When it comes to dressing your body shape, you must firstly recognise that it is a concept completely individual to you. Although we may all share similar attributes, such as the odd beer belly or pesky love handle, our bodies vary enormously – so comparing yours to somebody else’s really is rather pointless. Time is much better spent looking at how you can make the best of what you have, and how to display that with confidence and in a style that feels comfortable to you.
In our introductory guide to dressing for your body type, we detailed the five main body shapes that men can, on the whole, be categorised into. However, as a number of readers quite rightly pointed out, other factors influence how these shapes relate personally back to an individual. Height, genetics, weight loss/gain and many other issues affect what type of ‘inverted triangle’ or ‘rectangle’ you may be.
This two-part guide will focus on height; specifically dressing the taller man. We will identify the problems they face, possible ways to combat them and provide tips as to how best balance a tall silhouette – ultimately aiming to detail the ideal fits, styles and trends that will work best on this particular body type.
But before we start: based on personal experience as a stylist, the most common concern tall men have is appearing ‘lanky’ or feeling their limbs look out of proportion. With that in mind, the advice provided within this guide will focus on how to balance a taller frame. Of course, not all tall men view their height as a negative and may actually WANT to emphasise their long legs/arms etc.
In the end, there is no one set of guidelines for every single individual, so it is up to you to take on board the advice and then apply it to specific areas of your body depending on the result you want to achieve.
The Taller Gent
There are various ways a body can appear tall. A tall frame is often not perfectly balanced – either the legs are long and the torso short or vice versa (much like myself). Your neck, feet or arms may also be long, visually adding length to specific areas.
Whichever way you fall, it will generally result in a long, thin frame with unbalanced proportions. Before you look to counter this, it is important that you identify those areas that are of a concern to YOU. This way you can apply the general tips and guidelines outlined below to the correct areas, adding width where you need to and emphasising features you are particularly proud of.
Body Shape Breakdown: Tall Men Guidelines
The main aim when dressing this particular shape is to break up the long, ‘linear’ structure that is naturally created by your body.
A long neck and torso, along with long limbs, together form vertical lines that are visually more prominent than with other body shapes. It’s these lines, along with the overall silhouette, which needs deconstructing.
By breaking up these vertical lines and adding bulk to specific points on the body, it can deceive the eye into thinking the frame is completely in proportion.
Colour-Blocking & Contrasts
Colour-blocking is a tall man’s best friend. By wearing contrasting colours on your top and bottom half you can instantly cut your silhouette in two, creating a break in the vertical line. Of course, you still need to bear in mind your colour wheel, but it is a quick and easy technique that you can apply every time you get dressed.
The majority of men will stick within a palette of timeless neutrals such as black, navy, grey and brown. These hues will always form the foundation of any successful capsule wardrobe, providing infinite versatility, but you should be aware that wearing one colour head-to-toe will only draw the eye line down and make you appear even taller.
Of course, in a working environment there is no getting away from the fact that you will probably need to wear a suit, but for other occasions, try to utilise separates. Not only are separates stylish and reminiscent of that desirable Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic, the combination of grey trousers with a navy blazer, for example, will again help to break up your silhouette in a refined, modern way. Even subtle tonal pairings, such as charcoal trousers with a black blazer, will help in this respect:
Colour- And Fabric-Block Detailing
With the concept of colour- and fabric-blocking remaining a strong form of detailing within the industry this season, it is possible to find pieces that make breaking up your vertical structure effortless.
Distinct colour sections, contrast sleeves and patches are some of the most popular techniques present on the market and these kind of pieces can be used to draw attention to specific parts of the body; adding width where required or shifting focus.
For example, a contrast sleeve jumper with a bold coloured main body and muted sleeves would help draw attention to your torso rather than your arms, for those that feel their limbs appear out of proportion:
White For Adding Bulk
In terms of colours, we are all aware of the old adage of black being slimming. On the flip-side, white, cream and beige emphasise shadows and folds in materials naturally, so are great for adding bulk and width to key areas.
For example, for those with long legs, why not add width to them through a pair of on trend white chinos/jeans? This will add bulk to their long, skinny appearance and help balance the proportions of your top and bottom half.
Likewise, pastel hues create a similar effect to white/cream, so during spring/summer they are definitely worthy of consideration.
Bold Colours To Draw The Eye
Finally, for those that are looking to make more of a statement, bold colours can help draw the eye away from specific areas of the body you don’t want to emphasise.
Again, if you have long, skinny legs then why not try a bold red statement blazer paired with navy chinos/trousers? By surrounding the statement piece with neutrals, you are going to focus all the attention on your top half, meaning the length of your legs will become a mere afterthought:
Prints & Pattern
Prints, patterns and logos sit well on tall men as they create points of focus. In the same way that bold colours can be used to draw attention to specific areas of the body, a statement print or pattern will help highlight key areas.
With prints being THE key trend within the industry currently – and their popularity showing no sign of wavering – why not look to incorporate a bold statement print such as camouflage, leopard or vintage floral into your look this season? A simple printed t-shirt will draw the eyeline up whilst printed shorts (or trousers for the brave) will achieve the opposite.
Horizontal and Breton stripes can be utilised several ways within an outfit. Not only are they a timeless pattern (trending again this season), they can help lengthen or widen, respectively, the area of the body they are applied too. Again, it is just about picking the correct style for what you want to achieve:
When it comes to the cut of your clothing, make sure you are looking for the ones that flatter, widen and help to balance. Wide scoop and crew necks on tops and knits will display broad shoulders and widen the chest, whereas v-necks will draw the eye down and emphasise neck length.
Do not oversize in an attempt to add length, especially on your top half. Loose fits do not flatter and will simply hang off your, typically lean, frame. Instead, ensure clothes are fitted and finish where they are supposed to, using the techniques outlined above to add width by deceiving the eye and drawing it to specific areas.
With regards to trousers, slim or straight cuts are, in general, the most aesthetically pleasing for tall men. Neither narrowing nor widening the leg too much, these fits help to keep the lower half in proportion with the upper body.
More importantly, make sure you buy the correct inseam length – don’t just automatically reach for ‘long’ (‘L’), what looks right on the hanger or what you have always worn. Try them on and find out for sure whether you are in fact a 34L.
This is particularly important for those around the 6′ – 6’2″ mark as inseam length can, frustratingly, differ from brand to brand, meaning you may only need a ‘regular’ (R) – especially if you are looking for a pair of spring/summer trousers with minimal break to wear sockless or with bold coloured socks to break up the vertical line.
Layering is an art form that all style-conscious gents should master in order to create visually interesting outfits. However, layering can also be utilised to help bulk out a long, lean silhouette.
For example, a shirt, lightweight knit and blazer combination can add size to a long torso, whilst a simple t-shirt layered under a denim shirt will provide the same effect casually.
Much of the advice above, in particular the incorporation of prints and colour-blocking, works best when combined with layering. Multiple pieces can aid the breaking up of the vertical line whilst also keeping bold prints, statement colours and the like under control – think knitwear over printed shirts, jackets over bright tees and tucking in tops to display a statement belt.
We have covered layering extensively on FashionBeans, so it would be worth reading up on the following:
- Men’s Fashion Basics – Experimenting With Layering
- Men’s Fashion Basics – Layering & Fabric Basics
- Men’s Fashion Basics – Layering & Fabric Combinations
- A Guide To: Winter Layering
Hopefully, by outlining some of the key techniques that tall men can use to dress in a more flattering way, the concept of dressing this body shape should start to appear a little simpler.
In part two we will be taking a look at the key pieces that tall men should own in their wardrobe and how these can be worn together to create flattering looks.
But now we want to hear what you have to say:
- Have you got any personal tips for balancing a tall frame?
- What brands have you found cater well to this specific body type?
- Are you proud of your long legs and prefer to emphasise them rather than keep them in proportion?
- What are the go-to patterns and prints you own in your wardrobe as a tall man?
Make sure you share your knowledge and personal experiences in the comments section…