What a tall man needs is a natural look.
A tall man comfortable in well-fitted clothing looks like a man in charge of the world; a tall man with his wrists poking out of his cuffs and his whole body pinched by too-small clothing looks like an awkward outsider who doesn’t belong.
The key needs of a man over 6 feet or so in height are:
· Adequate length in sleeves and trouser legs
· Sufficient shoulder width to keep shirts from pinching
· Long shirttails that can be tucked in securely
· Enough room in the crotch (the “drop”) to keep trousers from pinching
· A close fit (especially in jackets) to prevent billowing
· Unimposing patterns and colors to keep him from looking overwhelming
If you can meet those needs, you come across as powerful, confident, and competent.
If you’re coming up short (no pun intended) in any of those areas, you risk looking storkish, hulking, or just plain awkward. At that point your size starts to work against you, casting you as big but dumb rather than imposing and intelligent.
So the tall man’s goals are a comfortable fit, a sleek style, and a dash of restraint.
Picking Your Battles: Styles that Work for Tall Men
A big part of style is knowing what looks you can wear and which ones you’re better off avoiding.
Like it or not, your body type puts some fashions off the list automatically. Tall men don’t have it too bad — most looks can be made to work — but you’re still better off playing to your strengths.
Good looks for tall men are ones with clean lines and a few horizontal elements to break up your vertical a little. Texture, layers, and some patterning are all good choices for big men. You’ve got a lot of body to cover, so have some variety in there. Some particularly flattering items that are worth owning include:
· Double-breasted jackets – Tall men have a long enough torso to pull off the double-breasted jacket comfortably. It’s elegant, unusual, and adds a bit of bulk that’s helpful for men built both tall and skinny. If you don’t have a double-breasted suit yet, and you’re over 6’2″ or so, it’s worth investing in one.
· Waistcoats and vests – These work for the same reason as the double-breasted suit, and give you much the same look. You’ve got torso to spare, so covering half of it doesn’t hurt, and it gives you a unique and distinguished look that stands out in a crowd. You don’t have to limit yourself to three-piece suits, either; a casual wool vest or an unmatched waistcoat are options that work for tall men as well.
· Textured weaves – A visible weave like herringbone or birdseye looks good on a tall man. It’s a little less overwhelming than a dyed pattern and it helps break your height up. It’s also a good way to wear relatively plain, somber clothes without seeming boring — a pair of plain gray slacks with a visible weave is a lot more interesting than a pair without one.
· Belts – Most men benefit from wearing suspenders rather than belts, and it won’t hurt if you do want to, but tall men benefit from a well-placed belt. In business settings you’re mostly restricted to plain black, but in casual clothing you can go a little wild and wear tooled leather, colored cloth, or just big ol’ decorative belt buckles that would look overwhelming or widening on shorter men. Take advantage of it, and get a nice belt collection going on.
· Patterned shoes – Again, your options are limited in business settings, but tall men’s casual shoes should include a healthy salting of patterned, textured, or colored leathers. It adds interest to your wardrobe, helps keep attention grounded rather than shooting straight up your body, and has the added benefit of shortening the apparent length of your feet (most tall men have big feet).
You can build a pretty big wardrobe out of those general options. You don’t have to limit yourself to nothing but double-breasted suits and textured trousers, of course, but it’s worth leaning toward the most flattering cuts and styles as you build your wardrobe.
Bad looks for tall men, on the other hand, are important to avoid. There aren’t a lot of absolute no-nos, but the few that exist will look decidedly off if you try to wear them.
A tall man wants to avoid looking over-sized or ill-fitting.
Things that present you as a big, unbroken expanse of cloth or that streamline your height are the worst offenders:
· Strong vertical stripes – Vertical stripes aren’t forbidden, and a tall man can actually look very good in them, but exercise restraint and mix them with other patterns. A pinstripe suit with a lightly-checked shirt underneath is great; a chalk-stripe suit with a blank or striped shirt is going to make you look gangly. Moderation and mixing make stripes possible for the tall man.
· Solid monochrome suits – A truly matte suit in one solid color is a lot of the same cloth. On you, it’s a bigger lot. Wear light textures (or patterns, where appropriate) to keep your suits from looking too monolithic.
· Shorts and T-shirts – Unfortunately, anything with a short sleeve or leg is going to emphasize how long your limbs are. Tall men are better off with light slacks and light shirt in summer, which can then be rolled a few times for a three-quarter length if desired. It looks more balanced and keeps you from looking like you’re too big for your clothes.
For the most part these aren’t too hard to avoid. A tall man has lots of choices, so there’s rarely any need to rely on looks that aren’t as good for you.
Tailoring and Fit Adjustments for the Tall Man
Fit is huge — fit is the difference between looking on top of your game and looking like a kid who’s outgrown his dad’s clothes.
It’s rare that a tall guy can buy off-the-rack clothing and get an immediate perfect fit. Anything that’s long enough is usually cut very loose, making it billow on all but the heftiest tall men, and sleeves or trouser legs are often made with the assumption that they’ll be hemmed to fit.
So get to know your tailor. Odds are you’ll want to bring everything fancier than a T-shirt to him for at least a little adjustment.
Here are the most common adjustments that tall men should be thinking about:
· Shirt Waist – Unless you have a very solid torso you’ll probably need your shirts taken in at the sides. Having it fitted all the way down to the waist gets rid of the extra cloth that “muffin tops” and makes an unsightly little ring of fabric around your waist when you tuck it in.
· Trouser Hems – This is a default adjustment; you can plan on always needing this one. A tailor can hem your trousers to give you more or less “break” (the slight bunching of cloth created when the cuff rests on the top of your shoe), and a bit of break is usually good for a tall man — it breaks your height up and gives your lower body some texture.
· Jacket Waist – Suit jackets are fairly easy to taper beyond their original design if your waist is slim. Shop for a good fit in the chest and shoulders, and if it’s too loose below the ribs, have a tailor tuck the waist in further.
A few things can’t be easily adjusted, and it’s worth knowing which they are: the shoulders of a jacket are hard to do much with, as is the “drop” between a pair of trouser’s waist and the crotch. When you shop, try to get a good fit in those places, and have the tailor work on easier adjustments elsewhere.
Extra Considerations for Heavyset or Skinny Tall Men
If you have unusual dimensions in both directions, you’ve got some extra fitting challenges. A tall man with a lot of weight is even more imposing, while a tall man on the lean side has to work hard to avoid seeming like a scarecrow.
For this reason – I always recommend you wear a jacket in a professional setting.
Too hot? Buy an lightweight unlined sport jacket made from a breathable fabric.
A few caveats:
Heavy, tall men should go easy on the textures and heavy cloths. Wear simple, dark suits and jackets made from lightweight cloths to tone down your bulk, and steer clear of the double-breasted jackets and vests. You can follow the same basic advice as other tall men, but with more restraint.
Skinny, tall men, on the other hand, should wear textured weaves and heavier cloth when possible. They also want to be sure to invest in adjustments to shirt and jacket waists, making sure there’s no flapping around the midsection.