Best Advice: Big Dude Fashion

Cameron Cowan standing in front of Glastonbury abbey

Don’t you just love a good top 10 list? I know I do (from time to time). This time I want to relaunch my Best Advice column with something that I think will really help folks. It is no secret that Americans are getting larger. The news media never misses a chance to report on the latest study announcing the expanding waistlines of Americans. Men come in all shapes and sizes. When we think about unique body types, we usually think of all the shapes women bring to a clothing store. However, guys also have some similar fashion challenges. This is amplified if you are a large man. Most male fashion is made around a guy that’s about 5’ 8” to 5″ 11” and weights 165 pounds. Waists are standardized (thanks to Civil War industrialized uniform production) and shirts follow the same basic shape with the neck and sleeve lengths conjoined in relationship. The bigger the neck, the longer the sleeves and the bigger the shirt.


Now, if you are a large guy, this presents some problems. You could have a small neck and wide shoulders (the author is guilty) or, you could have really long limbs, really short limbs, a long or short torso, a bigger or small chest, and a variable waist. The male body can be just as weight and unique. If you are a body builder, these problems become evident. However, if you are a guy who has gained a few pounds or is just a larger build, you know how difficult clothing shopping can be. There are more resources than ever before. However, even as brands embrace clothing for a larger body, there are some fashion rules that you should keep in mind. If there is one thing I know about being a large guy, the different between people perceiving you as a person or a slob comes down to what you are wearing. People judge you on this basis. Is it fair? Probably not. But it is how things are, at least for now. So let’s dive into the list and get every big guy into some great clothes.


Cameron’s Best Advice on Fashion for the larger guy

Don’t buy clothes you hope to fit into

I am very guilty of this. That’s why I put it first. Women talk about it most but I know guys who have done it too. You’re in a clothing store and you find something you really like. It looks really cool but they don’t make it in your size. You try the nearest size and it almost fits. So you get to thinking, “HA! I can drop a few pounds and this will look great! I’ll buy it anyway.” So shove it across the counter and the deed is done. You proudly hang it in your closet thinking “Yeah, 20 pounds, and I can wear that!” And the days, weeks, and months’ go by and you never really lose the weight to fit into it and eventually it gets shoved farther back in the closet like a dirty secret. Then, months or even years down the road, you’re cleaning out the closet and it goes straight to the donation bin without ever really being worn. [pullquote]
The advice for this is pretty simple: if you can’t fit into it today, don’t bother buying it.
[/pullquote] If you are serious about losing weight then save your money and your embarrassment for when you can easily fit into the garment. You’ll save money and you’ll feel really good about your hard work at losing weight!


Fit is very important, don’t get number conscious

I know I can self-conscious about what size shirt I’m buying or my waist size. But never let numbers stop you from getting the fit that you need and deserve. Whatever you are wearing shouldn’t be tight or make it hard to move (with the exception of suit jackets). Make sure that all your garments button easily and feel comfortable. One of the biggest things most people don’t understand about red-carpet fashion and other types of really high fashion is that those clothes are endlessly tailored to the people who wear them. They look good because they fit the person wearing them.


Embrace your body

One of the worst things you can do is not love who you are. You can wear the finest bespoke suit in the world. If you can own who you are, then you may as well arrive in a hoodie and sweat pants. Confidence in yourself is always the best accessory and you deserve to wear it very well.


Good shoes

Not only will your feet feel amazing but you’re spine, knees, and ankles will thank you. Good shows are one way that is sure to impress other people. For men, what kind of shoes you are wearing (and what condition they are in) is a way that people will judge you. Is it fair to be judged? No. But people will judge you based on your fashion choices and shoes are an easy way to impress as a man. Make sure that you have shoes that are appropriate to where you are going and what you are doing. I’ll talk more about the minimum wardrobe at the end of the list but you will want at least 1 good pair of dress shoes to go with a suit. I’m also a big fan of dress boots. Buy them in a classic style and they may very weil outlive you.



Although beards have had a great moment, for most larger guys, keeping clean shaven is key to a fresh appearance. If you do decide to go ahead with facial hair, make sure that it’s always trimmed, neat, clean, and well cared for at all times. There are some great beard shampoos as well as great beard oils. I always recommend the Art of Shaving or L’Occitane for these sorts of products. If you’re looking for something more natural, check out Aveda‘s selections as well!


Quality underwear is key to comfort and to life. Most guys are still buying the massive pack of underwear in a bag from a big box store of your choice. Trust me when I tell you that your life will change when you upgrade your underwear situation. You’ll have less ride, things will fit better under clothes, and you’ll have comfort all day. If you have gynecomastia (male breasts), make sure to see my article about how to handle that. Wondering where such wonderful undergarments can be found? Keep reading!

Big and tall stores

Most mainstream clothing retailers are of little help to the larger gentlemen. Even those that offer those items often offer them only online. If you are confident in your sizing Target has some great low cost options. However, if you’re looking for a suit, jeans, and essentials like underwear. I can recommend two places: DestinationXL (which has physical stores in most major metro US cities) and KingSize Catalog (which is based in the US but ships to the UK and elsewhere). Both of these stores will offer great office wear, shoe options, and great underwear options even from popular brands like Jockey.


Be careful with patterns and screen prints

I was guilty of this in the past as well! Have I owned a horizontal stripe shirt? You bet! However, I’ve learned that horizontal stripes are not for me. If you love to wear them, then don’t let me stop you, but anything that causes the illusion of elongation of the body will make you look taller and a bit thinner. Screen prints are another area where a larger guy as to be careful. Make sure that the design looks good on you and doesn’t look over stretched or squeezed in any way.

Ideal minimum wardrobe

Many guys don’t know what to buy when it comes to clothes and so most guy’s closets become a hodge podge or random shirts, stuff for work, and stuff for required events. Especially, if you’re a younger guy here’s a comprehensive list of things every man should have in his closet:

1 dark suit

5 polo shirts

5 t-shirts

3 under shirts (unless you sweat, then 5)

1 pair of casual pants

2 pairs of jeans (one if your region doesn’t wear denim often)

7 pairs of underwear

7 pairs of socks

1 pair of casual shoes

1 pair of trainers

1 pair of trainers for dress

1 pair of dress shoes

If you can compile this basic amount of clothes you’ll be able to handle almost any occasion in normal life.


Let’s get looking good

Just because you’re a larger guy doesn’t mean you can’t look really good, be comfortable, and enjoy going places and doing things. I hope you’ve found this list helpful. Have some fun shopping and send me your outfits on Twitter @cameroncowan