Or overweight. Or portly. Husky. Slightly chunk. Whatever you want to call it. Do the rules apply to you? Or do you have a separate set of guidelines that are unique to your own situation?

Well, maybe both. But before I ruffle any feathers, you may be asking,

“B, what do you know about dressing an overweight body? Why you gotta call us out like that? We’re already super uncomfortable in clothes as it is, and we’re doing everything we can to pretend like we’re not (uncomfortable / overweight).”

Okay, calm down. To be honest, I know quite a bit about being a big dude and attempting to blend in with decent clothing, despite size and personal insecurity. In fact, I used to be quite plump myself.

Please excuse the poor style decisions. I had a lot to learn in 2004.

That’s me about six years ago, 81 lbs heavier than I am today. It’s been a while since I’ve been that massive so most of the insecurity has faded, but I can still remember how tough it was to be okay in my own clothing, and my own skin.

To be honest I’ve always enjoyed clothing. I just hated I couldn’t achieve the look I was going for, because my size didn’t allow for it. Plus, in all honesty, when you’re big you tend to look a little sloppy no matter what clothing you wear. Again, speaking from experience.

So, what’s one to do?

The singular most important thing I could do for my look, my body, my appearance, my health, and my self esteem was to lose weight.

Seriously, there’s no way around it. No amount of positive self-talk or pats on the back from members of the Fat Acceptance Society can make you feel as good as the satisfaction you get from melting away excessive fat, becoming more lean, eating better, and making conscious decisions in favor of your health. As a bonus, the good looks just follow.

This isn’t a weight loss or self-help site, so I’ll leave that up to you to figure out a plan for your own life. (If you do want to reach out with questions though, you can always email me.) The takeaway from all of this is this: you have to take care of your body first before you can be your 100% absolute best.

Okay, now let’s talk about clothes. Let’s say you refuse to lose weight and you wanna know what you can do right now to improve your look. Where to start?

Know. What. Fits.

It’s a recurring theme over here at the Effortless Gent, because it really IS that important. Bigger folks that get it wrong are from both ends of the spectrum, interestingly enough. Here’s an example:

Peeps from Group A wear their clothes too tight. They clearly could go up two or three sizes, but refuse to do so. They’re held captive by the size they used to be. Either that, or they truly believe in their heart they’re a size Large, when in fact they’ve graduated to an XXL years ago, as evidenced by the shirt or sweater pulling in unnatural ways. If you’re not willing to lose the weight, do yourself a favor and start sizing up.

Group B is the exact opposite. Their clothes hang off them like Snuggies. They think draped, billowy clothes mask their size, when it actually does the opposite.

What’s the solution?

A whole lot of trial and error. Trying on a lot of clothes from a lot of different makers. See what fits.

How can you tell what’s a good fit?

In general, something between draped and spandex-like tightness. More specifically, a good gauge of fit is to look for shirts that fit right in the shoulder, meaning the shoulder seam lines up with the top of your arm. In suits (same with shirts), if the shoulder seam passes the tip of your shoulder, buy a smaller size.

If you stand against a wall sideways, and the shoulder pad touches the wall before your arm does, the suit is too big.

That’s a good place to start. You may dismiss slim cuts, but maybe you actually DO need a slim cut shirt, to minimize the excess fabric and appearance of bulk. Again this is all dependent on your specific body type and composition. Everyone’s different, so I can’t give specific advice, but you get the idea.

You may need to step away from the slimmer cut denim, but try the regular straight leg fits; they allow for more room in the leg but still stay relatively streamlined. Stay away from bootcuts or anything labeled baggy or wide leg. You don’t want extra volume where it’s unnecessary.

Seeing as though shirts, sweaters, and jeans comprise a majority of a man’s wardrobe, this is a good start. The most important thing is to dress your body appropriate to its size, while still maintaining decent proportions.

Lastly, if you don’t like your size, get off your ass and do something about it. I did, and it was the best style decision I ever made.

Photo credit: Esquire.com

PUBLISHED November 15, 2010


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.



  • Bumby

    A great post. I will be sharing it on FB and Twitter.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Glad you liked, thanks for reading.

  • Dan

    I gotta say, I was shocked when you showed those pictures and said that was you. Gauging from your pictures I never would have guessed you were ever overweight. I’ve been slimming down myself and it’s always good inspiration to see how people look like a new person when they’ve reached their fitness goals.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      It’s surprising even to myself, like when I haven’t looked at them for a long time.

      I’m glad it can be even a bit inspiring… appreciate your comment.

  • Jason Costello

    Great post. I didn’t realized you worked so hard and lost so much weight. You’re always looking suave but it’s your positive attitude that makes you a gentleman. Haven’t seen you in a bit, hope you’re well.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Haha, thanks J. It really has been a while. Beer soon, perhaps?

  • Greg C

    Great article!

    I’ve been trying to get back into my younger shape for a bit now and sites like yours have been a lot of my inspiration. I am going to lose the weight, but I want to feel good about my dress during the process too… For a while your site was especially good because it spoke a lot about truly affordable fashion choices. My size is changing, so investing a ton of money on a pair of jeans that will hopefully be falling off me come summer is not a good decision. So affordable alternatives have been great.

    Now, with this article I also have something that will help me navigate the landscape as I look for different cuts etc. Your article focused on FIT and how to tell if something fits…. not a bunch of “wear dark colors and try to be monochromatic” advice that tends to dominate the larger man’s fashion world.

    So thanks again! Now I just wish someone would do more to talk about the different challenges people of different fat body types have finding clothes.

    I’m 6’2″ about 240 but carry most of my weight between my stomach and my thighs… I am much more pear shaped than you seemed to have been. There is little out there to help a guy like me out…. Fitted shirts scare me to death because I while they are good around the shoulders they are horrible around the waist and I feel like I am popping out of them. Too often the answer is the good ol’ XL which just looks like the snuggie you described above. Same problem with suit jackets and blazers. And while skinny jeans are never going to be an option for me, I would love to be able to fit into a nice pair of Levis 514. But no matter what size I wear they just dont fit. I wear a 38 waist in most straight cut pants, so the thighs on the 514 make them unbearable… while the rest of the leg on the 40 waist make me look like MC Hammer. Suits are the same problem. Right now a 44R jacket tends to fit me well in the stomach, but I think the 42R compliments my upper frame better. Thankfully, with suits there are some tailoring options, but with the rest of it I am beyond flustered most of the time…..

    Thanks again for this good start!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hi Greg,

      You pinpointed a problem I had with this article (which is kinda what miss Kwugirl above you was getting at), which is that I don’t have any specific advice. The reason is because, like you said, bigger folks are all shaped differently. I was pretty much big all over, which sucked, but at least it was more or less proportional. Sometimes people are just big in certain spots. There’s no way I can give accurate advice when there are so many variances in body types.

      Oftentimes the best alternative is tailoring, especially for suits. That can get to be more pricey, but if you are striving for a great fit, it may be worth it. You’d be surprised, a good tailor can alter anything… button-ups, pants, underwear, jackets, etc. (Kidding about the underwear. Or maybe not? I never tried. But that would just be weird.)

      514s are definitely more on the slim side, so maybe a 505 or a 559 from Levi’s would be your best bet for denim.

      Re: the suit jacket, if the 42R is too snug in the midsection, go with the 44R and have it tailored. I bet by taking the 44 in, you’ll be more comfortable and at the same time have a great fitting jacket.

      I had the same measurements in those photos as you just mentioned. 38″ waist, 44 jacket, 241 lbs. The only thing is I’m 5’9″. At least you have good height. Keep it up, I’m sure you’ll be at your target weight in no time.

      • Greg C

        Barron,

        Thanks for the encouragement! I have to disagree with Kwugirl above. There isn’t a “one size fits all” (no pun intended) answer to the question, and frankly too many articles take that approach… and trust me I have looked at a lot of them. And because of it I made a TON of mistakes when it came to picking clothing.

        For the longest time I would wear my pants higher up on my waist because I was told that it was “flattening”…. and I spent FAR too much time worrying about color than fit because “dark colors are slimming”.

        Well for many builds that is correct, but not for mine. For me, because I have a smaller upper body, fabric cut and drape are far more important than color. Case in point…. There are these 2 LL Bean button down shirts that I own. One, is black, made from a softer cotton and is an XL. The other is white with a blue check pattern, made from a stiffer cotton and is L (actually, come to think of it, it may be an XL too, but it has a more modern cut.

        Well everything I read told me not to buy the white shirt (it was a gift actually, so I never would have done it myself) and to wear the black one. Guess what… the black one is WAY too big in the waist so it blouses horribly, and its soft fabric tends to sag on my body giving me a less than flattering appearance. On the other hand, the white one cuts me at the waist better, and its stiffer fabric doesnt sag as much creating a more uniform upper body look. But that defies “convention”.

        And thank you for the specific advice around jeans and suits. I’m kicking around the idea of an Indochino suit since it would take into account my shape…..

        This got me thinking it would be a great idea for a site to either cater to this specific issue, or maybe make it a feature (hint, hint ;-) ) I envision kind of a virtual makeover event… or maybe a contest. there are a lot of different body types out there, but only so many variants. Get people to submit photos and have people recommend specific ideas based on THAT person… And it doesn’t have to be limited to fat people either. There are all kinds of different shape issues that can make finding a style difficult. For instance, even when I get down to my goal weight, I am still a 6’2″ and I am never going to get my legs bigger than a 30″ inseam….. Its something worth thinking about and I bet it would draw a lot of traffic to the site ;-)

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          Hi Greg,

          Glad you were able to realize it’s more about fit than anything else. The matter in which clothes are worn (high-waisted vs on hips) or the patterns one chooses (solid muted color vs horizontal stripe) does play a role, but fit is still the most important by far. There are countless others who can’t figure this out on their own, both larger and slimmer dudes, so kudos.

          I don’t own an Indochino suit myself, but I’ve heard great things and have spoken with other writers who have purchased from them… always the best things to say. I’d definitely explore that option; for a custom-fit suit, the price point is outstanding.

          I do like your idea. It’s fitting because the girlfriend’s bro is somewhat tough to dress as well; he stands 6’4″ or 6’5″ and about 155 or 160lb. You can imagine how tough it could be to find proportionate things for his size too. It’d be nice to crowdsource that kind of information and present it to the readers so everyone can benefit. Let me dwell on this a bit. :)

          Thanks for your comment!

  • Kwugirl

    Meh, I have to disagree with the other commenters. You could have done better on this post. Do you really think heavier people need to be told that they should lose weight to be deemed more attractive and stylish and all around better people by society? Did you live your life as an overweight person feeling really content about yourself until someone told you that you really needed to slim down?

    Look, we don’t have to get into fat acceptance or why you decided to lose a lot of weight and why that worked for you where it might not work for other people. It’s just, that’s been covered elsewhere, and enough at that. You have more useful information to share, judging by some of the other comments here, but it’s unnecessarily buried underneath less useful information.

    • Dan

      Nah, I think Barron had some good insights while revealing a personal story in the process – a good combo. I mean, really, part of your personal appearance *is* the shape you’re in. It’s reflective of how you treat yourself as a whole, and if that’s not what personal style is also about, then what is it?

      Especially considering that we don’t wear togas these days and that clothes are designed to fit people who are generally in good shape, this is a relevant style issue in my mind.

      • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

        Dan,

        I think you hit it on the head, that a big part of personal appearance is about the shape you’re in. I feel like this whole topic of FAT FAT FAT is so taboo; people are scared to talk about it, people are sensitive, etc. I don’t see why. If a person is reading this site, they are obviously interested in their appearance. How is your physical shape not a part of that?

        Anyway, the point of this was never to boast about some arbitrary number of lbs I was able to lose. I just wanted readers to be able to relate to what I was saying, knowing I was in their position at one point, and that I know how it feels.

      • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

        Dan,

        I think you hit it on the head, that a big part of personal appearance is about the shape you’re in. I feel like this whole topic of FAT FAT FAT is so taboo; people are scared to talk about it, people are sensitive, etc. I don’t see why. If a person is reading this site, they are obviously interested in their appearance. How is your physical shape not a part of that?

        Anyway, the point of this was never to boast about some arbitrary number of lbs I was able to lose. I just wanted readers to be able to relate to what I was saying, knowing I was in their position at one point, and that I know how it feels.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. I think I could’ve done a little better as well, as I described to Greg down below, though perhaps you and I have different definitions of “better”.

      Not sure if you’re a regular reader, but I assume not. You mention this article’s subject has been covered elsewhere, and that’s true. In fact, everything I write about on this blog (men’s style, mostly) has been covered elsewhere… kinda like how there are multiple publications on any one topic as you peruse the magazine aisles at your local Barnes & Noble.

      I guess the difference is, I’m speaking to a certain group of people that can relate to the things I talk about and the perspective in which I present these ideas. I welcome everyone who feels they align with this specific outlook and my style of writing. Everyone else is free to unsubscribe, X out their browser windows, and get their style advice somewhere else. After all, it’s a big internet out there.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. I think I could’ve done a little better as well, as I described to Greg down below, though perhaps you and I have different definitions of “better”.

      Not sure if you’re a regular reader, but I assume not. You mention this article’s subject has been covered elsewhere, and that’s true. In fact, everything I write about on this blog (men’s style, mostly) has been covered elsewhere… kinda like how there are multiple publications on any one topic as you peruse the magazine aisles at your local Barnes & Noble.

      I guess the difference is, I’m speaking to a certain group of people that can relate to the things I talk about and the perspective in which I present these ideas. I welcome everyone who feels they align with this specific outlook and my style of writing. Everyone else is free to unsubscribe, X out their browser windows, and get their style advice somewhere else. After all, it’s a big internet out there.

  • Jon

    Congrats on the weight loss, man! That is great. Around the same time I lost 50 and have kept it off…I agree, it was the best thing we could have done. Now I just have to up my game in the style dept. Thanks for all the tips and the great blog!

    jon

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks Jon. I think the best part is keeping it off (which can also be the toughest for some). I owe you a congrats as well. Keep it up! And thanks for reading.

  • ChrisM

    Today is my first time on this site but I have to agree. I spent years buying nice clothes that looked like hell on me and finally came to grips with the fact that if I lost weight I’d look even better in less stylish clothes (and much, much better in the kind I like.) 15 pounds down, 35 to go and its already doing the trick.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Chris,

      It’s amazing what even 15 lbs can do, right? It totally changes your whole look. I remember the first time I was able to buy size 36, and eventually 34 (I was a 38/40 for a couple years at my peak). Made the world of difference.

      Keep at it man! I’m a 31 waist now and at my lowest weight ever, and have maintained it since 2006.

      Thanks for stopping by the site. Hopefully you’ll come back soon, I plan on doing more health/fitness-centric posts related to style and feeling good about yourself, probably will add a whole new topic here at EG.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Chris,

      It’s amazing what even 15 lbs can do, right? It totally changes your whole look. I remember the first time I was able to buy size 36, and eventually 34 (I was a 38/40 for a couple years at my peak). Made the world of difference.

      Keep at it man! I’m a 31 waist now and at my lowest weight ever, and have maintained it since 2006.

      Thanks for stopping by the site. Hopefully you’ll come back soon, I plan on doing more health/fitness-centric posts related to style and feeling good about yourself, probably will add a whole new topic here at EG.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Chris,

      It’s amazing what even 15 lbs can do, right? It totally changes your whole look. I remember the first time I was able to buy size 36, and eventually 34 (I was a 38/40 for a couple years at my peak). Made the world of difference.

      Keep at it man! I’m a 31 waist now and at my lowest weight ever, and have maintained it since 2006.

      Thanks for stopping by the site. Hopefully you’ll come back soon, I plan on doing more health/fitness-centric posts related to style and feeling good about yourself, probably will add a whole new topic here at EG.

  • http://twitter.com/IPv6Freely Chris Jones

    I have to agree about the slim fit shirts. It seemed counter-intuitive to me to be 5’9 240lbs and buying “slim fit” shirts. But, in order to be able to wear a neck size 18 shirt, it had to be slim fit or else it was like I was wearing a ship sail. Lots of trial and error. Some brands a 17.5/33 was perfect, and other brands it was WAY off one way or another.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yes, it definitely takes a lot of trial and error. But, just like anything in life, that’s how we get to something better than we previously had… a whole lot of seeing what works and what doesn’t :)

  • Bert

    Big guys need advice not a lecture on weight loss, you clueless knob.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Am I lecturing? Sorry you took it that way. :(

  • Benjamin

    Hi Barron,

    Just discovered EG today, and spent much of the day looking through the articles (instead of doing actual work while I’m here at work). Just now came across this one, and read some of the negative comments you’ve gotten about how it may appear that you’re lecturing overweight folks. But you know what? You’re right! Overweight folks need to lose weight in order to look better and feel better.

    I’m overweight myself, and only recently have begun to take steps toward real change in my life, mainly with my diet (I’ve lost 5.4 lbs since last Monday). I’ve come to realize that being overweight and looking good is pretty darn difficult in general, especially for me as I spent a lot of my life trying to cover up my bigness with clothes that were too big, resulting in me looking rather bad. Not only that, but mainstream clothiers don’t always carry me-sized clothes. Example: Last week I was in an emergency need for something “hip” to wear to a Vegas night club, so I went to Express after work the day before me being “hip” was supposed to occur. My typical waist size is around 36 or 38, and I found out that Express no longer carries pant sizes above 36, so I was out of luck! That’s true of a lot of places these days. As I have come to learn more about what it means to be fashionable thanks to blogs like this, I have started to learn more about important aspects of clothes, like the fit, that can make you look good despite what is happening beneath, which is basically what you’re talking about here!

    So anyway, what I’m saying is, I appreciate your advice here, and admire you for being able to lose your own weight. You’ve got yourself a new fan!

    Thanks,

    Benjamin

    ps: Currently writing this from LA, but am a San Franciscan, born and bred :-)