Menswear: It's all in the fit

  • Article by: DEBRA D. BASS , St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Updated: March 5, 2014 - 2:07 PM
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Slowly but surely, men are being held to a higher fashion standard — and it’s about time.

No one expects the Typical Male Uniform to morph into high-fashion attire overnight, but we do expect men’s clothes to fit well. That’s it.

A recent Huffington Post story explained that when guys hear “makeover,” they figure they need to buy new clothes. But usually, the solution is less dramatic and much less costly.

Start with a tailor and a critical eye. It won’t help to stock up on new clothes if you don’t have a concept of what fits. A simple button-down and slacks can go from dowdy to dapper with a little tailoring. Or buy a size down. Men come in all sizes, but smalls and mediums are few and far between on mass retail men’s rack. Why? Because every guy thinks he’s a large or X-large. A proper fit is not an affront to your manhood.

Most guys have been wearing their clothing too big for so long they feel uncomfortable in fitted clothing. To these men, here are three words: Suck it up.

Just remember, it’s really the little things that count. Here’s your checklist:

1. Shirts. A shirt should glide down your torso, not billow. If you raise your arms and can set sail on the fabric under your arms, you have a problem. If you are on a budget, your priority for casual shirts is a fitted torso, especially if you’ll wear it without a jacket. If the sleeves aren’t quite long enough, roll them and no one will be the wiser. But if the torso makes you look like you’re smuggling a life vest, put it down and keep looking. For shirts you’ll button with a tie, the focus is on the fit at the neck and sleeves, although within a few inches you can get the torso tapered by a tailor and the sleeve shortened, but together that could cost $50 to $60.

2. Jackets. The top priority is shoulders. The top seam should be as long as the bone underneath it. The seam for the sleeve should start around the point where your arm bone inserts. If you’re standing upright with the jacket buttoned, you should look slimmer and taller. If fabric is bunching at the shoulder, it’s too small, but if it just feels a little snug and otherwise falls smoothly, welcome to a proper fit. Depending on your build, you may ultimately need a little tailoring to narrow the torso, but that’s a relatively easy fix if the shoulders are good. If you can button the jacket but it pulls across your belly, a tailor has an inch or two leeway to relieve some of that stress, but if you can’t button the jacket at all, they probably won’t be able to help you. Note: you can’t narrow or widen shoulders.

3. Slacks. More men should be asking if this makes my butt look good. Posteriors are not one size, so expect to try on multiple pairs of pants when shopping. They should fit your waist, but that doesn’t mean it flatters. Pants with a saggy, wrinkled seat make you look like you have a saggy, wrinkled butt. A good fit will glance your bottom and be comfortable for sitting without pulling or constricting anywhere. A little excess fabric in the seat can be taken care of by a tailor.

4. Jeans. Fits vary and so do preferences, but you should still have at least one pair that you can wear with a blazer, and that pair should fit your waist, butt and have a slimmer leg that breaks at the bottom just around the shoe.

5. Accessories.

• You should have a variety of belts to loosely match a variety of leather footwear.

• Get some wing tips, laceups and Oxfords with European toes and stop with the sneakers during the day.

• And now that you’ve ditched the dingy sneakers, get some dress socks with color and pattern. Experiment.

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