Menswear choices for tall men of all builds and body types.
Everyone looks at the tall guy first — follow a few basic fashion tips to be sure they're seeing a good-looking man! This article outlines menswear and tailoring options for “big and tall” gentleman of all builds.
To most people, tall is tall — a man over 6'4″ or so is a “big guy,” however he happens to be built. Unfortunately, most stores follow the same basic assumption and offer “big and tall” clothing that can leave some men swimming in excess fabric while others strain their suits at the seams.
Clothes for Tall Men: Your Style Goals
Stocky or slim, every tall man shares a few basic needs with his fellow giants. He wants to avoid looming, which makes other people feel awkward and can make him appear ungainly or foolish — but he does not want to seem as if he has something to hide, or is ashamed of his height.
He needs clothing that can make an impression powerful enough to outweigh the automatic “gosh, you're tall” reaction — but avoids calling excess attention to a presence that already draws the eye. And even more than smaller men, he needs clothing that will balance his frame and fit his body — really fit, not just be long enough in the sleeves.
Before considering specific body types, all tall men will want to keep the following wardrobe basics in mind:
Even a very broad man in the 6'4″-and-up neighborhood is fundamentally a vertical shape to most people, whose eyes have to travel up to take him in. Clothing that incorporates horizontal lines will break the instinctive up-and-down gaze.
Broad belts, checked fabrics, horizontally-oriented pockets, and even a hat with a distinctive band can break the vertical lines of your body at various points, making a more manageable view for the smaller world.
Different tall men will want to work their horizontal touches in at different points to best flatter their body, but purely vertical touches — pinstripes, narrow ties, etc. — flatter no tall men.
Patterns and Colors, the Tall Man's Friend
Tall men don't have to work to stand out, but they do have to work to be remembered as something other than “that tall guy.” A distinctive personal style makes all the difference, so don't be shy about wearing mixed patterns or unusual colors. Size is a luxury; patterns which would overwhelm a smaller man look appropriate on your room-filling presence.
Take advantage by experimenting with more unusual combinations. The only thing to avoid is unnecessary boldness, either in aggressive patterns or bright colors — everyone is going to look at you first no matter what you wear, so try to be memorable rather than attention-getting.
Something as simple as an understated herringbone weave in your wardrobe-staple white dress shirt can turn a tall man from a monolith into a memory.
The Best Fit Possible
Unfortunately, the best advice for a tall man is also the most expensive. “Big and tall” menswear off the rack errs on the side of baggy formlessness, which flatters almost no one, so unless you make a few very lucky department store finds, you may want to seriously consider custom tailored clothing.
The store-bought alternatives may be long enough in the sleeves and the fall of the jacket, but they will almost certainly imbue you with the qualities of a suit made to fit as many large men as possible: lumpy, sack-like limpness.
Avoid loose collars, tight shoulders, short arms, and all the other plagues of shopping for the tall man and budget for a few pieces of custom-made menswear, or at the very least some custom alterations to your off-the-rack clothing.
All tall men benefit from fitted clothing, but different builds demand different fittings even within the confines of the 6'4″-and-up bracket. Be honest about your body type, and choose styles that will suit it — a good tailor will have no trouble making every variation on the “big guy” look like the man everyone else in the room wants to be.
Stick to the choices appropriate for all your sizes, not just the vertical one.
Clothes for the Tall, Thin Man
If you're both tall and slender, impressions of bulk and breadth are going to be the difference between looking balanced and looking lanky. Consider a double-breasted jacket as your secret weapon: the added fabric will give your midsection some needed weight, while its old-fashioned elegance will help to make your style memorable without being too ostentatious.
Waistcoats can serve the same function, adding fabric and a dash of panache simultaneously. Let the balance of your body determine where the back of the jacket ends: if most of your height is in your legs, a jacket that falls an inch or two below the curve of your buttocks will help make them look more proportional.
If you have a longer torso, let the jacket fall higher on the bottom, and consider broader lapels to fill your chest out instead.
Windowpane or checked patterns are good choices for both your suits and your shirts, and ties with horizontally-slanted diagonals will give some added breadth as well (avoid entirely horizontal stripes on the tie; the area is too small for them to add much breadth, and you will look like you're trying too hard).
See the article Dressing Your Body Type: Tall and Slender for more details!
Clothes for the Tall, Well-Built Man
If your height comes with substantial muscle mass, you face a different problem from a thinner tall man: suits that add needed bulk to his body will make yours look like the “muscle” from an old gangster film. Choose a fit that showcases your own shape, instead.
A single-breasted jacket that goes easy on the shoulder padding and a close-fitted dress shirt will make the most of a good build. Solid colors with subtle weaves are better-suited to your needs than more pronounced patterns; you make enough of an impression on your own.
Focus on fit, instead — keep the clothing tight where your muscles are most developed, and allow a looser fit around your more slender areas to make everything seem proportional. For athletes focused on upper body strength, a longer jacket and even peaked lapels (usually a vertically-themed no-no for tall men) will help smooth out the transition from the torso to the legs.
Men with strong legs will need roomier trousers, and should consider a narrower cuff or no cuff at all on the bottom to extend the visual length slightly.
See the article Dressing Your Body Type: Tall and Muscular for more details!
Clothes for the Tall, Heavyset Man
Proportion is everything for the tall man with the broad waist. If your waist is larger than your chest, you will certainly want to avoid bold horizontal lines or any kind of checked pattern — limit the effect of your height with smaller horizontal touches like ticket pockets or a pocket square instead. Since your body is larger than other men's you will want the detailing on your suit to be larger as well; wider pockets and lapels on your jacket will keep them from appearing undersized.
Wearing your trousers high will both slim your midsection and balance your heavier torso more evenly with your legs. Solid colors are best for your build, since you want to avoid both the widening effect of horizontal lines and the heightening effect of vertical.
Weaves that add a bit of texture to the fabric can be a safe alternative to unbroken solids; a timeless tweed herringbone would make an excellent odd jacket for the tall, wide man.