Getting the most out of tailored menswear for the “big and tall” man.
Dressing well means dressing for your body type. Presented here are considerations of pattern, color, and cut for tall, broad men — the classic “big and tall” look — considering custom suits, bespoke tailoring, and other menswear.
Big and Tall Menswear: What You Need
Every body type has its own fashion needs. A cut that flatters one man obscures the attractiveness of another, or highlights an element he would prefer to minimize. Know what you need from your clothing and request it from your tailor, or hunt for it on the racks — but beware of mass-produced “big and tall” suits that err too far on the side of “big,” leaving you with a lumpish, sacklike drape of fabric that does nothing to flatter your impressive frame.
Minimize The Tall Man's Height
All tall men fill the room, and the broadly-built man most of all. There's nothing wrong with being the biggest man present — in fact, it's often a social advantage — but you want to avoid intimidating people or making them feel awkward around you.
Most of the imposing “looming” feeling that some tall men give viewers comes from the vertical shape of their body, which stretches further upward than the eye is used to traveling on a first impression, so breaking that uninterrupted up-and-down is going to be a crucial goal of your personal style. Since you also carry your own breadth, you will want menswear that de-emphasizes your height without adding any heavily horizontal elements, and details of accenting will be a crucial consideration.
Balance The Broad Man's Width
As a broad man as well as a tall one, clothing that gives you a well-proportioned look is more important than clothing that tries to disguise or negate your size. Opt for comfortable clothing cut on a larger scale rather than constricting jackets and trousers; a big man in a comfortable suit looks much better than a man whose bunched, tight-fitting clothes make him look a tiny bit smaller but much more awkward.
Since many of the patterns and cuts that would normally produce a slimming effect rely on stark vertical lines, your goal will be more about balance than it is about narrowing your profile down. Be comfortable with being big — and make being big look comfortable to others as well.
Style and Presence beyond “Big and Tall”
Unusually-built men have to work to make an impression beyond their size; without something else to set you apart, you run the risk of being remembered primarily as “that big guy.” While you have no need of bright colors or flashy patterns to attract the initial gaze (people will be looking at your first no matter what you do), you are well-served by a personal style that leaves a lasting impression.
The menswear staples of plain blue and white shirts, charcoal or navy suits, and monochrome ties are inoffensive and safe, but do nothing to set you apart from your imposing stature. Don't be afraid to experiment with pattern and color; simply be cautious of anything too gaudy or eye-catching. Elegant originality counts for far more with large men than an aggressive initial statement.
Menswear for the Tall, Broad Man: From Heels to Head
Patterning for the Broad and Tall
Tall men are often told to select horizontally-themed patterns to reduce the impression of height; broad men are usually advised to seek vertical lines for their slimming effect. As a man built both tall and heavy, the best way around these contradictory guidelines is to avoid them entirely — solid, dark colors thin your silhouette without adding too much of an impression of height, so embrace them as a wardrobe staple.
Weaves that add a heavy texture like houndstooth or herringbone may be too heavy for your frame, so opt for simple, lightweight fabrics and weaves in flattering colors. An understated pattern like the classic glen check can help incorporate both vertical and horizontal elements without creating an overpowering impression of extra height or girth, but avoid bold patterns no matter what direction they emphasize.
Large Men's Shoes
A large, tall man will almost certainly have broad feet as well, possibly even requiring a “wide” size of one degree or another, so don't overemphasize their presence — a neat, plain shoe with simple “bar” style lacings across the front (where the laces simply form horizontal lines all the way up) will serve you better than an elaborate wing-tip.
A capped toe can help divide the foot in half visually, making it stand out less, and thin soles (leather is best) are an obvious must. Consider a reasonably high-cut shoe to add bulk to your ankles if they need it, and always select socks that match your trousers as closely as possible — no man benefits from having a stripe of mismatched color show when he stretches his leg, but on a big man the immediate impression of a scarecrow is unavoidable and undesirable.
Trousers for Heavyset Tall Men
Wear your trousers high, at the natural waist — as long as the measurement is accurate, there should be no feeling of constriction. The idea that pants are less comfortable when worn at your natural waist rather than on your hips is a recent misconception born mostly out of badly-fitted off-the-rack clothing (and of large men deliberately buying clothing too small for them in the hopes of seeming slimmer). Trousers that drape from your waist and over the bottom of your belly will make your legs appear longer and your torso slimmer, a flattering effect well worth the small heightening effect of longer legs.
Pleats help make trousers more comfortable and provide a slimming impression without adding to your vertical profile, and suspenders will keep your waist from feeling constricted while putting a slimming boundary on your chest. Just be sure to err on the side of wider suspenders — pencil-thin straps will return you to the looming effect.
The Big Man's Jacket
A jacket with a deep cut creates a longer “V” shape across your torso, which you will want for its slimming effect. As an added benefit, the longer expanse of dress shirt reminds people of your impressive height without drawing their eye upward; the point of the “V” drags their eye downward instead.
Here more than anywhere else your primary concern is going to be tailored accents that balance with your size — larger pockets, generous lapels, and properly-fitted shoulders (unpadded — you don't want to add bulk) will all help prevent you from looking like you were stuffed into a jacket that was meant for a smaller man. Even cut to your measurements, a jacket with normal-sized detailing will appear awkwardly undersized.
Shirts and Ties for Large Men
Solid colors or very understated patterns are still your best ally when it comes to picking your dress shirts, but don't be afraid to mix and match within those parameters.
Experiment with less common colors, mixing in purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, and greens with the staple whites and blues — your complexion will determine what works and what doesn't, but you will generally be served by anything dark, muted, and a little unusual.
French cuffs are also very flattering to the tall, broad man; the splash of contrasting color at your jacket cuffs helps to set visual boundaries on your frame.
Neckties should fall solidly in the middle widths, avoiding either a straight, narrow approach (it will emphasize your height too much) or a short, broad style (it will emphasize your width, and look silly on your height). Simple patterning makes for a good necktie, particularly anything with a regularly-repeating emblem or design against a dark background.
Completing the Big and Tall Look
Remember that you are striving for balanced elegance, and your clothing choices as a large, tall man should be simple and straightforward. Too many small details will make your look too “busy,” so keep adornments to a minimum. Your height makes a hat unnecessary and sometimes undesirable, but look for wide brims and low crowns if you do prefer to sport headwear — a tall, broad man may be one of the few who can wear classic Western styles without looking like a cowboy wannabe, particularly the dressier offerings in muted colors.
Pocket squares are a flattering touch on your broad chest, helping to break up the side-to-side profile, and they will help you stand out from the crowd as well. Watches and other jewelry are up to you, but should be well-sized and avoid squeezing your flesh.
In general, your goal is to keep things simple and classic — leave aggressive styling to smaller men, who need help making an impression. With balanced elements and a flattering color scheme, your clothing will leave a lasting impression rather than an immediate one.