Fashion can often feel like a club that’s shut to anyone who’s not sample size, with runways walked by the scarily thin and advertising populated by the tediously buff. Summer is its cruellest season, when those forgiving layers are baked off your body, and your wardrobe choices are reduced to a few feet of cotton.
But there’s opportunity hiding in what can look like a style desert. “If you get the basics right – like the fits that look best on you or colours that are flattering – then everything just comes together,” says Luke McDonald, a stylist at men’s personalised shopping service, Thread. “Dressing a bigger frame is all about playing to your strengths, rather than thinking you have to hide weaknesses.”
With that in mind, here are six summer style tips for bigger guys.
6 Summer Style Tips For Bigger Guys
Embrace Boxy Fits
Airflow is summer’s grail, but when you shop at the XL end of the rail, it can be tough to find. Because it’s cheaper, brands generally scale clothes up from a medium, rather than account for the different dimensions of bigger physiques, which is why shirts and tees can cling where they shouldn’t. Boxier fits are designed to hang away from your skin, whatever your shape, which works for your look and your body temperature.
Be Light With Your Layers
When it’s too hot to think, you can’t layer up. Which is a pity, because layers add structure and balance your upper and lower halves. But summer doesn’t mean you have to default to a T-shirt every day. Simple moves, like a short-sleeve shirt worn open over a vest, or a lightweight blazer with a tee, give your look shape and without blocking that all-important airflow.
Don’t Fear Colour
Sure, black is slimming, but in summer, it’s hot in all the wrong ways. Bright weather should be the catalyst for a lighter wardrobe, and not just because it reflects heat instead of absorbing it. “When the sunlight’s stronger, bold shades look better,” says McDonald. They’re flattering, too, especially if you match them to your skin tone and stick to block colours – busy patterns confuse the eye and can make you look bigger.
Get Some Texture
Cotton is summer’s default fabric because it’s breathable, absorbs sweat and you can just bung it straight in the wash. But all-cotton looks can fall flat because the fabric offers little depth. That’s where equally breezy materials like seersucker and linen come in – they’re full of texture, which means you can stick to simple pieces in block colours but still look put-together.
Freshen Up Your Prints
Block colours might be your mate, but you needn’t swerve pattern completely. Stripes are an obvious win for the bigger guy, but anything geometric can work, too, especially if you’re colour-shy. Things like polka dots, checks or even florals are a low-effort way to keep monochrome looks from slipping into uninspired. Not that you have to go black-and-white – muted colours like rust and forest green are still summery, but not dazzling. Just stick to pattern on either your top or bottom halves. Head-to-toe ends up a bit Magic Eye.
Add Statement Accessories
If ever there’s a time to go big on accessories, it’s summer. Sunglasses, hats, cross-body bags – they’re all warm-weather essentials that can make basic looks pop. Helpfully, they also come with no sizing issues. Shoes are equally powerful at turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Just see how a killer pair of suede Chelsea boots can transform jeans and a tee from your laundry day outfit to a wear-all-summer signature.
3 Summer Style Icons For Bigger Guys
Those who have followed Jonah Hill’s blossoming into a street style don won’t have been surprised that the sometime Palace spokesman’s first feature as director is all about ‘90s skate kids. His summer fits tend towards sleeper streetwear – Palace’s less noisy tees, camp collar shirts from Japanese dons Wacko Maria – with the occasional jolt of something wild, like a tie-dye Grateful Dead tee or basketball jersey tucked into high-waisted trousers.
There’s a chance that, long ago, DJ Khaled had some fucks to give. But not anymore. Fittingly for a man as famous for his work on a jet ski as in the music studio, Khaled proves that nothing’s off-limits, even if you are carrying some timber. Wild Versace shirts? Wilder Gucci tracksuits? Bubblegum pink actual suits? All more than pull-offable if you accessorise them with the confidence of a man who won’t even let getting lost at sea harsh his vibe.
David Harbour – AKA Hawkins’s good-guy cop – broke free of head-to-toe brown for the most recent season of Stranger Things, debuting a Hawaiian shirt that could have appeared on the Prada runway. Off-screen, the actor is no style slouch either, with a look based around making simple things work well. See his velvet blazer and jeans at Miu Miu’s Paris Fashion Week show, or his penchant for trim polos that highlight his gym-honed arms. He’s proof that when you’re the biggest guy on-set, that’s something to embrace, not cover up.
5 Summer Essentials For Bigger Guys
An overshirt is a summer staple for all kinds of reasons – they’ll take the chill off when the sun goes down, but are still light enough to chuck in a bag – but they’re especially powerful for guys with larger frames. Unbuttoned, they’ll hang off your shoulders and away from your body, creating a sharper silhouette.
If finding trousers is tough when you’ve got bigger thighs, tracking down perfect shorts is a nightmare. Basketball-style baggies might be comfortable, but they make you bottom-heavy and throw your look out of balance. Instead, go for shorts that end a couple of inches above the knee and taper slightly. Look for pleats, too, which give more room while retaining that trim shape.
A big guy in a Hawaiian shirt has been a sitcom punchline for decades, but the new breed of vacation shirt has put paid to that. The trick is to dial back the colours – two is plenty – and go for patterns with lots of negative space, like florals or even animal prints. Just please, nothing with hula girls.
We’ve already talked about the value of looser, roomier fits, which is why boxy tees should be at the top of your summer shopping list. You can’t go wrong with white, but it’s also worth thinking graphic (that’s graphic, not slogan). Make like Jonah Hill and look to streetwear brands who craft the kind of clever, tasteful tees that become an outfit’s focal point, without looking obnoxious.
If your body shape has more curves than you’d like, then look to V-shaped necklines, which create angles by widening your shoulders and slimming your waist. Because deep Vs are still on the banned list, look to the button-up collars of polos or Henleys, which achieve the same trick without turning you all Love Island.