In this article, we’ll be discussing the best clothing options for men 5’6″-5’10” tall who are barrel-chested, have a pot belly, or are considered to be, well, fat.
We don’t mean that that last bit in a judgmental way, but a matter-of-fact one. From a clothing perspective, being a hefty guy is difficult. Flattering cuts are tough to come by, and styles are often boring.
If you’ve landed on this page and aren’t sure if it applies to you, please see our high-level guide which covers nine different body types, two body type “modifications (“athletic” and “irregular”), and the methodology with which we created them all.
If you’re here purposefully, welcome! Please read on for some great tips on how to dress for your body type.
Clothing Styles For Heavy Men
Heavyset guys who aren’t super short or tall can be dressed similarly to other heavy guys, focusing on dressing like their shorter cousins if they’re closer to 5’6″ and more like their taller cousins if they’re closer to 5’10”. Those articles can be accessed here.
The world is unkind to our larger brethren. Society tells us that to be attractive, we must be svelte, with no larger than a 32 waist and a 34″ inseam.
This is simply not possible with some guys. Some of us are predisposed to gaining weight and keeping it on. Some of us are barrel-chested to the point that it looks like we’re puffing out like gorillas all the time. When you’re not so tall that your weight more evenly distributes itself across your frame, it’s tough to find clothes.
The key is to de-emphasize bulk and emphasize length, which has a slimming effect.
For inspiration, we highly recommend that you check out David Robotham on Instagram (@sartorial_en_plus). He’s the manager of Savile Row’s Cad & The Dandy, he’s a plus-sized guy, and he looks great. His understanding of proportion is excellent, and he gets that the most important thing to do for a man of his frame is to tailor your jacket to be as wrinkle-free and neat as possible. He’s been kind enough to allow us to use some of his pictures here.
First and foremost, we have to address button stance. For those with pot bellies, it is imperative that the top button of your two button jacket button at the point where your gut sticks out the most. Too high or low, and you’ll have a bunch of belly exposed either below or above the button, and the results will look disastrous. On the otehr hand, proper placement will make your jacket look wonderful. Take a look at David below in a blue peak-lapeled number:
We’ll repeat: the single most important thing to do is maximize neatness, we don’t want wrinkling or pulling. You may not get to have an hourglass shape, but that’s fine, as such a shape on a large-bellied frame will simply draw attention to places you don’t want it drawn to.
If you’re more barrel-chested, make sure that your jacket is cut large enough in the chest to accommodate you. If your lapels buckle, the jacket is too small.
We mention waistcoats specifically for heavier guys because they do a great job of concealing bulk. A properly-cut single-breasted waistcoat (ending about an inch below the bottom of the pant waistband) will work wonders to neaten the appearance. David again shows us how it’s done in the picture above.
We suggest avoiding double-breasted waistcoats. The horizontal hem emphasizes bulk, which we want to avoid.
For a man whose waist circumference is larger than his shoulders, we highly recommend pleated trousers that sit at the natural waist, which is typically the largest part of the gut. It may feel awkward to wear your trousers so high at first, but you will get used to it and learn that it’s far more comfortable that cinching a belt to pants underneath your gut.
A gentle taper will look smart, but a drastic taper will only serve to emphasize your middle. Manage your tailor on this if you have to!
Barrel-chested guys have a bit more leeway and have an easier time in plain-front trousers. We still recommend that you wear them at the natural waist to maximize the slimming effect a long trouser line can give.
If you’re 5’6″-5’8″, wear plain bottoms. If you’re 5’9″ or 5’10”, feel free to wear cuffed trousers.
You’ll be able to wear most off-the-rack neckties, though we recommend avoiding anything slimmer than 3″ wide. Skinny ties will make you look larger than you already are, and you don’t need any help on that front.
If your belly protrudes a lot, you may need extra-long or custom neckties to give you the length needed for the tie to hit the trousers right at the waistband. Regular length ties may leave space there, which will draw attention to your gut. The other alternative is to wear your trousers nice and high on the waist, as David does at right.
For any guy who’s a bit heavier, we recommend medium-spaced, 1/8″ wide stripes on jackets, trousers, and shirts. Vertical patterns will have that slimming effect we so desire.
Outside of that, keep your pattern scales medium-to-large. Tiny patterns will look dizzying to the viewer when they’re covering so much ground. Enjoy the opportunity to have fun with bold checks and windowpanes like you see above!
Braces Versus Belts
We are firmly in the braces camp for heavyset men. You’ll feel more comfortable in them and look better as a result. Barrel-chested guys can wear a belt if they really want to, but pot-bellied men should avoid it. Above, David wears braces to great effect, adding two helpful vertical lines to his presentation.
Note the pleats and the lack of belt loops.
- Typical size: 9D-11D (8-10 medium width in U.K. sizing)
You’re going to want a substantial shoe to carry your weight and hold up well over time. Double-soled brogues and boots in cold weather are great options, especially from English and American manufacturers who know a thing or two about sturdy shoe construction.
The black and white spectators pictured above are a great way to support your frame.
Italian shoes are beautiful, but they work better on slight men.
A Final Note
We don’t like using the word “fat” because of its negative connotations and the air of judgement that it exudes. You are who you are, and if you’re as healthy as you can be, we’re happy for you. We hope this guide has been helpful in your quest to dress better.
To further you in that quest, we strongly encourage you to read our article on irregularities in the male body, as the vast majority of us have some.