Friday, July 29, 2011

fashion tips for men who aren't exactly slim

by frédérik sisa

I’ve hemmed and hawed a lot about today’s post ever since a reader asked if I had ever posted any fashion advice for men who “aren’t exactly slim.” I hemmed because doling out fashion tips is somewhat anathema to this blog’s purpose. I hawed because for me, a slim guy, to hand out advice on this topic is a bit like asking for advice from an unmarried marriage counselor (to borrow a turn of phrase from Charles Schultz). But, the question did have me thinking about how we – and by “we” I mean all of us regardless of body shape – wear our clothes. I thought of a few general guidelines that might, hopefully, be helpful - not so much, perhaps, in terms of what to wear but in how to wear.

And if these little guidelines aren't useful, well, you can take comfort in knowing that I’m not planning to get into the advice-dispensing business and will return to the usual fare in my next post.

Here we go!

Wear comfortable clothes that fit.

As silly and obvious as this seems in principle, it’s surprising how many people seem to neglect this essential rule. How many times have we seen someone wear pants that are so tight that skin overflows at the waist? Or clothes that are so loose that it draws more attention to the wearer’s weight instead of less?

Comfort may not always mean a good fit, but a good fit should always mean comfort. Too tight, and you’ll not only be struggling with your clothes but the form-following results of tight clothes will do exactly that: reveal form. This doesn’t necessarily mean that loose clothes should be ruled out. But to avoid creating an impression of shapelessness, the body should be to loose-fitting clothes what a cliff structure is to waterfalls.

Consider the way an outfit directs the eye - and beware of optical/perceptual effects.

Loud patterns, horizontal lines, misplaced graphics and ornamentation – these are all about how our visual sense perceives what we see. In a way, fashion style is all about directing the eye. A woman’s low-cut blouses, for example, will bring attention to her cleavage. A brightly-coloured tie will bring attention to man’s neck. A long, narrow dress with high heels may emphasize the lines of her legs. A suit jacket with subtle shoulder pads will emphasize a man’s upper body. Tee-shirts with bold graphics will inevitably draw a lot of attention to wherever the graphics are placed. A few other bits of perception:
  • V-necks create a slimming, vertical effect.
  • Vertical lines, obviously, de-emphasize the horizontal and create an impression of height.
  • Matching, complementary colours can also emphasize height and de-emphasize the horizontal.
Layers are your friend.

Vests over dress shirts, blazers, and anything else that can be layered can offer visual cues that de-emphasize. This is one of the great advantages of suits (for example). Without the jacket, a dress shirt might not do too much to de-emphasize body shape. But put the jacket on and the eyes are given something else to focus on. Voila! Layers to the rescue.

Harness the power of accessories.

There’s nothing like a great pair of shoes, a fantastic hat, or a beautiful piece of jewelry to help give the eyes something to focus on other than body shape. But remember: with great power comes great…ah, never mind.

Be confident.

Standing up straight, walking decisively, and a fearless attitude are elements of body language that project confidence. Another key consideration is this: like what you wear. If what you wear doesn’t make you happy and doesn’t make you feel good, it doesn’t matter if the whole world tells you that it suits your body shape perfectly. You’ll still look uncomfortable. In my view, clothes that break the “rules” or stray from the guidelines but are worn with confidence are much more appealing than clothes that have the fashion police’s approval but are mismatched with the wearer’s personality.

And that's all I have. For more specific tips, the following websites are a good place to start:

Of course, I’d love read your suggestions in the comments below.

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