Look no further if you’re a bigger guy who wants to step up his style. Here’s everything you need to know about big guy style.
Today, the fashion industry as a whole is more inclusive than ever, but it still has a long way to go — especially when it comes to men.
If you’re a big guy (chubby, muscular, tall, or otherwise larger than average), you probably still struggle to develop a personal style that makes you feel confident.
In this guide, I’ll go over everything you need to know about navigating men’s fashion as a bigger man, share hard-earned tips I’ve picked up over the years, and give you some style inspiration.
The 4 Most Common Big Guy Style Problems
Before we talk about developing style, we need to look at the four major problems big guys face when looking for clothes.
As a big guy, you need to know what you’re up against to understand exactly what you should be looking for. Shopping for clothes is still a struggle, but once you know why it’s so hard, you can more easily find alternative options that work for you.
It’s hard to find the right size
Most clothing brands still focus on the lean, athletic male body type, but the average man just doesn’t fit that profile. In fact, most guys don’t come anywhere close.
For reference, most male models are either slender or muscular guys with 40–42” chests and 32” waist. These measurements often serve as the baselines for medium or large sizes, and brands design their sizing charts with this in mind.
As a result, most men’s clothing brands go up to a 46” chest in tops (which is usually either XL or XXL) and a 36” or 38” waist in bottoms. These items also typically have slim or tailored fits designed for thinner guys with a small to medium amount of muscle.
But these measurements and proportions are in stark contrast with reality. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that 38.5% of the world’s men were overweight, and 11.1% were obese. These numbers are most noticeable in the US, where the average guy weighs about 200 pounds and has a 40” waist.
Clothing brands don’t consider different body types
Chubby guys aren’t the only ones having trouble fitting into off-the-rack clothing.
If you’re tall (think 6’2” or over), muscular, or built differently from the average guy — whatever that is — there’s a good chance you also have trouble finding clothing. That’s because the clothing industry uses a process called grading, where a smaller size is scaled up to create a bigger size.
Grading doesn’t consider actual human proportions, resulting in larger garments with the same fit. In other words, a graded XXL is simply a scaled-up medium that isn’t actually designed for bigger guys.
If you have a longer torso, a prominent stomach, or broader shoulders, you’ll struggle with any brand that grades its clothes.
Finding Well-Made Clothes Is Difficult
What makes matters even worse is that most of the big and tall men’s clothing out there is poorly made. You might be able to find business casual staples at DXL and trendy basics at ASOS, but in both cases, you’re forced to compromise on quality.
Big Guy Styles Are Limited
If you’ve shopped for plus size men’s clothing, then you know that a lot of it is pretty bland. It’s hard enough to find something that’s not a neutral color, but it’s even more difficult to find items that are actually designed well.
Often, big men’s clothing is either outdated or unflattering when it comes to both the cut and the pattern.
10 Fundamental Style Tips for Larger Guys
All of these problems can make it nearly impossible to find clothing that fits you, looks good, and is made to last.
And it’s especially hard if you’re not sure what looks good in the first place. It’s hard to know whether you should just copy what smaller guys are doing or go off of the precious few examples of fashionable big guys out there.
Big guy style is an art form of its own, and while some general men’s fashion guidelines apply, not all do. Many of the problems big guys face are unique, so the solutions and workarounds to those problems are also unique.
Here are ten fundamental style tips for larger guys that you need to know before you put together an outfit.
1. Accept Yourself
As cliché as it sounds, style starts with acceptance. If you don’t accept your body as it is, you’ll never feel truly confident, no matter what kind of clothes you buy.
There’s no clothing that will transform your body and take away all of your insecurities. If you approach fashion and style with the goal of covering yourself up or trying to “fix” yourself, you’ll likely end up feeling worse about yourself (and you’ll also have way less fun).
Give yourself permission to be okay with your body type, and you’ll have a much better experience when shopping and building outfits. Remember, developing your personal style is about expressing yourself, not hiding yourself. Whether or not you want to lose some pounds, there’s nothing wrong with your body, and that doesn’t change even if you think otherwise.
2. Know Your Measurements
Because there’s no uniform sizing in menswear, you can’t rely on sizes alone. You might wear a 4XL shirt from one brand and a 2XL from another due to the lack of any sizing standards.
That’s why it’s so crucial to know your measurements. For best results, make sure you know all of these measurements in both inches and centimeters:
- Chest: Measure around your chest, right below your armpit level. If you have a prominent belly, measure around it at the widest part — this will help you determine your size if the chart doesn’t provide a waist measurement. If you’re a tall man, measure your torso height.
- Neck: Measure around your neck where a shirt collar would rest.
- Waist: Measure at your natural waist or below your belly, depending on your body type and where you wear pants.
- Inseam: Measure from your crotch to your ankle.
Getting all these measurements will help you decode sizing charts, but it will also help you understand your proportions to inform the kind of fits you should be looking for.
If you often wear dress shirts, you should also know your shoulder and sleeve measurements. And if you wear jeans often, you may want to know your preferred rise height.
Additionally, if you have clothing that fits you the way you want, make sure you take all of those garment measurements. Always check sizing charts before you buy, and make sure that you’ve measured the same way as the exact chart you’re looking at.
Last but not least, don’t be ashamed of whatever your true size is. If you’re a 3XL but buying XL because you’re embarrassed, you’ll end up with ill-fitting clothing that doesn’t flatter you. Sizes are arbitrary anyway, so own yours and get clothing that’s right for you.
3. Get the Fit Right
It’s important to get the fit right, but what this means will depend entirely on your specific measurements, build, goals, and style preferences.
That said, you’ll probably want to look for clothing that’s not too relaxed or too tight. Clothing that’s too loose can make you look sloppy, and clothing that’s too tight just isn’t flattering.
Here are some more specific guidelines for different body types:
For chubby guys: Look for clothing that’s not too snug or too baggy. Usually, you want your clothes to be just a smidge bigger than the widest parts of your body. This will ensure that your clothing doesn’t hug your body or drape too much.
If your body shape is asymmetrical, it’s a good idea to try to close the gap between the widths of your tops and bottoms. Basically, don’t wear skinny jeans (unless that’s the look you’re going for). As a starting point, try relaxed fits for tops and straight fits for bottoms.
However, don’t try to match your tops and bottoms too closely. For example, if you’re top heavy, don’t feel like you have to get humongous pants in an effort to look like a column. The ill-fitting pants will detract from your look, and they’ll also be hard to wear.
For big and tall guys: Proportion is key here. Look for tops that are true tall sizes and bottoms with the correct inseam lengths so it doesn’t look like everything you wear is cropped.
Also, if you have broad shoulders that don’t fit well in most shirts, take your shoulder measurement for reference. If a garment you’re looking at doesn’t have a shoulder measurement listed, it doesn’t hurt to contact the company and ask for it.
For muscular guys: If you’re on the swole side, you likely struggle with clothing that’s either too small or doesn’t fit your proportions. While you want to avoid clothing that clings to your musculature, you also want to avoid baggy clothing, as you’ll look more massive.
Opting for slim or tailored fits is usually a good choice, but going one step further and actually getting your clothing tailored may be best (depending on how big you are and how difficult it is to find off-the-rack clothing that fits well).
Also, make sure you know all of your measurements to get the best fit. For example, if your chest and shoulders are muscular, then take all your shirt measurements, not just the basic ones outlined above.
4. Know When To Tailor
If you’ve ever looked up fashion advice for big guys, then you’ve probably seen tons of recommendations to get a tailor. While tailoring is a great option, it shouldn’t be your first port of call.
Before you head to the tailor, make sure you choose the right fits and sizes for your body type. This takes some time and experimentation, but it’s absolutely vital information. For instance, if you look best with a 2XL slim fit shirt but wear 3XLs with relaxed fits, a tailor will tell you to size down anyway.
Once you know your preferred fit, you’ll better understand what does and doesn’t fit you, and you’ll only have to make a trip to the tailor when you need to. (That said, tailoring is always a good idea for suits.)
5. Understand Fabrics
If you want to make shopping for clothes a lot easier, take some time to familiarize yourself with fabric types and weights.
For big guys (especially chubby guys), the fabric a garment is made with is almost as important as size or fit. Different fabrics have their pros and cons, which can change for different clothing items.
Understanding fabric weight and drape (how a fabric hangs on your body) is key to getting the most out of your wardrobe. Lighter fabrics can cut down on bulk, but they can also emphasize your body shape in ways you don’t want.
Likewise, thicker fabrics will hold their shape on your frame, but some may make you look too big. As a general rule, stick with lightweight to medium-heavy fabrics with low to moderate drape.
6. Opt For More Structured Clothing
Most big guys are on the rounder side, and one good way to counteract that is to look for structured garments with clean lines and noticeable angles. That’s not to say that everything you wear should have a boxy fit, but you should be mindful of the silhouette you’re creating.
Thicker and more rigid fabrics can also provide additional structure. Lots of style guides tell big guys to avoid thick fabrics because they make you look bigger, but in reality, it depends on each garment and outfit.
You probably don’t want to wear four thick layers at once, but wearing structured clothing made from thicker materials can help make sure you don’t look slouchy or unkempt.
7. Master the Art of Layering
Layering is a double-edged sword for bigger guys. Avoiding layers completely means missing out on a versatile styling option, but the wrong approach to layering can look downright awkward and add to your heft.
First, get to know the four basic rules of layering as well as the different types of garments that are typically used for layered fits.
Second, determine which layering pieces work best for your body type and which don’t. For example, if you have a large belly, you probably won’t have good results wearing a buttoned-up cardigan as an outer layer — you’d probably want to go with something like a denim jacket or a quilted vest instead.
Third, start simple and work your way up. Experiment with one, two, and three layers in that order, and limit yourself to more neutral colors to begin with. Once you find garment combos that you like, you can play around with other style elements.
8. Experiment With Design, Color, and Texture
Once you have a solid idea of which basic garments flatter your body type, you can start experimenting with design, color, and texture.
When it comes to design, you’ve probably heard the age-old advice that vertical lines are slimming, but it turns out that this isn’t exactly true. How big or slim you look depends more on the exact pattern than the general type of pattern.
That said, big guys tend to benefit from either plain or simply patterned clothing. It’s also good to stick to more understated colors. For the most part, bright and bold colors or patterns will emphasize your silhouette, so it’s best to avoid these (unless you’re especially daring).
Texture-wise, start by choosing a primary texture and keeping everything else neutral or textureless. Once you understand the basics of texture, you can mix and match all different types of fabrics.
It might be helpful to think of texture as a replacement for color. Since texture adds dimension without drawing undue attention to your body shape, it’s an incredibly versatile element of style that big guys can benefit from.
9. Consider New Styles
Put simply, some styles are just easier for big guys to pull off. This makes total sense — a lot of sportier styles were designed with athletic men in mind — but it makes things difficult for big guys.
For instance, if you want to go for an Ivy League style but you wear a 4XL, you probably won’t have much luck. However, if you can find a similar style with more options for big guys (in this case, something like business casual, athleisure, or even haute couture), you’ll have a much easier time.
Styles that work better for big guys include:
You might have to step outside your comfort zone a little bit to try some of these styles, but you never know what you’ll end up liking. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a style that’s more limiting for big guys as long as you can deal with the limitations.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Invest
On the surface, it makes sense to look for clothes that are as affordable as possible, and it makes even more sense for big guys since they struggle so much with finding clothes that fit.
However, it’s often in your best interest to make investment purchases. For one, higher-quality clothing is more durable and will last longer, and that’s crucial for big guys who need clothes that can hold up to the demands of a large physique.
In addition, more premium clothing often looks and feels nicer than cheap store-bought clothing. These improvements make a big difference when you’re developing your personal style.
You also get more opportunities to find big guy–friendly clothing when you increase your price range. Should you be dropping hundreds on each item you buy? Of course not. But if you find items that you love and that fit you well, you’ll do yourself a favor by splurging.
7 Essential Clothing Items for Big Guy Style
Now that you know some fundamental style principles, let’s take a look at some of the best clothing items for larger men.
A Well-Fitting T-shirt
Out of every category of clothing, it’s the basics that often give big guys the most trouble. For example, where (and how) do you find a well-fitting T-shirt, and how should a T-shirt even fit you?
First, think about how you wear T-shirts. If you wear them on their own or as untucked layers, you’ll probably want a shirt that’s your true size and made from at least a medium weight fabric. If you’re like me and prefer to wear them as undershirts, then you can go with slightly slimmer or more fitted tees.
However, if you like to wear your T-shirts, take width and length measurements to ensure the shirt doesn’t expose your belly when you raise your arms and stays tucked in without popping out or coming loose.
For tees, workwear brands like Carhartt, Levi’s, and Dickies will serve you well. You should also consider some emerging brands like ONE BONE and True Classic that focus specifically on clothing for bigger guys.
Button Down Shirt
It’s fairly easy to find button down shirts in extended sizes, but be wary — plenty of these options are cheaply made and wear out quickly. This is an area where you’ll want to spend a little bit more to get a durable and comfortable garment.
Again, be mindful of fit. A good button down should look tailored, but you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t hug your body. And stay away from synthetics; natural fabrics like cotton work way better for big guys. (And consider grabbing a linen shirt or two for summertime.)
The denim jacket is arguably the ultimate outerwear piece for big and tall guys. It’s versatile, hardwearing, and cozy, making it a fantastic option for basically any time of the year that’s not summer.
Before you buy, read up on the different types of denim jackets. Type III jackets are more slimming thanks to their vertical detailing, and Type II jackets can help square off a rounder body shape.
The chore jacket is another outerwear piece that should be a staple for all big guys. Chore jackets were made for manual labor, so they’re thick and roomy.
What’s most surprising is the flattering fit a chore jacket provides — somehow, the boxy cut and patch pockets can make anyone look great.
Buying pants is relatively easy if you’re top heavy, but it can feel almost impossible if you wear a size larger than a 38. Thankfully, more brands are expanding their jean offerings to include extended waist sizes, so there are more fashionable options than ever before.
Unless you go the custom route, you’ll most likely have to get your jeans tailored for a perfect fit. But don’t let that stop you — tailoring your jeans is fast, easy, and relatively cheap, and you’ll wind up with a pair you can rely on for years to come.
If you wear even remotely formal or businessy clothing and have a wider waist, consider picking up some suspenders.
These offer a much more practical and comfortable alternative to belts and allow you to wear pants at your natural waist more easily. (If you wear pants below your natural waist, you may not need suspenders.)
The only downside is that suspenders will look out of place in almost all casual contexts. They’re fine for some workwear-inspired outfits, but generally, suspenders should be reserved for more formal situations.
Accessorizing can go a long way toward removing visual bulk, but you don’t want to go overboard. Stick to wearing three accessories at most (and that includes hats) so that your outfit still looks intentional.
Hats, watches, scarves, rings, bracelets, and even bandanas are all great accessories that will serve big guys well, so it’s good to have a few options in your closet.
Pro tip: When it comes to items like scarves and jewelry, stay away from chunky materials and fabrics.
How To Dress If You Are a Big Man: 7 Example Outfits for Big Guys
All of these styling principles are critical to know, but they’re useless if you can’t see them in practice. That’s why I’ve curated some fantastic outfits that show off big guy style.
Here’s an outfit I put together that leverages my favorite secret weapon for big guys: the smock.
Think of a smock as a more structured hoodie or a pullover jacket. Smocks are great for big-bellied guys since they give your stomach room to breathe, but they also frame your figure nicely thanks to the thick and rigid cotton drill fabric they’re often made from.
I paired the smock with a collarless linen blend shirt and workwear-style jeans to complete the look.
Old Meets New
This outfit is a great example of how combining textures and layers can go a long way. The thicker denim overshirt pairs perfectly with the chambray shirt and chinos for an Americana vibe.
In contrast, the loafers provide a bit of elegance and tone down the outfit a bit for a more laid-back feel.
Guess what? Athletic wear is for everyone — yes, even big guys.
Layer a shirt jacket over a hoodie for a relaxed look that’s comfy and structured at the same time, and throw on a pair of sweatpants or joggers to complete the style.
Neutral colors and earth tones can work wonders for large guys. Sticking to a relatively monochromatic color scheme is an excellent way to build a simple yet stylish outfit.
Here, the brown/beige color palette ties the outfit together, and the turtleneck layered underneath the overshirt adds a classy touch.
Denim is an amazing fabric for big guys because it drapes well and keeps shape. Even better, you can wear more than one denim layer at a time without adding too much visual bulk.
This triple denim look (shirt, jacket, and jeans) evokes workwear while still looking modern, and it’s also slimming thanks to the dark washes.
This outfit looks like it’s straight from a Parisian runway. The waxy brown jacket and slick blue turtleneck contrast with the white trousers for a refined yet slightly edgy look.
It’s a masterclass in using color and texture.
A lot of big guys assume they can’t pull off the ultra-relaxed European look, but this outfit proves otherwise.
The fit of the shirt and pants is key to getting this style right; go for a tailored fit for both so that everything is clean and crisp.
Being a bigger guy shouldn’t mean you have to be unhappy with how you look or sacrifice the ability to be stylish. While big guys unfortunately don’t have as many options as they should, it’s still possible to build a fashionable wardrobe with a bit of intention and experimentation.
Take these style principles and use them to help guide your journey. Once you understand these basics, you can more confidently approach your personal style and create outfits that not only look good on you but also reflect your personality.
I know that big guys face way more fashion problems than the ones covered in this guide, so let me know in the comments what your struggles are. What roadblocks are you still facing that prevent you from developing your personal style?
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!