There's nothing the fashion world loves more than doling out directions and issuing edicts. “This is in.” “This is out.” “This is cool.” “This is hideous.” “This will make you look like a style superstar.” “This will make you look like a total fashion disaster.”
It's enough to make your head spin. Lesser men have collapsed under the pressure. And the worst part about it all is that half of those pesky proclamations are based purely on transient trends instead of truly timeless style. What's the point of following a fad if it's going to fall out of favour in a month or – even worse – if it doesn't actually look good on you?
It's a cardinal style sin we've all been guilty of at least once: dressing to suit what's in style, but not what actually suits you. Your clothes should flatter your body shape, your skin tone, your hairstyle, your eye colour and your personality. A great wardrobe is a mix of classic pieces and current trends, all personalised to be uniquely you. Knowing how to dress for your body type – and which styles to avoid – is the first step to owning your personal style.
Know your body type
Male bodies may lack the curves of female bodies, and therefore have significantly less variation, but that doesn't mean differences don't exist. Think about how often you hear fashion gurus talk about the importance of fit. An expensive garment that isn't right for your body will look bad no matter how much money you dropped on it, and an inexpensive piece will look like a million bucks if the fit is right. The key to it all is identifying your body shape and learning how to enhance it. Most men fit into one of these five body type categories:
1. The Heavy Lifter
His chest and shoulders are broad, but his hips and waist are narrower. There is a significant difference between top and bottom, with a wide upper body and a smaller lower body, that is frequently the result of regular "get massive" workouts.
2. The Athlete
Picture those incredibly fit Olympic chaps. The Athlete is broad across the chest and shoulders, and narrow in the waist and hips.
3. The Block Man
Gets his name because his torso takes the shape of a rectangle, with little difference between the width of his chest/shoulders and the width of his waist/hips.
4. The Happy Eater
If the Heavy Lifter is an inverted triangle, the Happy Eater turns the triangle right-side up. His chest and shoulders are narrower than his waist and hips, making his lower half appear larger than the upper.
5. The Cuddly Teddy Bear
You know exactly what this guy looks like. The Cuddly Teddy Bear is round and huggable, frequently with narrower shoulders and slim legs. This is probably where we're all headed eventually, so it's a shape worth understanding even if it's not you yet.
How to dress
The Heavy Lifter
As a Heavy Lifter, your large frame is somewhat imbalanced. Your wider upper torso and narrower lower half can be evened out by your wardrobe. The goal is to draw attention to your hips while reducing attention to your upper chest. Focus on pulling the eyes downwards, avoiding bu lk on the upper body, and adding a little extra to your legs. FYI – Gerard Butler is a great example of this body type. Sparta!
Put the focus on the right places. V-necks narrow the chest and draw the eye down. Stripes across the stomach and detailing around the hips (think belts or pockets) also help emphasise the parts that need it.
Go graphic. Simple graphic prints and logos will get attention, taking it away from your more substantial upper chest. Any kind of details, prints, or eye-catching colours on the shoulders, on the other hand, will draw the eyes to the wrong area.
Scratch the skinny stuff. Skinny leg cuts will make the top half of your body appear even wider. Try straight or more relaxed slim cuts instead, to balance out your proportions. You can also use statement trousers to lure the eye away from your broad shoulders. If you can, go for tapered jeans.
Expert tip from Godwin Hili (director, Godwin Charli)
You probably enjoy wearing most garments close to the body however, tailored garments can look pretty silly if worn too small. This is not to say a Slim Fitting or European fit is out of the question. You just need to accept that most read-to-wear brands will not accommodate this shape off the rack. Similar to the 'Athlete', it's crucial to fit the shoulders and chest and accept that the waist and/or hips will need to be narrowed. This allows for more accurate sculpting of the back region and accentuating of the smaller waist. A schoolboy error is to find a garment that fits your small waist because you like how 'tight' it feels, only to bust out in the chest and awkwardly split the seat of a pant.
Good news for you, Athlete types: you're the fit bastards that make everyone else seethe with jealousy. Because your upper and lower body are already well balanced, your shape is much easier to dress than others. You can play with colours and cuts without having to worry much about whether or not everything is properly in proportion. Football players and athletes are a good example for this body type.
Be daring. Take advantage of the gifts Mother Nature gave you and experiment with your wardrobe. Your body was made for making a statement, so don't be afraid to take risks (as long as you still feel comfortable in your clothes).
Prints and colours were practically made for you. There's no need to be conservative unless the occasion demands it. Bold colours, prints and patterns are just as well suited to your body shape as solid colour basics.
Play around with other things. If you don't have to worry about your body type, you're free to explore other interesting ways to spruce up your wardrobe. Try out new trends, take new cuts for a test drive, investigate new textures and fabric combinations, and work on understanding how to flatter other things – your complexion, your hair cut and colour, etc – instead.
Godwin's expert tip
Lucky you. Sometimes referred to as an 'inverted triangle' shape because of the obviously smaller waist in comparison to the upper body, it's imperative that a jacket fits you across the shoulders and chest. A slim fit or European fit is a good starting point for this body type. Unless the garment has been made-to-measure, the waist and hips of the jacket must be narrowed to accentuate this physique by taking it in. Trousers should be tailored without being too slim and shirts should be a slim fit or contain darts. It's all about getting the proportions and balance correct, to avoid looking like you will topple over.
The Block Man
For the Block Man, the primary aim is to add shape where there isn't much to begin with. There's only so much you can do to physically alter your body, but wearing the right kind of clothing can do wonders for creating the illusion of having a different body type. When dressing, a little style sleight-of-hand will make your shoulders seem wider while making your lower torso appear narrower.
Choose your prints carefully. A print that imitates your rectangular shape – like a geometric pattern – will emphasise the issue you're trying to correct. Well placed prints or colour, however, can be an effective way to enhance the upper portion of your body.
Layer thoughtfully. Adding clothing is the easiest way to add bulk to your body. Shirts, knitwear and scarves can be used to widen the chest and shoulders while narrowing your lower torso.
Use structure. Here's your chance to put shoulder pads to good use. Structured blazers and jackets add the extra weight your shoulders need. For bonus points, have a tailor take the sides in or thin the jacket's arms.
Godwin's expert tip
Its important here to clearly define your upper and lower body components. Clever tailoring can achieve a more sculptured look. Look for a tailored jacket with a more padded shoulder to give the impression of broader shoulders. Ensure that the sleeve width of the jacket is narrow as well as the area between the under arm and waist. Your goal should be to create the illusion of shape throughout the upper body.
The Happy Eater
Again, your wardrobe is your opportunity to correct the imbalances in your natural body shape. For Happy Eaters, that means wearing clothing that adds some substance to a sloping shoulder line and smaller chest. What you wear should reduce the effect of a lower half that appears wider than your upper body. Streamlined cuts and flattering colours are important for you.
Enhance and emphasise your shoulders. Steer clear of polo necks and narrow crew-necks because they decrease shoulder with, and opt for structured tailored blazers and jackets instead. Single-breasted and button-down styles will also help streamline your torso.
Don't put the focus on your stomach. Horizontal stripes across the stomach are a definite no, as is any kind of outerwear with details (like pockets) that draw attention to the stomach area. Dark colours will look best on your triangular shape.
Give your lower body a little more heft. Wear trousers with a straighter leg. Skinny or heavily tapered trousers will widen the central part of your body, which is exactly the opposite effect you're going for.
Godwin's expert tip
Keep it structured and tailored through the upper body. Neglecting this will only emphasis your mid section and you don't want that. Accompany this with straight leg trousers to balance out the look. Have fun in winter layering with simple knitwear underneath blazers and coats, giving the impression of a broader chest and shoulder region.
The Cuddly Teddy Bear
As a Cuddly Teddy Bear, the majority of your mass is concentrated at the centre of your body, making your arms, shoulders and legs look disproportionately slim. To make your body appear more defined, you must add shape to your shoulders and wear clothing that appears to lengthen your torso. Beware of anything that shortens you in any way.
Stripes are your friends (sometimes). Vertical stripes and pinstripes will instantly lengthen your body, but horizontal stripes will make you appear rounder.
Don't draw attention to your waist (or lack thereof). Any kind of statement belt will attract attention to your waist and highlight your widest point. A printed or textured piece in a darker hue is a better way to add flattering interest to an outfit.
Length and fit are hugely important. Be sure that your sleeves and trousers are the correct length and fit well. They should add shape and definition to your body without making your limbs appear shorter.
Godwin's expert tip
It's a common mistake to give up on tailored clothing and wear oversized pieces. Focus on comfort with a tailored edge. In other words, the garments should fit well across the shoulders, not be too roomy through the sleeve and underarm, and not be too tight across the waist region or lower half of the body. Avoid jackets that are short, ensuring a longer front balance. Again, its all about balance and drawing the eye away from the belly region.
D'Marge is one of Australia's most popular men's style and fashion blogs.