Style Geometry 101: Learn the Art of Fitting Your Shape

Design by Mark Weaver
About a week ago, I received this question from one of my faithful, dedicated readers and it got my mind churning with possibilities:
"I am a fairly large fellow, and find that really the only dressy role model I have seen for someone like me is Kelsey Grammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, are there more you know about that size and taste?"
So rather than merely addressing this question with a simple list (as that would be all too easy) I've decided to dedicate this post to the issue of style geometry.  As anyone who's ventured into a Golden Corral on a Sunday afternoon can attest, not every male body was die cast in the chiseling department of the Pitt & Statham factory.  In fact, a question from the remarkable Newlywed Game once observed, that gentlemen (or husbands in this case) often fall into one of the categories of buffed, puffed, stuffed, or not nearly enough.

As fate would have it, there comes a time in a man's life (usually during that atrocious and painfully uncoordinated, hellish saga known as the "preteen awkard stage") that he looks into the mirror and realizes that if he, like the predators of the African savanna, ever hopes to snatch one of these elusive females as his friend and companion, he's got to do something with himself.  Because the truth is, it doesn't matter what your size or shape, a sharp and refined gentleman is a catch for any lady.  Unfortunately however, this is a notion lost on the fashion world at large.  I do not believe I would be remiss to say that I have often observed the traditional off-the-rack men's attire only to find myself wondering what horridly boxy and broad-shouldered Neanderthal with a freakishly large gluteus did the designer get to model their clothing?  The modern gentleman comes in various shapes and sizes, and unfortunately, it takes some effort for those of us without the Hollywood physique to make it work in the style department.  But fear not, my friends.  In response to my friend's question above and for the benefit of the diverse population of modern gents in the world, I've compiled some of the most essential tips and guidelines to get the perfect fit for every guy.  This is Style Geometry 101: Learning to fit and suit your shape.

TYPE #1:  The Shawty (Get Low, Get Low!)  
Or "The Short Man" for those of you lacking in R&B lingo.  Our first body type that can be difficult to fit is the short guy.  If you're plagued by a height deficit, you know the feeling all too well of trying on pants and jackets only to find they always seem to look like your father's--sleeves down to your knuckles and pants that bunch up like Fred Durst at your anklesWhile a tailor can certainly help out to some degree, they aren't always miracle workers.  Take some pointers from Jesse Eisenberg (pictured right) who stands at only 5'8".  First of all, the Social Network star keeps things slim and fitted--slim tie, slim lapels, slim shoes, tapered pants, no pleats.  He also avoids adding cuffs to his pant legs--a big mistake for shorter gentlemen as it makes your legs appear stubby.  The streamlined look of the suit (or whatever wardrobe option you're considering) works seamlessly together to make you look 10 miles longer.  Additionally, Eisenberg realizes that the "S" at the end of those numbers on the inside of suit jackets...are for him.  If you're missing the "tall" part but still want to keep the "dark and handsome," then admit it to yourself and go with short-sized jackets.  It'll make a world of difference when you look ready for the red carpet rather than the junior high ball.       

TYPE #2:  The Bean-Pole
  "The perils and atrocities that often plague the runway."
Without a doubt the body type that I sympathize with the most is the lanky, tall and skinny toothpick option.  While critical members of our other body type categories may argue that this type is perhaps the easiest kind to fit, such a task is actually harder than one might think.  While it is true that the vast majority of male runway fashion models are the size of Number 2 pencils and high dollar designer labels seem to cater to them, there are two major problems for the bean-pole gentleman that many overlook.  First, is that the anorexic models hired by these high-priced designers for their shows are sporting precisely that--high-priced designer clothing.  This becomes a problem only if you happen to be a tall and lanky individual who hasn't recently received a sizable check from a drug cartel with which to purchase a shirt and a pair of socks from one of these companies.  Secondly, the fashions and styles depicted on the runway (by these twig-sized models) are many times very similar to the winged, grandiloquent outfits of the Victoria Secret Show--pretty to look at and good for inspiration, but not very practical and often result in incarceration if worn in public. (see above, which is neither pretty or good for anything but the garbage) 
       There is hope for us, however.  Rather than marching to the nearest Banana Republic, ordering their boxiest suit and begging a tailor or witchdoctor to try to fix it to your specifications, try stores that offer more European-cut clothing.  While this initially sounds like a ridiculously expensive alternative, there are actually several stores in the United States such as Zara and Topman that import their clothing from Europe (the UK mainly) and manage to keep their prices at a very reasonable level.  After years of looking like a malnourished giant with a muffin top from the blousing dress shirts of American department stores, I discovered a Zara Man store in a mall in Houston.  I never buy dress pants or suits anywhere else.  The fit is perfect for a lanky frame, giving even more credence to the fact that everything is cooler in Britain.  Another tip is to use accessories such as tie bars, pocket squares, and even vests to help offset the fact that there's such a long distance between your neck and your belt.  Some of my favorite inspirations for this body type are Conan O'Brien, who stands an impressive 6'4".  For years, my favorite talk show host has used his incredible lankiness to merely enhance his comedic presence, and always looks blasted cool and sharp doing it.

TYPE #3: Big Man On...well, Anywhere.         
So although it's taken us a while to get to it, this is the type of body type I know my friend and loyal reader who posted the initial question to be.  Very tall, and not the least bit lanky.  The type of gentleman who can also fall through the cracks in the world of the right fit because he is many times too tall for department stores and outlets, but does not exhibit the "big" role as defined by the "Big & Tall" selections.  Luckily there exist "long" sizes for jackets in many stores.  Try one on and see if the fit is right.  Depending on the type of suit, a "regular" may fit just fine.  Also, try to steer clear of three-button jackets or high-V vests.  This tends to accentuate the longevity of your frame.  Stick with a solid two-button suit, a lower-V vest, or Italian-cut shirts.  This will help to bring the eye to the V-shape of your torso and broadness of your shoulders without making you look like a giant.  Depending on how formal the occasion, decide whether to ditch the pocket square as it may bring to much attention to your already forward chest.  Also, be sure to anchor the look with a solid shoe.  Not one that makes you look like Frankenstein's monster, but a slim, rounded-toe shoe that completes the streamline of the look.  Once you've got your shoe, consider telling your tailor to give you a moderate break and possible cuffs on your pants.  As mentioned above in the "Short Man" segment, cuffs are usually only a good idea for guys above 6'2" or 6'3".  But the combination of a little break and a cuff in your trousers can really help to lessen the look of your mile-long legs. 

As far as some style role models, I think Kelsey Grammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are perfect.  Some of my additions would be Javier Bardem (who looks insanely similar to Morgan anyway but has that Spanish cool about him) and LeBron James (6'8").  While I wouldn't necessarily follow their style on the court, the conferences I've seen with the likes of James and others like Kobe Bryant have proven to me that these guys know how to clean up well when the occasion calls for it.

TYPE #4: The "Round"-About Gentleman
Think portlier gentlemen can't be as blasted cool as those with a slimmer physique?  Think again.  Take a pointer or six from one of the most inspirational and charismatic leaders in the history of the world--Winston Churchill.  This is a man who literally became the face of hope and courage in a war of fear, cruelty, and oppression--and he did it all with his own personal Battle of the Bulge raging underneath his waistcoat.  Here's a couple of his tips:
First, wear a pocket square.  Check out the picture to the left of Mr. Churchill.  The pocket square does wonders at diverting the eye to your chest, where it belongs.  Second, although not shown in this particular picture, ditch the belt-cinching and try out some suspenders.  These elastic wonders are another example of mid-century resurgences that can be worn with pride on the modern man.  Finally, button up your coat.  While the style novice may argue that this will accentuate your extra love, it actually helps to slim out your profile by bringing everything in together.  Just be sure not to button the bottom button of your jacket.  This only worsens the problem.

Of course the main commandment for every body type is to "LOVE THY TAILOR AS THYSELF."  No matter who you are, every suit or dress pant off the rack is going to need some adjustment for that perfect fit to your frame.  But be careful.  A tailor can do some pretty amazing things with an inch to an inch and a half of extra fabric, but any more than that is asking for trouble.  The kind of trouble that has the pockets on your newest trousers so close together they look like one giant kangaroo pouch.  As a rule, start small.  Find the jacket, vest, or pant, that is too tight for you to move in and then go a size up and see how that feels.  The old rules of being able to curl your hands over the sleeves of your jacket are out.  Keep it fitted to your body and not like you're wishing and praying to grow into your duds one day.  Learn the art of Style Geometry, find your shape, do the math, and get to it!

Consulted Source:  "Suit Your Shape." GQ Magazine, Aug 2007.


  1. Why thank you, faithful and dedicated reader! Hope it was a help!

  2. Hello, A very insightful post. Thanks for the info. Its great that if our default settings are giving us messy or stringy builds, this dialog can probably help.Thanks for the information.