It’s likely that you’re not quite happy with your body right now. No judgy. Christmas is not long gone and it’s too cold out for anyone sensible to look at their trainers with anything other than disdain.
So if you’re feeling a touch, well, doughy, then we sympathise. Should you fancy ditching that spare tyre, we’d support that move (every extra inch around your middle is bad news for your life expectancy, after all), but we also appreciate that exercise’s more aesthetic benefits aren’t immediate. And sometimes – say, before a wedding with a guestlist that includes your ex, or a school reunion where 20 years have weighed heavily on your former football captain’s physique – you need to look better, right now.
Before you dial that Harley Street clinic, know that there are some less drastic, wardrobe-based solutions that can ditch pounds, even if your scales stay the same. By deft manipulation of proportion and silhouette, you can build a new you, distracting from less appealing areas and shifting the spotlight to your strengths. Consider it a stopgap while you wait for those dumbbells to arrive.
Fit And You Know It
The burlier man tends to size up, hoping excess fabric will conceal what’s below. Not so. Like an elephant in a big top, you’re just expanding your silhouette. Skintight is inadvisable, but slimmer fits prevent billowing fabric; find shirts that are snug in the shoulder then have them tailored to nip in at the waist to lengthen boxy torsos.
For best effect, wear tucked into trousers worn high. “Ideally with braces,” says Oliver Brown’s in-house tailor Juan Carlos. If flat fronts are too constricting, stick to single pleats and have them tapered from thigh to ankle. “It creates a great line and makes the legs look longer and slimmer.” Just ditch turn-ups, which create an abrupt stop that shrinks your pins.
Before subjecting a moonface to the surgeon’s scalpel, reach for the scissors. The right haircut can create the illusion of angles. “Go closer to the skin on the back and sides and keep it slightly longer and more textured on top,” says Ruffians’ Adam Brady. The contrast squares your head, sharpening up curves, to nudge Jonah Hill towards Leonardo DiCaprio.
Below the chin, a beard creates edges from nothing. “Grow the hair on your neck and square it off so it’s perpendicular to the bottom of your chin,” says Brady. A blunt line accentuates your jaw; angles only soften it. Then mask a double chin by leaving growth lower down, but trimming the hair tighter on your cheeks.
Waist Not, Want Not
If you’re not the kind of guy to wear a suit, start. Or at least, reach for a blazer. Tailors have exhausted lifetimes exploring ways to make portly dudes look trim, the pinnacle of which is the suppressed waist – fabric that pinches in at navel height to create a strong V from your shoulders. But you’ll need an expert hand, if only to adjust off-the-rack.
“For a gentleman carrying a little extra weight, his waist is likely to be wider than his chest,” says Carlos. “But a tailor can create one regardless.” It’s also why you should opt for one- or two-button jackets, which expose more shirt to lengthen your torso. And stop you looking like an extra from Quadrophenia.
Less Is Less
When you’ve got areas to mask, the aim is not to draw the eye. So ditch patterns; camo won’t have its intended effect.
“Go for plain cloth, ideally in a dark colourway,” says Carlos. “Navy, grey and even a quality black are good.” This holds true even if you’re not suited up – selvedge denim and a navy blazer will do the sartorial PT thing too, by meshing both halves of your body to make it look long, not wide.
The proliferation of pinstripes in corporate boardrooms is probably thanks to the combination of client lunches and the misguided notion that vertical stripes shed pounds. A light touch is better. “Try a subtle chalkstripe,” says Carlos. The lighter lines draw the eye top-to-toe, rather than side-to-side. Plus no one will assume you’re heading to a corporate feed-up.