Dressing men by body type is mostly a matter of details and patterning with some specific style advice for each build.
A suit jacket is going to produce the same basic look on most men, though it will be more flattering on some and not others.
But there are a few bodies that are simply outliers — figures that fall outside the assumptions of human proportion most tailors work with. Extremely muscular athletes and bodybuilders are one such category.
Why Male Bodybuilders Have Clothing Issues
The specific muscle definition of weight-trainers and bodybuilders gives them a different frame from other men. Most men do not have a significant change in size from their waist to their chests.
The moderate narrowing is mirrored in the shape of the conventional suit jacket, which tapers slightly near the waist and widens again near the hip in imitation of the body's shape.
Heavily-developed men have a much more pronounced “drop” from the shoulders and chest to the waist.
Something similar happens below the waist, where the thighs and the buttocks are significantly bulkier than the legs below the knee.
Different regimens obviously produce different builds, but the difference will usually lie in proportion rather than fit — the relationship between one level of the body and the ones above and below it.
95% of off the rack clothing is not made to accommodate this – and the 5% is all ultra casual workout clothing. No wonder most muscular men dress so badly! The challenge for muscular men is to find clothing that doesn't hide the results of their hard work but doesn't exaggerate their already extreme silhouette.
Unaltered clothing that fits in the shoulders will almost certainly be so baggy around the lower torso that any definition is hidden. The same runs true for the thighs and the lower legs; loose enough to fit up high will be too loose to look attractive lower down.
Tailoring The Suit Jacket For A Bodybuilder
It's safe to assume that a bodybuilder's suit jackets and sport coats are going to need adjustment and the very least.
Bespoke tailoring will offer the best look, but at the bare minimum plan on adjustments to the drape of the jacket.
The “waist” isn't a band of cloth like it is on a pair of trousers, but the narrowest point on a jacket can be brought in still narrower, and men with heavily-muscled torsos will want it done.
If you are buying a suit off the rack and planning on later adjustments, be sure to buy one that fits in the shoulders — these are the hardest part of the jacket to adjust.
It's also very difficult to make a sleeve wider (longer is less of a problem), so don't buy anything that's too tight in the bicep or the forearm.
Although tailoring is going to be needed to get the fit right, there are many things a muscular man can do to make his upper body look more balanced that have nothing to do with adjusting the upper body clothing fit.
Wearing trousers high is a good start, since it limits the amount of narrow stomach area covered only by a shirt. Wearing a suit jacket buttoned, especially in the case of a double-breasted suit, helps to add bulk below the rib cage as well.
Vests are also an excellent choice, covering the lower half of the torso but not the upper. Making sure the detailing (pockets, lapels, etc.) of any of these will go a long way toward making them look proportional on a heavily-muscled body.
The Bodybuilder & Suit Trouser Fit
Suit trousers have the same basic problem as jackets and shirts — to fit in the largest parts of your body, they have to be so big that they hang loosely around your narrower points.
Doubled pleats can help give the seat and front of your trouser some extra flexibility without widening them as much.
The waistband should fit as closely as comfortably possible, and the legs should meet close to your crotch with no extra hanging fabric.
Below the knees, a tailored fit is the only real way to narrow your trousers as much as they will likely need — regular clothing just doesn't anticipate proportions like yours.
Heavier fabrics, however (especially high-quality wools) will drape more smoothly and stay in place better when you move, which will have something of a slimming effect.
Heavy cloth may still be loose around your calves, but it will fall in a flat plane rather than a rounded balloon. You lose this effect if the trousers are long enough to rest on the tops of your shoes, so be sure the cuffs just barely brush against the shoelaces.
Selecting An Off-The-Rack Suit
Depending on how serious your muscle mass is, an off-the-rack suit may or may not be an option for you. If you think you can get away with it, look for a suit that fits in the widest places — a suit can be shortened or tightened much more easily than it can be lengthened or loosened (understand there are limitations of about 1-2 inches here).
Adding fabric at the narrow points of your body will help you get away with clothes that are maybe a touch too loose in places as well.
Bodybuilders & Custom-Tailored Suits
If you're able to purchase bespoke tailoring for yourself, make your needs clear and know what you want.
You can't assume the tailor who offers you the best price is going to know how to design for a man with your proportions – chances are you'll wind up with a form fitting suit that makes you look like a cartoon character.
Even the higher end designers have to spend a great deal of time looking at a bodybuilders total pattern before constructing a garment that fully utilizes style and fit to the clients advantage.
Final Advice For The Muscular Man
Have a solid understanding of what you need and base your decision on what tailor to go with on how they can knowledgeably answer your questions and their experience working with men who have a similar build as you. It may cost more, but missing out on the frustration will be worth the money spent.
Interested in getting a custom-made suit? Check out our review on the SharpSense made-to-measure suit here!