Slim-fit shirts are the new normal in menswear

Australian men have finally embraced slim-fitting shirts in a big way. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it.

Slim fits are our regular cuts. But our super-slim shirts are now outselling our slim shirts.

Remember that scene in Ocean’s Eleven where George Clooney and Brad Pitt … oh, who am I kidding? I have no idea what they were doing, I only remember what they were wearing. Slim-fit shirts so tailored they sat neatly inside the pants without a hint of bulkiness. The top button might have been open, or it might not have. The small details don’t matter, because it was the close line of the shirt that was groundbreaking.

It may have taken time to filter through to the Australian mainstream, but over the past few years the slim-fitting shirt has become big news. “Slim-fit shirts now make up 65 per cent of our (shirt) business,” says Deborah Foreman, the general manager of menswear at department store David Jones.

Dismantling the man-tents

It’s official, then. The majority of men agree that slim-fit shirts look better than the baggy, oversized man-tents so beloved of 90’s R&B singers, which hung around longer than a taxi driver’s bad BO. They were worn by icons such as Michael Jordan and (cough, cough) Vanilla Ice. For far too long. But right now, it’s all about a shirt that streamlines the male physique.

Have women played a part in pushing men towards this style? I know I much prefer my partner in a body-hugging shirt than an oversized ship sail that puffs up above the waist if the wearer has one too many Peronis.

Not if you ask Simon, 39, a manager at a Sydney manufacturing plant whose slim-fit shirts make up the bulk of his non-work wardrobe. “I’m a naturally slimmer guy and think they look much better than a baggy shirt. A bit Robert Redford meets Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. My wife’s had nothing to do with it,” he says, perhaps a tad defensively.

Which isn’t to say the style goes unappreciated. Au contraire.

Hello ladies

A quick Facebook survey among female friends (small test group, yes, but I can vouch for their honesty) elicited comments like “much sexier”, “hello Ryan Gosling” and - my personal favourite - “thank f--k men have finally seen the light. It’s about time we got to perve.” Ahem. Indeed.


Alex Zabotto-Bentley, director of creative agency AZB Creative and bona fide man-about-town, says he has been taking in his shirts for years to recreate what is originally a European aesthetic.

“Before the rise of the slim-cut shirt I would always have my sleeves slightly tightened and taken in the body of the shirt from under the sleeve hole to bottom. It allowed me to take my tailored suit jacket off and still feel exceptionally tailored,” he says.

“My greatest cringe is when a well-dressed guy unbuttons the front of his jacket and the shirt billows in front like a Peter Allen concert outfit.”

The new normal

The look has gathered so much steam that slim-fit is becoming the new normal. Drew Hoare, the marketing manager at menswear label M.J. Bale, confirms the company has completed ditched “boxy, American-style, regular fit” shirts.

“Slim fits are our regular cuts. But our super-slim shirts are now outselling our slim shirts,” he says.

The super-slim? Is this the button-tugging, stretchy-feeling shirt worn by those who love to lift weights and enjoy protein smoothies?

Hoare is careful to point out that super-slim doesn’t mean figure-hugging. “We don’t believe (that) is a very masculine silhouette,” he says. “Our Samurai fit, which is our super-slim fit with darts, was introduced to satisfy the market-demand for this style.”

Not every man can carry off the super-slim look, although David Jones’ Foreman agrees that hasn’t slowed its popularity. “Super-slim is now growing at a faster rate than our slim fits,” she says.

You might be tempted to shrug off the slim-fit shirt as an inner-city trend, but you’d be wrong. “It’s across all stores and all brands. Everyone from Geoffrey Beene to Nigel Lincoln and Calvin Klein have a slim cut. There’s no age limit and we put it across every size range,” Foreman says.

Hedi Slimane, the international fashion designer currently at the helm of Saint Laurent, deserves the hearty thanks of women and gay men everywhere for changing the male silhouette back in 2001. Karl Lagerfeld famously lost 40 kilograms, saying at the time, “I suddenly wanted to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane".

Australian men have taken their sweet time getting on board, but have since embraced it with enthusiasm.

Yet there will always be those who aren’t used to a slimmer cut, and feel more comfortable with room around the belly.

“The perfect solution is to buy one size up on a slim-cut shirt,” Zabotto-Bentley advises. “You move away from looking like a dance partner in Dancing With The Stars Uruguay, and into defined style and form but still with movement.”

Good advice for every man.

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