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Dressing For Your Body Type

There’s a certain breed of style pundit who’s big on rules. Some pertain to style, others to appropriateness, and still other to your hair, skin tone and body type. Some of these rules have logic to them — a short, rail-thin guy might look a bit odd in a big-patterned sport jacket as only half the pattern fits on his small build — while others are just arbitrary nonsense. Menswear author G. Bruce Boyer has an anecdote he likes to share about how so many body-type rules are hogwash. Years ago he had the pleasure of meeting Aristotle Onassis at the studio of a Manhattan shirtmaker. “The first thing I noticed was that he was egg-shaped,” recalls Boyer; “he just didn’t have the body for clothes. The second thing I noticed was that he looked fantastic.” Onassis was breaking one of the supposedly sacred body-type rules, that short, heavy men shouldn’t wear double-breasted suits. And yet he had obviously made the choice deliberately, and carried it off with confidence and natural ease. Dressing is such a personal thing that exceptions merely seek to prove the rule — as in prove it wrong. Black looks better on dark-haired men? Check out James Dean or Jude Law in black. The proper trouser cuff is 1 5/8 inches? What if you’re an NBA star or a size 38 short? There are many traditions we’re happy to endorse, like leaving the bottom button undone on your vests and cardigans. But when it comes to your physique, follow your own preferences and you’ll probably end up looking and feeling great. And if there’s any doubt, you can always ask a friend or significant other, “Does this make me look fat/skinny/short/tall/young/old?” Solid input from someone who actually knows you is better than anything found in an advice book.
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