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Flawless Fit Series – A Big Men’s Clothing Guide

Flawless Fit Series - A Big Men's Clothing Guide

Harness the power of the custom made suit and learn how it makes big men’s clothing both stylish and comfortable.

Big men’s clothing choices shouldn’t be limited by their weight. So you haven’t been down to your “playing weight” since freshman year of high school. That’s okay. Big men’s clothes should still fit great and big guy fashion is not limited to the selections you’ll find on the rack of specialty stores.With the plethora of custom clothing makers out there (including Black Lapel) making clothes based on your exact measurements, heavyset men are no longer stuck in a style ghetto. If you see a fly suit on one of the men in this publication, you can get it in your size no matter what that size is.

Big Guy Fashion Secret – The Suit

While some big men’s clothes put you at a disadvantage fit-wise, tailored clothing, like suits, can flatter a wide range of body types because they can be tailored to fit your body. The full suit also has the added benefit of giving you a top to bottom, put together look. This elongates your frame. Heavyset men can wear non-matching jackets and pants (or Unsuits as we like to call them), but there shouldn’t be much color contrast between the top and the bottom. By keeping the colors cohesive from top to bottom you can achieve the same lengthening effect of a suit, but it’s a little trickier to pull off. The easier move is to go with a suit. And, there are some important things to consider that will help you the portly gentleman look great in a suit: fabric and fit. Since this is a part of our Flawless Fit Series, we’ll spend more time on fit, but for the heavyset gent, fabric is too important to skip over, so let’s start there.

Choosing the Right Fabric for Big Men’s Clothing

We’ve talked about choosing the right color for you in the past. (If you haven’t read it yet, we recommend you check out our How to Build a Suit story before deciding on a fabric color.) But heavyset men should pay special attention to the colors they choose. Light colored fabrics will stand out more and put the emphasis on the wearer’s body rather than his face. Larger men should stick to darker tones that frame the face, instead.


One of the classic ways men dress for their size is by using patterns to accentuate the positives. For the heavyset man, pinstripes are your best friend. Pinstripes, with their association with bankers, have gotten a bad rap lately, but the modern take on pinstripes is bringing them back into favor. Today more narrowly spaced pinstripes are changing the way guys approach this classic style and for larger gents, the narrow stripes make for even more of the visual lengthening effect that makes you appear more trim.

Big Mens Clothing Guide - Charcoal with Lavender Pinstripe Custom Suit Swatch

With its dark gray color and tightly spaced pinstripes, this Charcoal with Lavender Pinstripe Custom Suit hits the right notes for the heavyset guy.

Big Men’s Clothing Keys to Fit

Once you’ve chosen a fabric that works for you, the choices you make about fit will play a big role in how your suit looks on you. If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a flawless fit. That’s where custom suits come into play. When the suit is made to your measurements, it’s much more likely to fit you well, right out of the gate.

But before you take your measurements, think about how you wear your pants. For a heavier guy to nail the fit of a suit, he’s got to make a decision about where to wear his pants. If you’ve got a bit of a belly there are two approaches:

Big Mens Clothing Guide - Pants on Waist vs. Low Rise Pants

Wear your pants at the natural waist (an inch or two below the navel).

If you choose this option, avoid wearing belts that need to cinch around your midsection and opt for stylish suspenders instead. These will hold your pants suspended at the proper place and allow them to drape well as they slightly taper to your lower leg. Wearing your pants this way will aid in keeping your look streamlined since your suit will flow uninterrupted from the neck to the ankles without your shirt and stomach showing below your buttoned jacket.

Wear your pants below your belly.

If you’re particularly fond of belts and aren’t concerned with the streamlining effect, the other option for the portly gent is to wear your pants lower. This creates a more casual look, more akin to low-rise jeans. This look can work in a casual setting.

Why make this decision now? Because where you will wear your pants affects the length and the rise/seat of the pants. A man wearing pants at his natural waist will need a longer pant leg than he would need if he wore his pants down closer to his hips.

The other key to fit for the big men’s clothing when it comes to suits, is the jacket waist. While waist suppression (the taper through the midsection that you see on the Black Lapel models) may work for some guys, it doesn’t make sense for everyone. To avoid any pulling in the waist area, opt for a more generous cut jacket like a tailored fit or standard fit from Black Lapel.

A word of caution here: Choosing a looser cut is not the same as sizing up. Don’t make the mistake that guys of all shapes and sizes make, and get a jacket that is just too big all around. This mistake can make anyone looking like a shapeless blob.

The little things that make a big man look good

We’ve discussed cloth, we’ve discussed cut, now we’ll tackle customization. The there are a few things that you can choose in a custom suit that will help the overall look.


Big Mens Clothing Guide - Slanted Flapped Pockets

The streamlined look of a piped pocket minimizes extra fabric around the midsection and is a more formal look that’s good for a business suit. Too formal? Opt for an angled flapped pocket that take some of the breadth away from your hips and make you look slimmer.


Big Mens Clothing Guide - Peak Lapels

The slim lapel trend is still alive, but big guys should stick with more substantial lapels that cover more ground on the chest. Further, the slanting lines of lapels have a slimming effect that can be accentuated by the pointed ends of peak lapels.


Big Mens Clothing Guide - Pleats

Despite all of the vitriol directed at pleats from the fashion world over the past decade or so, pleats are beginning to make a comeback in the stylish men’s wardrobe. This is good news for heavyset guys who want a little extra room in their pants for comfort when sitting. The pendulum of fashion is swinging back in your favor.

The World Is Yours

With so many made-to-measure clothing choices available, the heavyset man’s got options like never before. That means there’s no excuse for dressing like a scrub. Master these keys to a flawless fit and any big guy can look fly. Of course, if you have questions, we’re here to help. Send your questions to a Black Lapel stylist at concierge@blacklapel.com.

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16 thoughts on “Flawless Fit Series – A Big Men’s Clothing Guide”

  1. John says:

    How are you with pricing. As a big guy I find clothes to end up being more expensive. For a nice basic suit that looks good without the frills what kind of range are we looking at.?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Perhaps it isn’t the most cost-effective business practice but, on principle, our suits are the same price no matter how much fabric we use to make them. Suit prices start at $499. We encourage you to take a look at the suits and see for yourself.

  2. James Nathaniel says:

    Is standard fit regular fit?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Our standard fit is our most traditional fit at Black Lapel. It’s a looser cut that has a more relaxed feel. We recommend this fit for larger guys so the suit fabric doesn’t pull in any unflattering areas.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    How do you wear your pants? I thought men with large build, like me, supposed to wear pants top of love handles. Your help would be greatly appreciated

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Your natural waist is located at your belly button, so use that as a marker. See an example of how the stylists here at Black Lapel measure the waist on every guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXwHv5rsyDk.

  4. Gloria Durst says:

    I like how you say that a streamlined pocket can help you if you are a bit larger. It would seem smart to want to find someone who can help you look your best for your body type. My husband is a bit larger, so when he decides to go shopping for clothes he’ll have to consider hiring someone to help him out. http://mariorojas.com/

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Why don’t you let us help your husband out? Black Lapel makes completely custom clothing, so size is not an issue, and he’ll have a dedicated stylist to assure the fit is just right. Just send an email over to concierge@blacklapel.com if you want to start talking with a stylist (free of charge)!

  5. Brian Lonardo says:

    Curious, just placed an order and i’m curious what you have for my chest and waste sizes (I’m thinking 45 on chest and I generally try to get 35 jeans) I really have a hard time finding jackets i’m between a 44 and 46 typically so i’m wondering what your computer maths say i am ..


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey, Brian. This sounds like a question for our concierge customer service team. You can shoot them an email about your order at concierge@blacklapel.com.

  6. Mario says:

    That was generous of you to do. Fine. So long as its understood by the reader that a genuine error (mine) was made, then perhaps something can be learned. Who knows?

    Please consider my points should you ever write an article that deals with a “heavy” men. Later.

  7. Mario says:

    Oh oh. My bad. In re-reading this, the article is for the big man which does not necessarily mean heavy. You even included an “if” in a discussion about the stomach indicating that a large stomach is not a given. Football players and body builders fit into the framework of this article. There is your audience. It goes to show you what one reads into when its late at night. Your welcome to delete ALL that I have written.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      No harm done, Mario. You made a lot of great points in your original comment that we’d love to leave up for all to see.

      Our aim is to get every man into clothes that cast him in the best light possible, regardless of size or shape. Your comments are right in line with that goal, so here’s to you.

  8. Mario says:

    Its about time you devoted a time to the heavy man. And hopefully heavy and short like me at 5’6″. Kudos. However your missing a photo of a heavy set man. Get one. I agree with the use of standard sized peak lapels. There is however no mention of the wearer choosing single or double (best choice) vents. What if one’s shoulders are short and slopes? You can make mention of how BL can build up shoulders on a jacket to be in better proportion with the hips. Appeal to a manly sense of vanity by mentioning the more “rugged” look of a built up shoulder. What about the use of a pocket square? If there is any one accessory that will draw the eye up its that. Yeah its an article on fit…not style…I get it. I thought it well to mention it. Sue me.

    You mentioned color and patterns (yeah you included a 2 paragraph style article; so ok we’re even). Dark colors and hues, especially in solid, is heavy man freindly. Ok. But more can be said about patterns. To wear a pinstripe is so cliche. Yes, it works but a cliche nonetheless. Houndstooth and herringbone is a smart option. Not smart is chalk stripes and plaids. How about a mention of buttons? Two buttons all the way. What’s are the negatives in a heavy man wearing a double breasted jacket?

    Pants? Vents are good for the heavy man. Great care is needed as to how many pleats are useful. One deep pleat (see your photo) per side is fine IMHO. The risk of 2 pleats per side may lead to a billowing effect. Who would want that? And about those shoulders? Remember I mentioned shoulders…suspenders suck. I know. Focus instead the build of a custom pant with well spaced fasteners. With this the use of a belt won’t be needed. A mention of side tabs to cinch the waist for a secure fit could have been mentioned. Thats all I got for you now. Thanks for reading.

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