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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
“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.”
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.
- Aviator sunglasses by Christian Dior Vintage from Noel Vintage
- Grey wool/mohair blazer by Hugo Boss
- Charcoal pima cotton t-shirt by Alexander Wang
- Silver necklace by Tiffany & Co.
- Black watch by Nixon
- Black Scarf by Louis Vuitton
- Black lizard belt by Trafalgar
- Black jeans by 7 for All Mankind
- Black suede drivers by To Boot NY
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,
Photography by Alex Crawford.