arnoldBuffHey Gents,

There are plenty of resources out there that teach guys how to dress a tall / short / plump / skinny body type.

Interestingly enough, there aren’t many articles talking about how to dress a muscular body.

Well-built guys are presented with a unique set of fit issues that an average body may never experience.

Today’s guest writer, Manny, has plenty of experience with this, and he’s going to share with you buff guys some of the tidbits he picked up while developing his own personal style.

Take it away, Manny.

This guest article is written by Manny De La Cruz of Well Built Style.


Being a fitness enthusiast and men’s style aficionado, I’ve had my fair share of difficulties in trying to improve my style. I’ll be the first to admit that it is hard to find clothes that fit a more muscular body.

The problem is that our bodies just don’t have the same physical proportions as the Average Joe.

Our chests are too broad and our waists are too narrow. Not to mention our larger than average thighs, which make finding a pair of pants that fit a true expedition!

To make matters worse, I’ve noticed that most men’s style blogs hardly ever cover style for the well-built man. I’ve seen plenty of information provided to men of different statures (e.g. how a shorter or taller man should dress) or shapes (e.g. how a thinner or stockier man should dress), but hardly ever any advice is given on how a muscular man should dress.

That’s why in this article I want to share with you four simple tips that have helped me tremendously on my style journey. They have helped me navigate the sea of men’s style as a well-built man and I want to share them with you to make your journey easier.

Tip #1: Size Down

One of the first pieces of advice given to men looking to improve their style is to pay particular attention to fit. In most cases, men are advised to size down since most of the clothing they wear is at least 1-2 sizes too big. This advice is no different for men with a more muscular build.

I can tell you from my own experience that this was a hard concept for me to understand at first. I was a typical gym rat that was used to wearing baggy t-shirts and sweatpants in the gym and had it ingrained in my mind that I was a size Large in most men’s clothing.

It was just a given.

I figured, “Hey, I’m just shy of 6’0 tall and I weigh 190lbs with a 32 inch waist, I’m too big to be a medium or a small.”

Guess what?

I’ve discovered that I’m a medium in most shirts, including many “slim fit” varieties.

It’s not my fault though. It all has to do with vanity sizing – a phenomenon in which clothing of a certain physical size is given a much smaller nominal size (i.e. those 34 inch pants you are wearing are likely 1-2 inches larger in actual size).

With the obesity epidemic in full swing in North America, vanity sizing has definitely gotten out of hand. Companies are now attempting to accommodate their consumers by making garments physically larger while keeping the nominal sizes static. This presumably satisfies the wearer’s wishes to feel thin and attractive.

This is great for the average person’s ego but terrible for your style. That’s why you should treat labels as just a guideline.

For some brands, you may be able to wear a size Large, while for others you might need to size down to a medium or even a small. That’s why you shouldn’t get too wrapped up in nominal sizes.

The important thing is to try stuff on in multiple sizes and find a fit that flatters your physique the most.

The (noticeable) difference in sizing when a man is more muscular. (via Scrawny to Brawny)

The (noticeable) difference in sizing when a man is more muscular.

Tip #2: Find a Tailor

Unfortunately, as a muscular man, sizing down won’t solve all of your fit issues. That’s why you will need to develop a relationship with a good tailor.

The problem is that clothing today is manufactured on an industrial scale and items are mass produced based on the average dimensions of the consumer.

This means that men who spend even a modest amount of time in the gym will find that most clothes do not flatter their physiques at all. They are either too loose or too tight in the wrong areas. Having a good tailor can solve this problem rather easily.

example of Levi's 501 model on a well-built guy (click to enlarge)

example of Levi’s 501 model on a well-built guy (click to enlarge)

For example, one of the most common problems men with more muscular physiques have is finding a pair of pants that fit through the seat and thigh.

If you have been spending your time wisely in the squat rack you know that most slim/straight cut pants will never make it past your thighs.

In this case, I have always opted for larger cut pants and had them tailored to perfection. A prime example is a pair of Levi’s 501s that I own.

I found that this particular cut fit my glutes and quads perfectly but were too loose around the waist and below the knee.

So after purchasing them, I took them to the tailor and had the waist taken in and the leg opening slimmed just below the knee. At the end of the day, I found myself with an awesome pair of jeans that fit really well for around $75.

Of course, pants aren’t the only garments that tailors can work on. A good tailor can make a world of difference in the fit of your suits, blazers, shirts and outerwear. That’s why, as a well-built man, developing a relationship with a trusted tailor must be a priority.

Tip #3: Avoid anything “skinny”

Over the past several years there has been a resurgence of all things “skinny” in men’s style. I think a lot of this has to do with the popularity of Mad Men – a television show set in the 60s when skinny ties and slim lapels were all the rage.

As fashionable as this look has now become, I think muscular men do themselves a huge disservice by indulging in this trend. In my opinion, these types of garments end up looking anemic on well-built men.

Sure, if you are a tall, lean individual then skinny jeans, skinny ties, and chopped blazers will more than likely flatter your physique. However, if you are carrying an appreciable amount of muscle mass, then “skinny” garments will look as if you had just mugged a fifth grader for his clothes.

Instead, I suggest you opt for standard width ties and lapels (Ed. note: Shoot for anywhere between 2 3/4″ – 3 1/4″ for ties, for a “standard” width. Use your best judgement.) These traditional sizes will flatter your physique the most because they will balance well with your overall proportions.

Not only that, but “skinny” anything is just another trend that will eventually cycle out of men’s style. It is better to avoid these fashion detours and stick with classic men’s style.

Tip #4: Find your favorite brand

I’m a typical guy in that I don’t like to shop for clothes. In my ideal world, I would just go to the mall in order to get the item(s) that I need and then leave.

Unfortunately, the reality is that I have to try on several different brands and sizes of garments in order to find the one(s) that fit me the best. That’s why when I find something that fits me well, I try to buy multiple items in different colors and styles.

For example, I mentioned above that I own a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans. In fact, this is the only brand and style of jeans that I own. That’s because these are the only jeans that fit well at a price point that is more than reasonable.

This makes shopping for jeans immensely easier for me because I know exactly what I need to get. I do the same thing with other garments such as shirts and chinos. I know the brands that fit me best and I turn to them routinely for my style needs.

It’s sort of like finding a well in the middle of the desert. These brands become my trusted resource and make my life that much easier by cutting down the amount of time I spend hunting around in the mall.

So if you haven’t already found your favorite brands, spend a little bit of time up front and do your research. It will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run. As an added benefit, that extra time you save from shopping for clothes can be spent in the gym, which is truly a win-win situation if you ask me!

Final Word

A lot of men today are hesitant to change their personal style and this is no different for the more physically fit among us.

We don’t like change. We’re afraid of what our family, friends, or significant others might say. Plus, it’s just too easy to throw on some sweatpants, a hoody, and a pair of sneakers and call it a day.

But what’s the point of spending all of those hours in the gym if you are just going to hide all of your hard work underneath a layer of baggy clothes? That’s why I hope that these four simple tips will help you on your style journey so that you can get the most out of your hard-earned physique!

Here’s to staying fit and looking sharp!

Manny De La Cruz is a lifelong fitness enthusiast turned style aficionado. He is the co-founder of Well Built Style, a website dedicated to helping men around the world overhaul their look through style and fitness.


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34 Responses

  1. Austin on

    For shirts, one good option is to go the MTM route. Sure, it is a little more expensive, but with places like Proper Cloth and Ratio you get quality clothing made to your body at a fairly reasonable price. Plus, by the time you take your cheaper clothing to the tailor, most of the time you have already paid up that amount.

  2. Morgan on

    So do you have any go-to recommendations for suits and jackets? Checked out the suiting section on your site but it’s empty. I mostly shop at J. Crew these days (because it’s reliable and I hate shopping) but they’re all about the Ludlow fit for pretty much everything. Supposedly skinny lapels and chopped jackets.

    • Austin on

      Skinny lapels? yes. But I have never found J.Crew’s jackets to be chopped short. They actually have a lower button stance than most, and tend to cover almost my whole butt.

    • WellBuiltStyle on

      If you have an extremely muscular/athletic physique, depending on your drop (the difference between your jacket size and your pant size) you’ll need to find “athletic” cut suits. If your drop is really significant, it’d be a good idea to go the made-to-measure route.

      There’s actually 2 key factors in play here. First of all, the standard American suit has a drop of 6″. If your drop is a bit more than that, you can buy an “athletic” cut suit which has a drop of 8″ If your drop is even larger than that, you’ll probably have to go made-to-measure. The reason why you can’t just buy a standard cut suit and alter it is because the silhouette of a a suit with a 6″ drop will be overall more boxy. If you’re muscular/athletic, your chest will be much bigger than your waist and this 6″ drop will have too much excess room around your waist. You can only take in a suit so much before it starts looking weird.

      The second issue will be your trousers. Standard suits have jackets that proportionally match their trousers (recall the 6″ drop). So let’s say you have a 42″ chest and a 31″ waist. That 42″ jacket will have trousers fit for the the man with a 36″ waist! There’s no way you can bring in 5″ of excess fabric around the waist.

      • Morgan on

        I understand the general principles. Just wondering if there are any particular brands you recommend that don’t follow the skinny lapel trend the way J. Crew’s ubiquitous Ludlow does.

          • WellBuiltStyle on

            I did my made-to-measure through a store called Harry Rosen during their made-to-measure event/sale. I was able to get a nice made-to-measure suit with added surgeon cuffs and a customized jacket inner lining for around $1300 if i recall correctly. I’m quite happy with the results of the suit.

            I’ve seen mixed results on various style forums/blogs with online MTM such as indochino. Some of the MTM suits from them look great but others look really horrible. I suspect it has to do with the self measurements that you have to take. If you choose to go the online route, I’d make sure your measurements are spot on. Going to a tailor to do them would be a wise idea.

        • Oliver Phillips on

          Suitsupply cut their suits really slim/athletic. I’m 5’11” 185lbs and 32″ waist and I find their jackets fit amazingly off the rack. Pretty much the best quality for the price you’ll find too. If you aren’t near one (NY, Chicago, Boston I think atm) the online store ships for free and also does free returns pick ups (in the UK at least) so you can try it out.

    • Barron on

      Have you tried Brooks Brothers? They have five different fits, the last time I checked. They range from more modern / slim, to the more traditional. You’d have to go in and talk to a salesperson to help you dial in on the right fit / cut. I believe the Madison model is the more traditional cut with wider lapels.

      • WellBuiltStyle on

        I haven’t tried Brooks Brothers suits but I was rather unimpressed by their “extra slim fit” dress shirts. Unfortunately, those shirts still have way too much excess fabric around the waist area.

  3. inkedott on

    I’d like to see more articles like this, as this is my biggest problem. I’m 5’9″, 210 lbs., with a 30″ waist.

  4. Corey on

    Thanks for the nice article. I have had these problems for quite some time, with a 10 inch drop between my chest and waist. Like you said, getting a pair of straight fit jeans on over the thighs isn’t event happening in my waist size (32). I like the idea of getting jeans tailored and had not tried it before. I have had success with Lucky Brand jeans for some reason, even the straight fit. I started sizing down about 2 yrs ago and it made a huge difference in how the clothes look and feel. I always wondered how you get “the look” from the magazines. It is almost all about fit. I notice medium works well in almost all casual and sport shirts and I go with tailored and slim fits on dress shirts. It has made a world of difference.

    • WellBuiltStyle on

      One thing you have to realize is that when it comes to photo shoots in magazines, there’s “magic” done in the background to achieve those perfect looks. Any excess fabric on the clothing of the models is likely pinned to create a good fit. In addition, there’s also the wonders of photoshop.

      With that said, following the tips highlighted in this article will definitely help every man get closer to achieving that magazine look.

  5. Paul H. on

    Great article, as always. Any idea where the tee and polo in the pictures are from? Even if I buy a slim fit, there is way too much fabric around the waist (although the chest may be quite snug). It looks like the tops in those pictures (especially the polo) may be worth checking out.

    • WellBuiltStyle on

      I’m wearing a J. Crew indigo slub jersey polo. Got it on sale for just $30. We always recommend guys to wait for sales especially if you shop at J. Crew because they’re constantly receiving new product and putting the “old” stuff on sale.

      Couldn’t tell you about the T though. Not me in that picture. I’ve had success with v-neck Ts at the gap though and they’re not too pricey.

      • Paul H. on

        Damn, you’re stacked. Good job. Thanks for the reply, too. I look forward to checking out those polos, and I’ll continue my search for tees, starting with the Gap.

  6. BYC on

    Great writeup. As a guy that does alot of squats/deadlifts I agree with all these points. Good tailoring is a must have for guys with athletic builds. One unique thing that my tailor did on one of my suit jackets is he simulated pulling up the back collar of the jacket a little (to line up with the natural neck/shoulder slope of a person with larger traps) this immediately fixed a bunch of shoulder and back wrinkling/dimpling issues.

    Brandwise for shirts and blazers, JCrew/JCrewFactory blazers and slim fit shirts fit me really well off the rack. For jeans I also like Levi’s 501s. For pants I am having a lot of success with Bonobos straight fit stretch cotton.

  7. Don on

    Great info, Manny. I’m just shy of 6′ and about 210lbs, 44″ chest 33″ waist and find it nearly impossible to get clothes that fit. I’ve recently found that Lucky Brand jeans, style 329 Classic Straight fits the best.

  8. Shannon Sonnika Sequeira on

    Thankyou so much, my hunky husband will nw be a lil relaxed abt his clothing!
    God bless 🙂

  9. A F on

    Here’s a question; if we are very muscular, with a very thin waist (huge ratio), how do we wear a short sleeve polo without looking like a box if we are short? 5’8, 182 lbs, 28 inch waist, 9% body fat. I can wear a right v-neck tee, but not a polo for some reason. Thoughts? Brands? Links? I should add that I get everything tailored/altered, and am very picky 🙂 just want your thoughts on how to pull off a polo without looking like a gay club bouncer.

    • Barron on

      polos should fit like your t-shirts. what brands have you already tried? i personally recommend the custom fit line from polo ralph lauren, but everyone’s body is different, so it may not fit perfectly if you have a really aggressive taper.

      have you ever checked out well-built style: they focus on clothing for the athletic build.

  10. Zachary Wheeler on

    I wish that someone would start a clothing company for well built men. It is hard to find clothing that fits me well anymore. I have gained a significant amount of muscle in recent years and now when I come across a shirt that I like, I try it on, and the sleeves are usually way to small and act like tourniquets around my arms. I always have to go up 2 or 3 sizes until the sleeves fit well, but by then the shirt doesn’t fit snugly around my waist anymore and I look like a tent. It is extremely frustrating. I am now thinking of just purchasing nothing but Henley styled shirts since they stretch out more and are not so constricting.

    • Stephen Baker on

      Good evening, I would like to introduce you to my new company.

      We sell British manufactured expertly designed jeans for the athletic build.

      Our jeans give extra comfort in the thigh and butt areas.

      We are presently finalising design with the manufacturers therefore launch will be early spring.

      Please contact me for an update

      [email protected]

  11. Laurence on

    Great Article. Could you share some of the brands that work for you. Suit? Chino? ETC. Struggling to find brand recommendations online to try.

  12. Chance on

    Was just looking around and noticed that The Gap now has jeans fit for athletic built guys. They are called “Standard Fit.” I’m going to give them a try since they are actually catering to our community.

  13. nardly on

    I have had to go to the big, fat and insanely tall shirts and wear them like a dress because nothing else fits around my arms, shoulders and back,,, which makes it even harder at 5’7… sometimes I can get them tailored but many times when I go to the giant fat guy clothes they fit fine in the neck back and arms but must be made for someone with a 50 inch waist and about 7 feet tall… what makes it worse is I am not at competitive bodyfat levels and while still normal trying to squeeze into smaller sizes ends up looking worse now that so many main stream clothing designs are for the meth addict hipster douchebag or scrawny chinese boys or something

    Seriously… how the hell do super fat-asses have 40 inch waists but 22 inch thighs? and a 50 inch gut but only 12 inch arms and necks?….

  14. Andy Budnik on

    This is awesome and something I’ve just found out as well as I got rid of a LOT of ill-fitting clothing. I’m a Medium. I’ve always bought L because of the neck and in some cases, I guess just to say I’m not “small.” I have found some great brands – CK, Lucky that fit perfectly for pants. Even old navy jeans do alright – even in slim straight. They’re snug, but they’re kind of supposed to be, and yet they don’t seem painted on like skinny jeans, which I can’t even get past my knee to pretend to try on. M shirts are perfect for me for the most part, but you need to try on almost everything these days since the same brands and models of jeans don’t even fit consistently. However, I have found that skinny ties and slim cuts of suits do work for me. I’m 5’9″ and 175, with shorter legs, yet very muscular. My upper body is still bigger and my neck presents a huge problem. I need a medium with 33″ arms, but a 16″ neck to actually button the damn thing. Anyone have any suggestions on where to find good dress shirts that fit slim and accommodate a bigger neck? Maybe I just need to cut out the trap exercises. Also, Levi’s just came out with an “athletic fit” in jeans. Have not tried them because I am able to get into some fits.

    • Markus on

      regarding the jeans, I’ve made some very good experiences with the Denizen brand from Levis, sold at Target. Exspecially with their 218, 232 and 236 models. I’ve got almost identical measures like you, Andy.

      Too pity i’m so rarely in the US so I always buy a batch of those models each time visiting the states.

  15. Vsevolod Kirigin on

    This was very helpful. I have been having trouble to find anything that looked good under my greatcoat, and the size down made it much easier, though it still is down to a large in the United States. As a side note, if you are close to as large as I am (2.03m and 127kg) and you think finding normal clothing that fits, try looking for a greatcoat. It is near impossible.

  16. disqus_0PtLV9c2IT on

    Actually, the clothes on “Mad Men” fit well, and are not ridiculously skinny and tight like the stuff you see the average hipster wearing on the street.