Once a man gets past a certain size it's hard to find any clothing on store racks at all, much less enough of a variety to make significant choices and develop a personal style.
Custom clothing isn't just a luxury for some athletes, it's a necessity.
If you're unfortunate enough to have an NBA build without an NBA salary you're going to need to pick and choose your articles of clothing carefully to get a good look without going broke.
Knowing the best choices ahead of time saves time, stress, and probably money as well, regardless of whether you're talking to your personal tailor or to a salesperson at a “big and tall” store.
Good Looks For Tall, Broad Men
Let's remember that tall, muscular men are pretty much the idealized body type for guys. That's not something you want to hide or distract from. Simple clothes in dark or muted colors are the athlete's friend. If you're seriously tall and seriously muscled you're going to draw every eye in the room anyway.
That doesn't mean completely stark clothing, though — tall men need some horizontal elements in their clothing to break the height up a bit and keep people from getting that uncomfortable loomed-over feeling. Pockets, cuffs, and belts are all good ways to keep the visual impression a little more contained and less overwhelming.
Let the Powerful Build Show
You don't need a speedo contest to let people admire your natural advantages. Tailored suits, trousers, and shirts can be made to make your strength plain without hugging uncomfortably tight or looking inappropriate. As a powerfully-built man, you will want to select patterns, colors, and cut that show your good health without appearing to flaunt it. Most importantly, you want to avoid anything that constricts you or clings too tightly, giving you the appearance of someone stuffed into an ill-fitting suit.
Style and Presence for Tall Men
Any time you meet a stranger, you are going to have to make a conscious effort register in their minds as anything more than “that tall guy.” Men's clothing often lacks the breadth of style that women's fashion has produced, so small changes can help you stand out from the rest — your challenge will be to stand out in understated and well-thought ways that highlight your uniqueness rather than demand the viewer's attention.
You've had that from the moment you walked into the room, so craft your style to leave a lingering impression rather than an immediate one.
Menswear for the Tall, Athletic Man: From Heels to Head
Patterning Choices for Large Men
Whether it comes from dye or the natural weave of the fiber, all your clothing will have a certain texture and pattern to it. As a very tall man, you are almost always well-served by patterns that incorporate horizontal lines — these lines will give the viewer's eyes something to follow that isn't the imposing up-and-down of your body, detracting from the looming impression.
Since your figure is already powerful, bold checks or windowpanes that draw the eye may be overkill, so consider understated patterns like a classic glen check. Too much mixing and matching can also be overpowering, making simple but elegant patterns your best ally.
Monochrome fabric with a textured weave is subtler than dyed patterns, and can turn even a simple white or blue undershirt into a flattering, memorable fashion statement.
Coloring needs will differ from one complexion to the next, but large men are generally better off avoiding the brightest and boldest dyes. Once again, you stand out enough on your own — even a bright blue is enough to make you seem hulking.
Pastels or dark, muted colors are good choices for suits and dress shirts alike. The timeless charcoal gray suit is particularly flattering on tall men, and has the added benefit of being appropriate in nearly any setting.
Tall Men's Shoes
While most people's eyes are likely to travel upward along your frame, there's always a few people who judge a man by his shoes. Prepare for them with something simple and understated (and with a thin sole), and add a horizontal element with a capped toe or flat “bar” style lacings across the front.
Properly tailored trousers for the tall man should fall all the way to the top of your shoes, but wear understated socks that blend with your trousers for those awkward stretches — be sure to match your socks to your trousers, and not your shoes! No one looks good with a glaring stripe of mismatched fabric around their ankles, but the effect is particularly disastrous for the tall man, who will simply look like a scarecrow.
Jackets and Vests for Big Men
The overall goal of your suit coat as a tall, broadly-built man should be to de-emphasize your height without adding too much bulk — small details that break the vertical line are more effective than the heavy horizontal patterning that a slimmer man might use. Flat pockets will do a good job of reducing your vertical profile, and an extra “ticket” pocket above the regular right-side pocket helps complete the effect.
Consider a square- or puff-folded pocket square on the left breast; in addition to adding a horizontal element, it will give you a distinct personal touch without demanding too much attention.
The best fit for a jacket will, like your trousers, depend somewhat on how your muscle and height is distributed. If you have a slimmer chest padded shoulders and a heavier fabric will help balance you with your legs; cutting the jacket long enough to hang below the curve of your buttocks in the back can shorten the line of your trousers and add another horizontal element.
If your chest is considerably broader, unpadded shoulders and a close fit are ideal, but be cautious of uncomfortably tight jackets — these will bunch around the shoulder, armpits, and collar, giving an unattractive “overstuffed” appearance. It will also be uncomfortable for you, which tailored menswear never needs to be; all your clothing should have enough room for you to move comfortably.
A slightly longer cut in the sleeve benefits most tall men, whose wrists extend further when they move — don't be afraid to show a touch less than the customary half-inch of shirt cuff; more will reveal itself with even small motions.
While broad men generally want to avoid extra layers of cloth over their chests, the downward-pointing “V” shape of a steeply-angled vest is often both slimming and shortening — a rare combination in a single article of clothing. Waistcoats also tend to feature pockets on both sides of the buttons, sometimes as many as two per side for a total of four.
Unusual fabrics or patterning are also considered more appropriate on a waistcoat, especially if it is worn without a jacket, allowing you to make a memorable impression without appearing loud or overdressed. A vest without a jacket is considerably less formal, however, so reserve the look for casual situations — and avoid overusing it; being “that guy with the vest” is not much of an improvement on “that tall guy”!
A Strong Man's Shirt and Tie
Whatever you wear as a jacket, the shirt beneath it will need to be well-fitted and tasteful. The advice on colors and patterns is particularly pertinent here — avoid bright, unbroken colors or bold patterns, which will only add to your eye-catching bulk. Soften monochrome shirts with textured fabric, or opt for a very understated windowpane to incorporate some horizontal lines without creating an overpowering effect.
Ties should be on the narrow side, with a simple pattern and a minimum of vertical striping; avoid bulky knots that will make your neck look thick and strained at the collar. Make sure the tie falls far enough — many off-the-rack ties are too short for men over 6'4″ or so, and will make you look too small for your clothing even if the rest fits.
Muscular Men's Pants
No one wants pants that are too tight to move in comfortably. Beyond that caveat, let's face it — a close fit isn't going to do a well-toned guy any disservice, so you might as well keep everything in close.
The key to well-fitted trousers is the drop, or the space between the waistband and the crotch of the pants. If the drop is larger than it needs to be, you get a goofy-looking billow of loose fabric between your legs and the cloth around your butt and thighs looks droopy. Keep the jeans tight around your midsection.
Take the time and find a pair of trousers that gives you enough room in the crotch to move comfortable but doesn't hang any lower. Well-muscled men also need to make sure the thighs have enough cloth in them — if the fabric is pulling tight and bunching, or if the pants have pleats and the pleats are stretching open, there isn't enough room in the thigh.
Tailors can help large men by making the design elements of clothes a little larger so that everything looks proportional. Wider cuffs help trousers look like they were made for you, not stretched awkwardly over a too-large frame.
A broad belt with a large buckle has the same effect, and also helps cut your height in half visually, which helps with the looming problem. You still want people to be noticing your body, though, and not your clothes, so stay away from huge, shiny rodeo buckles or anything else excessively eye-catching.
Shirts For Well-Built Men
One of the worst looks for large men is the “overstuffed” appearance, and shirts tend to be the worst offenders. Watch out for collars that pinch — button them up in the store, even if you aren't tying a tie with them, and make sure that the fit's comfortable and that the collar itself is large enough not to look undersized for your chin.
A wider spread usually looks better on larger man, but take a look at our article on collar styles to see a more detailed discussion on matching your shirt collar to your features.
Lower down, make sure the shirt can be tucked in all the way around. Most dress shirts are longer in the front and back with an inverted V-shape where the halves join; if the point of the V is too high it will creep out of your waistband and look silly as you move around.
Try for shirts that are long but not too baggy — lots of excess fabric will billow around your waist or balloon out over it and hide your torso.
Ties, if worn, should also be long enough, which almost always means shopping for specifically-marketed “tall” neckties. A tie should never end with a gap between the tip and the belt, and tall men in particular look like boys who've outgrown their hand-me-downs if they show one.
Tall, Strong Men & The Men's Suit
It's hard for an athletic man to look bad in a well-fitted suit. The modern suit jacket or sports coat (check out our What's in a Jacket article for the difference) is a powerful, masculine shape, and it drapes wonderfully over a powerful, masculine man.
A close fit is still your friend, as long as you can button the jacket without straining it. Single-breasted jackets with the buttons down low are a great way to showcase a strong chest.
A jacket also gives an opportunity to introduce some horizontals to balance out your height — unslanted pockets are a must, and a horizontally-folded pocket square in the left breast pocket catches the eye without seeming gaudy.
Modern style generally calls for men to show “a half-inch of linen” beyond the ends of the jacket sleeves, but don't be afraid to wear a slightly longer sleeve and show a bit less shirt cuff.
Longer wrists mean more change in the cloth shown when your arms move, so even a small band of cuff will widen when you use your arms. Alternatively, consider French cuffs as a great way to shorten the appearance of your arms and put a visual frame on your upper body.
Problem Areas For Tall, Muscular Men
If you're really built along bigger lines than other men, your biggest fashion enemy is excessive color or patterning. You don't need your clothes to draw anyone's attention. You've already got it. Bright colors, high contrast, and any kind of vivid print or texture makes you a little too large for most people's lives.
That doesn't mean everything has to be flat monochrome — a fine-lined grid on the undershirt can help break your height up some, and any colored fabric can be spiced up with a textured weave. Just don't overdo it.
The other key issue is going to be fit. Anything too tight is just going to look ridiculous, like you got jammed into rental clothes and you hate them. Loose, baggy fabrics aren't a huge improvement, since they take your toned figure and turn it into a slouched, sack-like appearance. Be picky, and turn down anything that doesn't fit closely without pinching or bunching.
Need more tips on what to wear based on your body type?
Check out this article How To Dress Up According To Your Body Type