focused my athletic attention in the weight room. My junior year, as a 6’0 point guard, I was working out twice a day and challenging our power forwards and centers on the bench press.

But then there was Justin, 6’4″, 260 lbs pure muscle – far and away stronger than anybody else on the team.

Being a physical specimen is a great advantage on the court (as anybody who’s ever tried to guard Justin in the paint can admit), but it has it’s challenges off-the-court, especially when shopping for clothes. We get a lot of questions from athletes and ex-athletes regarding advice for finding clothes that fit properly on their muscular frames.

Justin has always had his own style, and over the years he’s learned a thing or two about finding the right fit. So we teamed up with the San Diego native to share a few tips on the topic.

    A Difficult Fit

    1edit

    It took some convincing, but I figured we should start by showing why finding clothes that fit off-the-rack is a challenge for Justin.

     

      1. Business

      03edit

      “My best tip: don’t be lazy! A lot of bigger guys that I run into, be it athletes or body builders, have excuses for looking sloppy. Something like: ‘no clothes fit me so this is what I have to wear’. I hate hearing that. I’m just as big as a lot of the guys I hear this from, but I don’t just get lucky and find pieces that fit me, I take the time and effort to get the pieces that I’m looking for.”

      Button-Down Shirts

      Muscular guys have large necks and small waists. So here’s the problem: if you find a shirt that fits your neck, it looks like a baggy parachute around the midsection. On the other hand, if you find a shirt that fits decently through the midsection, it’s tight across the upper back and too small in the neck.

      The solution? Avoid “slim fit” shirts (they aren’t roomy enough for large shoulders/lats/deltoids) and get full-cut shirts with the proper neck size and sleeve length, then have your tailor take-in the sides and add back darts.

      If you’re this dedicated in the weight room, you and your tailor should be on a first name basis. Think of it this way: you spend countless hours in the gym trying to look good with your clothes off, a good tailor will make sure you have something to show for it when your clothes are on.

      Suits

      If bespoke or made-to-measure is not an option, try on as many brands as possible. Look for a full cut with the room you need through the shoulders, upper back and armholes, then have it taken-in where needed. If you can’t stand comfortably with your arms crossed, the jacket is probably too tight across the lats.

      Suit separates can be a life saver, since you probably have a larger drop (chest size – waist size) than the off-the-rack standard, which in America is 6″. For example, Justin’s drop is 10″. He wears a size 46(L) jacket, which would typically be paired with a 40″ waist, with size 36 trousers.

      Avoid anything short or cropped, and try-on both the Regular and Long. A longer jacket, hitting a few inches below the seat, will balance out your proportions and slim the overall physique.

      Try to keep the suit/shirt/tie combo as simple as possible. Avoid pattern-mixing or bold colors. A dark solid color, like this midnight navy, is subtle and slimming.

      Trousers

      A pant that fits through the hips, seat and thigh will likely be a little big in the waist. Don’t go down a waist size for a pant that is less comfortable. Instead, have the waist taken-in. A good tailor can add darts to the waistband as well, creating a larger gradient from waist size to hip size.

      Leave a little room through the leg of the trousers. Having them tapered too slim around the knee and ankle can make a muscular guy look top heavy.

      Collars & Ties

      For whatever reason, guys with large necks gravitate toward cut-away collars and fat windsor knots. In my opinion, this only draws attention to the neck and accentuates its size.

      Stick with a spread or semi-spread collar and a four-in-hand knot, but avoid ties made from thin silk – you’ll get a more substantial and proportional knot out of a beefier silk.

      Dress Shoes

      If you’re carrying a lot of muscle, chances are you have wide feet. You’ll find wide (E) or extra-wide (EE) shoes to be much more comfortable.

      Look for a pair with a strong sole and a rounded toe to anchor down your heavy step.

       

      2. Casual

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      “I don’t shop online anymore. Even if it’s a brand I’m familiar with or it’s similar to a piece I already have, when I buy it online, more often than not I find myself returning it… It’s very important to try things on before buying them.”

      Thin Knits

      Knits are your friend. Especially soft, thin knits with some stretch in the fabric. This lightweight cashmere hoody, for example, hugs Justin’s frame without being overly tight around the upper body, or overly loose around the midsection.

      Finding Jeans

      There are hundreds of brands and fits on the market. Try-on as many as you can.

      If you have athletic thighs, slim or skinny jeans simply won’t work. Look for a pair that fits comfortably through the hips, seat and thigh. You can always have the waist taken-in and the leg tapered if needed.

      These bootcut RRL jeans are great for Justin. The only adjustment he needed was taking-in the waist a little. Their subtle bootcut helps balance his proportions since he has muscular thighs.

      A Strong Shoe

      Try to finish your look with a strong, sturdy shoe or boot. These vibram soled boots visually anchor down Justin’s weight.

      3. Evening Out

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      “In terms of dressing well, people often take size as a disadvantage, but I’ve been able to use it in my favor… It has helped me network and make contacts, both socially and in business, which can be valuable when you’re buying and selling high-end real estate.

      When your 6’4″ and 260 lbs, people will notice you – it’s up to you to play that attention to your advantage.”

      T-Shirts

      Tees are your friend. They will keep you cool while showing-off the body you’ve been working on in the gym.

      Keep in mind, not all t-shirts come in a 3-pack plastic bag. Try on a few higher-quality tees and you’ll notice a big difference in their fit, comfort, and lifespan.

      Wear a Jacket

      Even with a more relaxed look, a tailored jacket is a smart touch to add a little sophistication. It’s silhouette also helps balance your proportions.

      All About Proportion

      A simple outfit with subtle accessorizes is a recipe for a confident and approachable look.

      Remember to keep the accessories in proportion to your size. For example, as a bigger guy, larger sunglasses and a big-faced watch look appropriate on Justin.

       

      If you have any additional questions, or tips from your experience, feel free to share them in the comments section below!

      Thanks for reading and special thanks to Justin for participating.

      Yours in style,

      Dan Trepanier

       

      Photography by Alex Crawford

      • James M

        Didn’t necessarily learn a whole lot here but definitely reinforced what I know. I’m about 5’11” and tend to hover around 215lbs, with a drop from 44in at the chest to 33-34in in the waist and back to 42-44 inches in the waist. Finding clothes that fit well is a battle to say the least. I swear by relaxed fit boot cut jeans though. And I just out grew my last dress shirt in the neck. Yay 18.5in. I have to go buy a few new dresses to get re sized.

        I have to ask for some more inspiration though. Its all so plain. I want to see what more daring things we can pull off. My greatest discovery was how flattering waistcoats and vest can be, and is my current default for dressier occasions.

        Lets bring Justin back and see some more variety.

      • Drew

        I’m trying VERY hard not to write this in all caps… But THANK YOU very much for this article. I’ve been an athlete all my life, 5’11, 185lbs., and very triangular-shaped. And I just started working at the local DA’s office. And in my ventures trying to find decent courtroom suits and office clothes, I run into these problems all the time. Thank you so much for the insight.

      • J Saltzman

        Being an athletic person myself I relate to this post and agree with the tips but I would like to add my .02

        Proportion is a must but what makes the difference is composition. Us bigger gents have more to work with, making mistakes more apparent, risks harder to pull off.

        Armstrong looks good here but I’m disappointed/uninspired by the style shown. All I’m seeing is a sea (260lbs worth)of boring with beaches of interest at the edges of each outfit. Common mistake that I’ve made myself and it’s not so flattering. Fix’s would be easy with waistcoat & adding more textures to break up the overall looks with style instead of formula fashion that IMO is what is being used here.

        I mean no disrespect just my opinion for the new guys that frequent here trying to find their style. Keep it up boys!

      • Clovermite

        I absolutely love the evening outfit with one exception: I feel like showing off a lack of socks is really jarring to the rest of the outfit.

        Since I’m not very style savvy yet, Im going to assume this is just a personal hang up on my part. Could you help explain the reasoning behind that choice, and why it works?

        • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

          Drivers are meant to be worn sockless. Justin also lives in California/Arizona. Cheers.

      • JW

        6’1 220, 12 inch drop here. I’ve found that off the rack H&M fits me generally very well. This goes for shirts, sportcoats, pants/jeans. Sometimes jacket sides or waist need to be taken in a bit. If you are in Chicago go see Maria at Golden Needle for tailoring, although she is pricey.

      • Harrison-G

        Great article guys. I will add as a collegiate rugby player finding a jacket off the rack was near impossible. I have had a lot of success with European cut jackets, like Zegna from eBay.

        Also, a unavoidable reality of contact sports are the injuries that come with them. I have had reconstructive shoulder surgery and only realized when I finally met a good tailor that my right shoulder is permanently a 1/2 inch lower as a result! Fit is important, but the first step to getting there is knowing your own body’s eccentricities.

      • Jakob

        Dan, what is your opinion on Indochino suits?

        • Drew

          I’ve ordered one of these. I wouldn’t waste my money unless you snag one of their crazy-coupons. I had a tailor do my measurements, and I sent everything with the best description as possible. But the suit just doesn’t fit right.

          The suit fabric looks great, but it’s not well constructed. Mine is only 2-ply, no liner, very light weight.

          The pants do not fit very well, especially around the thighs and knees (see the problems listed above).

          In my honest opinion, you can get a great suit at Brooks Brothers for around 400 if you catch the right sale. Check out their Milano cut. It’s aimed at young, athletic men.

      • Quark

        I feel like shoes weren’t quite addressed enough. I’m a pretty burly guy, and find lower profile/narrow shoes to be odd looking when paired with my jeans/pants after they’ve been tapered just a little (I never go below 16.5-17″ leg opening now; starts to look feminine [At least from the side view]).

        Something like the difference between, say, Vans Authentics and New Balance 574’s. Not saying that’s the best option, but it seems to make proportions look better than if I were to wear the Vans Authentics.

      • http://undefined Starbreaker

        I love that you guys give boot cut jeans a mention here in terms of balancing out larger quads. My euro friends rip me to shreds for still wearing a pair or two of boot cut jeans with certain casual looks (still slim, just a bit of flare at the bottom) and I’ve tried to explain that otherwise my legs look like a funnel!

      • Jonathan

        Hi,

        I’m a huge fan of your whole team and your website. It perfectly fits the niche I have been looking for in a straightforward community for real world affocionados of men’s style. Great job and I look forward to every new post.

        Style guides for different body types are great to read and very informative. However I have a sort of hybrid body type that is never covered by the general body categories thereby making it a challenge to know which advice will truly work best.

        I am 6′ 3″ and have a lean almost lanky body with long skinny arms and long skinny legs. Generally a 42L-44L with a 15″ neck and a 35″ sleeve and 35″ inseam. However, I carry all of my weight in my gut. Pretty much just the stomach area. The rest of me looks very slim. I buy most of my clothes to fit my tall lean frame but I often have a challenge with my midsection as I cannot wear form fitting clothes or clothes that gather at the waist. If I buy items that fit my midsection well they are an awful fit everywhere else making any real tailoring a huge job. I would be greatly interested in reading more about how to deal with this type of conflicting body type. Suits tend to be ok because of their shape and coverage, but casual and dressy casual can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.

        Thanks again! Love your great articles!

      • Morgan

        Only thing I’d add to this is for jackets go for little or no shoulder padding (unstructured blazers are great for an athletic/muscular build). Odds are you’ve already got the line that padding is meant to provide, any time I try on a jacket with padding it looks like my shoulders are up around my ears.

        • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

          Agreed. Thanks Morgan.

      • TO

        This dude rocks it in a suit!

        I can tell those tips are really working for him there, and in all the looks. Probably my favorite post of the “body” series; Justin’s right, you almost never see big muscular guys put this much effort into dressing well!

        Question: when “darting” the waist, does this not end up tilting the pockets inward? My old tailor did this and for that reason I have strayed away from this alteration ever since. This would be a great Garment Doctor topic!

      • LAB

        Great article. I have a 9″ to 10″ drop (41/42 and 32″ waist) and have had a hard time of it. As far as dress shirts. “Slim fits” are not an option but I have had success with “tailored fit.”I really have to try everything on. Some shirts that are medium fit while most don’t. Just have to stay vigilant because sizing varies from company to company. Glad to know I am not alone.

        Thanks again

      • Ossian Nordgren

        Awesome post guys, could you maybe do a similar one but for skinny men??

        • M.

          There is already an article on tall and lanky men. Look it up. :)

      • http://undefined emily

        this was a great article and great advice. problems and solutions are well articulated and easy to turn into an action. thanks!

      • J. Lamarr

        I’ve been waiting on this post forever! The jean issue in particular is a problem as I’ve had to just come to the realization that I should embrace my size and dress accordingly. Great looks and even better descriptions within the looks. Once you again you guys hit it out of the park.

      • Sam

        Sooo helpful. This is extremely well thought out, I really appreciate the effort. I’m definitely going to use some of these tips.

        – Do you have any advice for a very muscular body, but a small frame (my shirt
        waist xxs, shoulders M). As in if I took your advice for slimming my look down
        (like longer jackets), people would say I look anorexic. But if I avoid those
        slimming tips, everything drapes.?

      • Zach

        Fantastic article with great detail and reasoning :) I love all the looks, but to me the cuffed denim in #2 looks off. In my mind it adds “thickness” or something, to an already bigger guy? I don’t know if that makes sense.

        • M.

          I think it adds to the proportion of things,
          with thighs like those. I talk out of experience, too.
          Very similar stats, I’m 6’5 and 250lbs, ex-basketball player.
          Can’t stop doing them squats!

      • Vlad

        Thanks for this article, having 25 1/2 inch thighs I can relate to Justin. The only problem for me is almost all jean/pants brands nowadays make slim fitteds and it’s very hard to find relaxed fits/bootcuts.

        • Gary-A

          Vlad, the most success I’ve had in finding well-fitting jeans is the Levi 501 fit. I do take them to my tailor to slim the leg opening a bit, but they fit great on my thighs and seat.

        • Bogdan

          Hey Vlad, it seems that you are a romanian guy, aren’t you? Where do you live? Do you have a good tailor there?

          • TO

            I found a pair of Levi’s 508s (vintage) that have worked the best for me and they are still relatively slim (I have similar-sized thighs). It helps being that they have a slight stretch to them, as I have blown out far too many jean crotches. Not sure if the 508s are still made this way, however.

            • Smith

              Yep. The 508’s are the way to go if you blow out crotches. I have a bunch of them myself, I would add that the “Krooley” from diesel also works wonders.

      • Gary-A

        Nice article, but one point I would like to add from my experiences carrying a 10″ drop as well.

        Watch the shoulder seams. Buying a shirt that fits well on your 16″ neck and 42″ chest may have shoulder seams that hang off the shoulders. Generally this is the case if you’re not “model proportionate” all-around. At 5’8″ with a 41″ chest, I tend to buy smalls because I’d rather them be a tad snug in the chest than shoulder seams and sleeve lengths that make me look like I have slouchy gorilla arms.

        As always, it’s good to try on multiple brands to find which one fits best in the most areas and therefore needs the least amount of love from your tailor.

        Good article, men!