Once you get to a certain height, it’s hard to avoid looking lanky no matter what you do.
Even a professional basketball player looks pretty twiggy in a group of shorter, stockier men, and it’s not because he’s short on muscles.
Men who are both tall and thin face a double challenge: they have to avoid looking looming or storkish like every tall man, and they have to do it without looking like they’re swimming around inside clothes that are too loose on their frame.
The goal of this article is to help you dress sharp as a tall and thin man by helping you understand the clothing types that will best compliment a skinny and tall build.
Styles for the Tall – Thin – Skinny Man
Clothes for tall, skinny men should add mass and subtract height.
That means looking for lots of horizontal elements, and not just stripes — layered clothing, broad belts, trouser cuffs, jacket pockets, and vests can all add lines going across the body. Casual wear can feature asymmetrical patterns or graphics to grab the eye and keep it at mid-body height; more business-dress outfits can incorporate windowpane or broad check patterns for the same effect. Everything should be closely fitted — there’s no excess flesh to hide.
Spare cloth will billow where it’s untucked or balloon where it’s tucked for an unsightly effect either way. Tailored menswear offers a great fit for those that can afford it, but even department store shoppers can benefit from knowing their measurements before they go in.
Pants & Trousers for Tall Men
Most retailers describe men’s trousers using two numbers: waist and inseam. Those don’t give any idea of how wide around the legs are at the thigh, or how far the “drop” from the waist to the crotch is, so there’s no way of telling how saggy the trousers are going to look until they arrive. If you know a specific brand, cut, and measurements that looks good on you and you can find it online, go for it — otherwise, be ready for some old-fashioned, in-store shopping to try things on.
In the store, look for those spots we just mentioned — the thighs and the space between the waistband and the crotch. There should be a close fit in both of these, enough room for everything to move around in and not much more. If the fabric is heavy enough to fall smoothly and not swish around too much a little looseness in the lower legs will add some thickness to the lower body, but don’t overdo it. Any fabric that billows is just saying “too skinny for his clothes.” Pleats are also worth avoiding — a skinny man doesn’t need the added room for expansion they offer unless his trousers are very closely fitted, and the vertical lines don’t do you any favors visually.
Cuffs shouldn’t really bear mentioning. Tall guys are going to want them anywhere they’re appropriate, and that’s everywhere except black tie events. If you’re lucky enough to have your clothes tailor-made for you, go ahead and have the cuffs made a little wider than usual. No one will notice the extra width, and it will help keep the trousers looking proportional to your height. More casual pants can have the side pockets slanted forward rather than straight up-and-down, which breaks up the vertical line a bit, and keeping the amount of stuff in them to a minimum can keep a key- or wallet-bulge from looking like it’s overpowering your whole thigh.
One last note on pants: broad belts and big buckles are great for tall men, but don’t go too oversized if you’re on the skinny side. Rodeo cowboys can get away with massive belt buckles because they have thighs the size of your chest. Skinny guys are going to look better with a wide, monochrome belt and a nice, rectangular buckle.
Shirts and Ties on Tall & Thin Men
If you’re a tall man, you need a tall tie.
That means that tie hands all the way to your belt when it’s tied — anything shorter is going to leave a weird-looking gap of exposed shirtfront. Only circus clowns are supposed to have that. A broader tie is also going to be a better look for skinny men, since it goes a long way toward bulking out their chest, and a properly-tied full Windsor knot will add some strength and definition to the neck and chin area. Patterns with horizontal elements are as helpful here as anywhere, so look for heavily-slanted diagonals, wide diamonds, or check patterns.
T-shirts and dress shirts, like pants, should be closely fit. They should also be long enough that they stay tucked in. If the sides of the shirt are creeping up out of the waistband as you move, it’s too short. If the shirt stays tucked in but balloons loosely around the waistband it’s too loose, and if it doesn’t do either of those things congratulations — you found a very rare shirt that’s actually made to fit a tall, skinny man. Most store-bought shirts that are long enough are also too loose, and need tailoring to take the sides in. Failing that, thicker undershirts can help take up a bit more space, and keeping the pants tightly belted will hold the tucked-in fabric in place as long as possible. If you don’t wear your shirts tucked in, of course, you can get away with something slightly looser, but too much fabric blowing around will still make you look scrawnier than you want.
Suit Jackets and Sport Coats for Tall Skinny Guys
If you’re a smart dresser, your wardrobe will include suits and jackets. Blazers, sport jackets, and suit jackets are the secret weapon of tall and thin men every where - jackets add bulk to the chest and shoulders creating a more masculine look.
These are just as hard to find in a tall, skinny man’s size as shirts, though they are out there, and they can also be adjusted by most tailors. The hardest fit to adjust is the shoulders, so prioritize a good fit there — anything else can be taken care of with relatively little cost, but a jacket that pinches in the shoulders or hangs off them loosely is going to be hard to fix. Look for thicker shoulders to add some bulk and padding to your frame. The back of the jacket should hang at least to the top of your buttocks, and there’s no harm in letting it hang a few inches further than that — this helps shorten the line of your legs and makes you look more balanced.
Double-breasted jackets are also a great option for tall, slender men, though only appropriate as part of a matched suit. The extra cloth across the chest fills the frame out and can be made to fit quite closely. It’s also an elegant and eye-catching style — people are going to notice you in the crowd anyway, so have a little fun with it. An alternative is the three-piece suit, where the waistcoat serves the same function of adding cloth and breadth to the torso.
Bad Looks for Tall Skinny Men
The only real cardinal sins for lanky men are loose clothes and sleek, vertical lines.
A pinstripe suit with nothing to break up the verticals is a poor choice as well. Never select a loose shirt and baggy pants – it’s about the worse thing you can wear.
Final Tips for the Thin and Tall Man
You want thick, layered clothing close to the body to add breadth, and you want lots of visual activity and horizontal elements to keep you from towering. Pad the frame out, clutter the style up, and relax — you’re never going to blend into the crowd, so wear something fun once in a while.