While most of us aspire to be thinner, there’s something to be said for guys that never filled out, and can’t escape the snark about being one gust of wind away from a broken bone.
And while there are dozens of style guides out there for guys who have let themselves go, you will struggle to find advice for their undernourished peers. We can’t help you grow taller or stack on the muscle.
But we can teach you a few simple tricks to add to the illusion of size, especially when it’s not there in the first place. If you’re one of these guys and need pointers on how to dress like a big boy, then this is the guide for you.
Don’t Get Too Skinny
We’re well aware that slim-this and skinny-that is the order of business today. But if you’re struggling to fill out, you need to think twice about your favourite brands that do six variations of a slim fit.
Skinny guys need cuts that generate the illusion of proportional width. Clothes that sit too close to the body – besides being uncomfortable as hell – just draw attention to your predicament. Don’t make it harder for yourself than it already is.
We’re not saying you should go to the XXL rack at DJ’s and spend half your pay check on clothes designed for NFL players. But avoiding the tight-fitting, underfed runway model look is the first step on the road to a bigger and better you.
Say No To Stripes
Stripes are boss. It’s why Gordon Gekko wore them, its why every Wall Street wannabe from here to Manhattan decks himself out in a chalk stripe suit on his way up the corporate ladder. But for you, my friend, stripes are not the answer.
Sure, stripes play tricks on the eyes. They make the tall look taller, and can shave a few cheeky kg’s off blokes that desperately need it. Great, if you’re a short and portly fella who has given up on a late growth spurt or new diet.
However, the unbroken, vertical silhouette of a stripe pattern is wasted on someone that’s already skinny. It’s useful for ‘well-built’ guys who want to distract suspecting bystanders from their bad diet. But if you’re not in that category, leave it on the shelf. Try checks or florals instead if you need a pattern.
Layer Like A Slender Champion
This bit might be more relevant to our transatlantic readers that are feeling the chill, but some tactical layering – knits over shirts, scarves under coats, open shirts over tees – adds heft to a runty frame and is a great tool for playing around with texture and colour while you’re at it.
However, avoid the temptation to swaddle yourself in too many layers – besides drowning in your own sweat you’ll look a bit like an overprotected child on his way to school in winter. Use one or two extra layers, don’t walk home with the entire shopfloor.
Practice Good Symmetry
Maintaining a balanced look is key to shedding your unfair reputation as a man of unmanly proportions. If the top half of your outfit is layered or quite structured, the bottom half needs to tow the party line, and vice versa.
Suffer from chicken legs? Then don’t wear a huge parka with skinny jeans. A tight tee with straight-cut jeans will generate all sorts of confusion. Splitting your outfit into blocks like this risks looking out of proportion when the emphasis should be on looking bigger overall. Follow the general idea of symmetry and no one will know you’re the runtiest bloke in the pack.
Embrace Big Patterns
Have you ever seen a fat bloke in a ‘fun’ shirt and wondered what he was thinking? We’re right behind you. Big patterns don’t do big beautiful guys any favours, but they can overshadow a lack of size by adding the illusion of depth. Windowpanes, a prince of wales, or even a floral pattern are great for diminutive guys that need some illusory substance on their bones. Get around it.
In saying that, we don’t endorse throwing patterns together and hoping for a transformative miracle. Our soldier’s five on the do’s and don’ts of patterns is covered here in case you need help.
Structure & Padding Is Key
If you’re struggling to find a suit that makes you look like a grown man, it’s worthwhile reconsidering your tailoring preferences. Although the trend down under has moved towards soft Neapolitan tailoring, the reluctantly-skinny guys in the crowd might benefit from a more English approach.
Broadly, this school of tailoring is all about structure: padded shoulders, thick canvas interlining, and more rigid shape. A bit of padding here and structure there can transform a chap that’s fifty-kg’s wet into something (slightly) more formidable.
The key here, gents, is to not go full 80s Miami Vice. Excessive padding will make people think you’re on the set of an American Psycho remake.
Key Skinny Guy Items
Double-breasted and clean-lined jackets are your go-to. The Kingsmen X Mr Porter collection offer a superb light grey in check suit in English wool for that needed density; while Hardy Amies’ white grey linen blazer is a lighter double-breasted option for summer.
Cord is a great bulking fabric. For casual cord, look to Acne’s camel jeans; while Berluti and Boglioli offer a more suave, Italian trouser for work. Pleats are supplied by J.Crew for casual trousers and for shorts, head to Paul Smith. More office-ready pleating in silk and cotton blend is yours care of Maison Margiela.
Selvedge’s thickness is a great choice for skinny legs, looking to brands like Nudie Jeans, Balmain and Levi’s. Slight distressed denim with offer some distracting detail on jeans. Check out Ron Herman, The People Vs. and Michael Bastian for straight-cut fits. Acne Studios in the ultimate skinny guy jean; offering straight-up-and-down fits that are minimal and easy.
Boxy and longer coats can overwhelm a thinner build so go for a three-quarter length mac, which cut just above the knee. The density of the shearling shawl coat from Berluti will have looking bigger immediately, and the buttons and shoulder straps on military coats will add more bulk. Duffle and pea coats, which sit just past the waist, are perfect, too. Opt for the green duffle from Burberry and the cotton canvas pea in red from Hardy Amies – avoiding slim-look black.
Roll and crew neck sweaters and tees are great for increasing surface area. V-necks tend to accentuate thin necks and collarbones and button-up shirts, fastened nearly all the way up are a good way to add shape to your shoulder (compared to tees). And go for plaid and macro prints to add size. Hit up Sunspel and Officine Generale for basic and patterned tees, and Thom Browne and Club Monaco and Incotex for cool plaids. Barena and Cos do slim formal shirting that’s not too skinny.