Ask Harry: How to Dress For Your Body
llustration by Rachel Zavarella
In case you haven’t noticed, men’s fashion has been going through quite a renaissance of late. Sure, in the past guys have expressed a feigned interest in what they donned on their bodies. But these days men have taken it upon themselves to become truly invested in the type of choices they make when it comes to their wardrobes. They are asking questions, they are taking chances and they are enjoying the entire experience. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of guys out there with questions, unsure of how to navigate through a world that often seems to contradict itself — the world of fashion. The truth is, men’s bodies are as diverse as their female counterparts. They come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, meaning that there is never one solution to any one question.
In our ongoing partnership with Harry Rosen, we sail into choppy waters and talk to Adam Gallo, their suiting buyer and resident sartorial expert, to discuss how a guy should dress for his body and go about finding a suit that will work for him.
Fit is king
“It’s certainly more about a closer fit. Not a tight fit, but a closer fit. Whether you’re big, short or tall, you don’t want anything that’s loose, sloppy and leaving a lot of baggage. Keep in mind that a close fit to a big man is much different than a close fit to a smaller man. Larger guys expand when they sit, so you can’t have a fit that is as close as something on a smaller or slimmer man. That being said, you want a suit to sit close to the body at certain anchor points. Those would be the shoulders, a higher armhole and the area just below the ribcage.”
Sleeves and pants
“No matter what, you never want these to be too long. In my opinion, one hundred percent of the time, you should show at least a quarter inch of the shirt cuff and have it sitting just at the base of the wrist. Pant length needs to be razor sharp, and as trim and close to the body as possible so there isn’t too much slack. It really elongates the silhouette. No matter your height or build overall, always show sleeve cuff and have a minimal break in your pant. A single break is ideal.”
“Low-rise trousers became somewhat of a trend years ago. That’s all fine, but going too low doesn’t flatter the silhouette when you’ve got a suit on. If you consider where the jacket falls with the jacket buttons, you shouldn’t see a gap with your shirt peaking out. Keeping that gap closed with a higher rise pant or lower button stance keeps the silhouette uniform. It doesn’t break up the legs and torso. This is especially true for tall men. If you can imagine a guy that is 6’5 with a high button stance in the middle of his torso, that is going to leave a lot of open space below and make the jacket look like it’s too short for him.”
“Some people talk about how the jacket falls in relation to your arms or hands. But some guys have particularly long arms or really short arms, in which case that rule wouldn’t apply. The one point of balance that has always been useful is the base of the crotch. Where the jacket falls should almost line flush, give or take a centimeter, with the base of the crotch. There should be almost equal parts leg and torso, measuring from the top of the collar to the bottom of the jacket, and the base of the jacket to the bottom of your pant hem.”
“In almost all cases, the way to achieve a close fit is to get a high armhole. Men might think that if it’s too high it might be uncomfortable, which isn’t the case. To be honest, a jacket with a higher armhole gives you more movement and rotation. In the opposite case, where you have all this extra slack, the whole jacket moves with you and it feels less comfortable. It doesn’t give you the same rotation and movement.”
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Prints and patterns
“Typically, men who are short don’t want to look short. One good thing about being smaller, though, is that you can wear big, bold checks and stripes without it being overwhelming. That works if you are of a smaller frame or physique. Defined or high-contrast patterns really look overpowering on a big man. On the flip side, a thin pinstripe can also look too small for him. You want to maintain the pattern that’s big enough for the guy, but not so defined that you’ll be able to see him from two miles down the road. They’re already large, so to make them appear even larger or exaggerate that — it’s more fabric, it’s a bigger surface, it’s overwhelming.”
“If you’re small and slim, loftier fabrics can have benefit. If you’re skinny and don’t have a lot of meat on you, wearing thin and slim suits will make you look silly; you’ll look like a beanpole. You also don’t want a suit that is loose thinking it will give you volume because it’ll just look too big for you. A loftier fabric holds up for those guys that are tall or short, and slim. It maintains its shape. In the fall, something beefier, like a tweed or heavier cotton, is good. In a suit, you want something that is over ten ounces or more. To give you a snapshot of the range, an ultra-lightweight or tropical weight would be between 6.5 and 7.5, mid-weight ranges from 8.5 to 10, and anywhere beyond that to 14 would be heavy. A slim and narrow guy can handle that, though.”
To pad or not to pad
“When it comes to shoulder expression, different suits have different pads to them. If you’re a smaller guy, you can probably go either way. If you’re short and stocky, you won’t want too much pad because it will make you look square. A fully natural shoulder is really only a must if you are a guy that is very tall, slim and have extremely wide shoulders. If you put a padded suit on these guys, they just end up looking like football players. The same is true for a guy with a very muscular build or is extremely stocky, like a rugby player. Conversely, if you have narrow shoulders and you’re a tall guy, you want to make your torso seem bigger by accentuating the shoulders and chest. Shoulder padding and a wider lapel will help.”
Take a seat
“When you have big, thick thighs or a big seat, like a hockey or soccer player, it can be very challenging to find something that fits properly. To find a jacket that fits well, the pant is typically too small. It may not be too small in the waist, but we don’t fit pants in the waist. The first measurement that we take, which determines the size of the pant, is the seat. And from the seat comes the thigh and the rest of the leg. The seat, thigh and rise are critical. If you’re extreme, here’s where you’ll need made-to-measure. If it’s an off-the-rack suit, get one that fits in the pant. It’s easier to get your jacket adjusted rather than your seat. You’re sitting, you’re moving, you’re getting in a car — the amount of movement and flexibility you need is in the pant.”