How To Dress For Your Body Shape


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Got a chest like Arnie but the arms of Adrien Brody? Or maybe you’ve got cobra lats but your waist’s barely there?

If you think the idea of dressing for your body shape is all a bit Weight Watchers magazine, think again: we men may have fewer curves than women, but our bodies – varying from beanpole to built like a brick sh**house – need the same figure-specific approach to style.

First up, some general housekeeping:

  1. Planning on major gains (or fat loss, for that matter) in the next few months? Stall your size-specific styling until you’ve seen results to save spending on clothes that won’t fit your better self.
  2. When shopping, remember stateside brands often size wider and boxier than their European cousins.
  3. Know when to pass on trends. You might be the most fashion-conscious player Rugby League has ever seen but there’s no way in hell you’re going to squeeze your quads into Hedi Slimane’s skinny Saint Laurent jeans.
  4. Find a tailor. Seriously. While you can minimise issues with fit by heeding the following advice, you won’t get a glove-like fit until your wardrobe’s had a few nips and tucks.
  5. Heads up: if you’re looking for height-specific advice, then re-route here.

The Trapezoid

Trapezoid Body ShapeCongratulations! You won fashion. If your body is defined by a reasonably broad set of shoulders and chest and a gentle taper from the top down through the waist, hips and legs, then you might want to consider moonlighting as a mannequin.

Why? Because you’re pretty much the Vitruvian man. At least as far as off-the-rack clothing manufacturers are concerned. You’re well-proportioned – as long as your head hasn’t doubled in size yet – and so needn’t worry much about adding to, or detracting from, particular parts of your body.

What this means is that you can try your hand at pretty much every trend, cut and seizure-inducing print and probably still look good.

Key Pieces

“Being one of the more athletic body shapes, Trapezoids should take full advantage of the sportswear-inspired look dominating menswear at the moment,” says Tony Cook, Menswear Editor at FarFetch.

“Try pairing slim-fitting tailored trousers with fine-knit jumpers, sneakers and techy items for an all over modern approach to showcasing your slim frame.”

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The Inverted Triangle

Inverted Triangle Body ShapeIs your celebrity lookalike Johnny Bravo? If so, it’s time for some home truths (and to quit staring at yourself in the mirror).

Men with a chest and shoulders significantly broader than their waist and hips are – although likely no strangers to a barbell and in pretty good shape – still technically off-kilter and so can benefit from a few fit fixes to bring them closer to a Trapezoid’s proportions.

Your main aim here is to add bulk to your midriff and lower body, while slimming down the size of your upper torso slightly.

Try Wearing:

  • Horizontal stripes. Particularly from the chest down, as they’ll broaden your comparatively narrow waist.
  • Regular V-neck T-shirts. Note that we’re specifying ‘regular’ here – extreme V-neck tees have no place in your wardrobe unless you earn your crust appearing in a Shore-related reality TV show. Regular V-necks narrow your chest slightly while drawing the eye down and away from the broadest part of your frame.
  • Slim-fit shirts. But remember to size up – chances are you have a body you’ve worked hard for, so celebrate the fact by showing it off without screaming about it.
  • Straight-leg trousers and jeans. Many slim fits will work, too, but nut-crunchingly skinny legwear only serves to accentuate your slimmer lower half, giving the appearance that you skip leg day. Even if you don’t.
  • Patterned legwear. Placing the party firmly at the bottom of your look with camo shorts or checked trousers distracts from your comparatively broad upper torso.

Definitely Avoid:

  • Structured tailoring. Suit jackets and blazers with shoulder padding and wide (especially peak) lapels will only emphasise your mass up top. Steer towards unstructured silhouettes to streamline your frame instead.
  • Scoop necklines, as well as prints, colour pops and/or detailing on the shoulders – all of which will focus attention on your wide shoulders and negatively skew your look’s balance.

Key Pieces

“For the inverted triangle shape, slightly stretchable cottons or fine wools work well,” says Cook.

“A slim cotton polo shirt with a small percentage of spandex will allow stretch across a broad set of shoulders and chest while creating a tailored look around the waist. The smart collar detail styled a little undone will elongate the neck on broad frames, too.”

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The Rectangle

Rectangle Body ShapeBody more b-baller than brawler? Usually tall and thin, rectangular body shapes have shoulders roughly the same width as their waist and hips.

Since this can often appear samey, you’ll need to create an illusion of structure – using clothing to widen the shoulders while also adding the effect of a subtle taper from your top down.

Try Wearing:

  • Horizontal stripes. Especially across your upper torso (think Breton short- and long-sleeved tees), as they’ll add brawn where there likely isn’t much.
  • Structured tailoring that’s tweaked to suit you. Once you’ve found structured blazers and suit jackets that add size to your shoulders, have your tailor take them in slightly at the back to emphasise your waist.
  • Layered looks. A button-down shirt and fine-gauge crew neck jumper is a no-fail pairing that’ll add instant bulk to your frame.
  • Scarves. A neatly tied or draped scarf is an easy way to add a point of difference to your look, as well as flesh out your upper torso.
  • Prints, colour pops and detailing across the chest and shoulders. Pops of brighter colours up top or details like epaulettes will expand the dimensions of your otherwise ramrod frame.

Definitely Avoid:

  • Double-breasted jackets. Unsurprisingly, tailoring cut in the shape of a rectangle does little to nothing for rectangles. Try a single-breasted style with plenty of structure in the shoulders instead.

Key Pieces

“Creating a nipped-in silhouette across the middle of the body is both key and easy to achieve,” says Cook.

“For tailoring, make sure you opt for single-breasted styles. When off-duty, create shape by contrasting layers such as a shirt or a cardigan over a crisp white T-shirt or vest to create an extended V-shaped panel on the upper section of your body.”

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The Triangle

Triangle Body ShapeFirst up: this isn’t a euphemism for fat. While, yes, your body will probably appear more triangular if you’ve been hitting the lager and curries heavy, many of us are simply predisposed to being larger around the waist and hips and relatively narrow up top.

But, although being triangular doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in bad shape, it does mean most clothing is engineered in proportions that are virtually the exact opposite of your body’s. Which means you’ve got your work cut out for you in finding flattering clobber.

Try Wearing:

  • Vertical stripes. This pattern’s streamlining effect lengthens and slims down your silhouette. Horizontal stripes, on the other hand, only help if they’re from the chest up.
  • Jackets with structured, rather than slouchy, shoulders. The former (an overcoat, for example) will square off your frame, while the latter (a relaxed bomber) only exaggerates your already sloping shoulder line.
  • Single-breasted suits. These lack the waist-centric bulk of double-breasted styles, allowing for a more relaxed, slimming fit. Also, if your triangular frame is in fact owing to extra poundage, then find tailoring that’s structured at the top but has plenty of drape (cotton, wool-blends and linen) – this kind of suiting won’t constrict around problem areas like your gut, seat and thighs.
  • Brighter colour panels and detailing across the chest and shoulders. These help broaden your narrow upper torso. For even better figure-fixing, try crew neck tees, sweats and jumpers with colour panels across the chest but a slimming darker colour like black, dark grey or navy around the mid-section.

Definitely Avoid:

  • Fitted polo shirts and roll necks. Both of these styles – although smart – slenderise the neck and shoulders while accentuating any roundness in the waist.
  • Brighter colours and busy prints. Unless you use them as above, or work them into your outfit as accents in the form of glasses, pocket squares, socks and trainers. Bold belts will only draw attention to your hefty halfway point.
  • Skinny fits and extreme tapers. Narrow legwear draws the eye to the centre of your body. Since this where you’re likely roundest, you’ll want to swap these out for straight- and wide-leg fits that better distribute size throughout your silhouette.

Key Pieces

“Creating balance and shape here is key,” says Cook. “Try a more creative approach to tailoring by pairing checked blazers with solid trousers and even a fitted waistcoat. The mix of prints and solid colours will create the illusion of shape and take visual focus away from more ‘problem’ areas.”

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The Oval

Oval Body ShapeWhile there’s a tendency for those of us past our prime to acquire an oval shape, some of us round out as early as puberty.

Oval shapes appear round, particularly at the centre of the body, with shoulders and lower legs looking slimmer by comparison.

To undo some of an oval shape’s negative effects, you’ll need to add structure and width to shoulders to square them off but streamline and slim down the body from the chest through to the knees.

Try Wearing:

  • Vertical stripes. Like a Triangle, an Oval can benefit from a vertical stripe’s slimming effects – try a shirt or pinstripe trouser.
  • The right length. Pay extra attention to sleeve and trouser length as any excessive gathering of fabric will only result in shortening the limbs.
  • Fitted, loosely tapered trousers. These will flatter your legs without making them appear excessively narrow or shapeless in the way skinny, tightly tapered or wide-leg styles would, respectively.

Definitely Avoid:

  • Horizontal stripes, busy prints or contrast colour pops. Unless they’re judiciously placed at – and restricted to – your narrower areas.
  • Statement or coloured belts and double-breasted tailoring. See: Triangle.
  • Boots, if you’re a shorter-limbed Oval. These will make your legs appear even shorter.

Key Pieces

“Stiffer, solid fabrics that hold their shape are best for this frame,” says Cook.

“Key casual menswear pieces that generally fall under the ‘workwear’ category – such as straight-fit indigo jeans, thick canvas jackets and overshirts – tend not to hug the body and often come in flattering yet masculine shades and feature subtle print details.”

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Final Word

At the risk of sounding like an obliterated record, fit is everything. It’s the difference between looking good and ‘could do better’, and has the power to make budget high-street pieces look superior to designer versions. Ignore its importance, and your style instantly suffers.

How do you find clothes to suit your body type? Any essential figure-fixing advice you’d like to impart?

Let us know below.

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