It might seem obvious, but deciding how to dress for your body type can be trickier than first appears. Choosing the right clothes for your size is arguably the most important part of any outfit.
Which Body Shape Are You?
We’ve mentioned that men’s body shapes come in a range of different sizes, but generally speaking, we all reduce to one of five different shapes: trapezoid, inverted triangle, rectangle, triangle, or oval. These are mostly based on your shoulder and hip proportions and what silhouette they create respectively.
The simplest men’s body shape, the rectangle, is fairly self-explanatory. Your shoulder width will be reasonably similar to the size of your waist, making a rectangular shape. Rectangular people also tend to be reasonably tall in height and slight of frame. Popular rectangular figures include Peter Crouch and Eddie Redmayne.
The oval shape is similar to the rectangle but typically involves a larger frame and is a lot softer around the middle – the quintessential ‘dad-bod’, if you will. This is by no means a limit on how stylish you can be, in fact, many top Hollywood actors are rocking the oval right now – Leo, Seth Rogan, even Gerard Butler to some extent.
The trapezoid, that 2D shape that looks a little like a trampoline, differs slightly to the rectangle in that the shoulders protrude out more from the body making them more prominent compared to the hips. Of all the men’s body shapes this is the one most likely the figure of the stereotypical Hollywood heartthrob à la Zac Efron or practically any sports star.
A slightly exaggerated form of the trapezoid is the inverted triangle. More muscular men tend to have more emphasised arms and shoulders that loom over their waist, making a triangular shape. One of the most obviously triangular celebrities is Jason Statham – a men’s body shape whose hips are relatively lean but has a reach wide enough to kick ass in virtually every martial art.
The non-inverted triangle, as you could probably guess, is similar to the inverted triangle but rather than the shoulders protruding it’s the hips that take prominence.
Dressing for Your Shape
Now that you know your shape, it’s time to find out how to dress for your body type for males. Here we’re mainly looking at your hip and shoulder proportions and how we can emphasise (or subdue) them in different ways to suit your appearance.
With a rectangular body shape, the main aim of the game is to bring out your shoulders and make yourself look more trapezoidal (just don’t tell the trapezoids). One of the easiest ways to do this is opting for more structured clothing. Whilst not necessarily bringing back eighties shoulder pads, you can add some architecture to your frame with stiffer blazers (or jackets) that won’t sag downwards. For this, we recommend the slim-fit options.
Adding layers to your outfit will also make your shoulder bulk out – knitwear, in particular, can come in handy here as it can easily go over shirts or polos without necessarily making you too warm. Again, accessories can act as a quick fix. Scarves, backpacks, potentially even headphones can add chuck to your shoulders whilst horizontally striped t-shirts will also give your frame a little more width.
In order to induce more of a downward point to your shape and help you look more trapezoidal, tight fitting trousers should become a staple of your wardrobe and act as a base to build your outfit from. Combine these with skinny shoes or trainers to further amplify the effect.
Similarly to a rectangular shaped gentleman, the chaps with a more rounded body shape among us need to think about adding some structure to their clothing too.
The same idea of using sturdier blazers and jackets to broaden the shoulders applies as this will add some definition to your shape and reduce the slope towards your middle. Vertical stripes can also help to streamline your shape and can be incorporated via pinstripes on your jacket or trousers or even just a patterned t-shirt.
Whilst an extra layer of knitwear would help to add a little chunk to your shoulders, avoid V-necks as they’ll actually counteract that and work to reduce the prominence of your shoulders – giving focus back to the middle that we’re trying to avoid. A crew neck will suit perfectly well.
On the leg front, rather than slimming down like with the rectangles, try a looser fit so as to widen your legs and take away some of the emphasis from your middle. Chinos or straight leg jeans are ideal here and can be coupled with trainers for a great sports-luxe look.
The Inverted Triangle
As mentioned earlier, strong shoulders and a comparatively small waist are what define the inverted triangle body shape. All previous advice about how to bring out shoulders can, therefore, be ignored in this instance – your shoulders are already there – it’s the waist and legs that we should focus on.
Looser fitting items will help to widen your lower half whilst a V-neck, kryptonite for less shoulder-centric gentlemen, can reduce the appearance of your shoulders and give you a more proportioned appearance.
On your top half, knitwear offers a lot of the shapes you’re looking for. A light V-neck jumper or a cardigan will offer a slightly reduced shoulder appearance whilst loosely hang to soften the contrast between shoulders and hips.
For when dressing for winter, this also applies. Don’t think overcoats and layering always have to be structured. Layering loose shapes is just as beneficial, and additionally, elevate your height.
Much like your rectangular friends, as someone with a triangular body shape you’ve got to think about bringing out your shoulders. On top of that though, there’s also your hips that need some attention.
The quick fix to broader looking shoulders is, as ever, to wear a blazer. This will give your top half some stronger lines whilst simultaneously taking away some of the emphasis on your hips. Given that blazers are so aptly suited to three out of our five body shapes, it’s pretty remarkable that they’re not worn by more of us, no?
When dressing a frame of six foot and over, there’s always a risk of making yourself look like a flagpole. With the following tips however you can reduce your ‘towering dominance’ and come across like the dapper gentleman you really are. Always remember, keep your silhouette slim.
The main aim of the game is to blur your lines. For starters, a coat or jacket that carries on below the waist will reduce the visible length of your legs. In winter this could be a trench coat or mac whilst during warmer months this could be exchanged for a lighter overcoat or raincoat.
Similarly, and this might sound extreme, but you’ll really suit a turtleneck. Look at Scandinavian fashion for inspiration; the extra length smoothes out your lines and making you look less rigid.
Colour wise, again you want to avoid the flagpole scenario. Even whilst dressing conservatively you’ll want to break up your colour scheme with different shades of blues, blacks, greys, or browns. Accessories can come in handy here.
Whilst taller people will want to break up their silhouette with different colours and shapes, the opposite is true for the shorter gentleman. Keeping your colour scheme consistent will give your appearance more height and elevate the overall look visually. The tonal look for this season works perfectly well for this, so take advantage.
Your trousers should be well fitted as this will emphasise the length of your legs. Baggy trousers will make your waist appear lower and so reduce height. Similarly, wearing shirts over your waistline will eat into your leg length and so should be tucked in or of a short cut.
Drawing attention to the top half of your body too will add height to your appearance. This can be done in a number of ways including having detail on your breast pockets or shoulders or incorporating accessories into your look. Sunglasses are a great way to achieve this if only the weather were better more often.
How to Dress for Your Body Shape
- To appear tall and thin wear monochrome colours with clothes that aren’t too loose or tight.
- If you have a skinny frame then wear tighter fitting clothing.
- If you’re tall wear longer coats and avoid tucking tops/shirts in when possible.
- Whatever size you are, make sure you know your measurements. Most tailors or suit shops will measure you for free.
On That Note
By understanding the male body shapes you can learn how to emphasise areas of your body in a positive way whilst subduing those areas that aren’t so flattering. Failing to do this risks undoing any good work you’ve put into your appearance by making your body appear out of proportion. As we’ve detailed above, dressing to your body shape can take only a few tweaks to your wardrobe; changing the fit of your jeans, buying a blazer, or starting to wear more accessories are all actions that take minimal effort but, importantly, can make a big difference to your appearance.
Author: Charlotte Pratt