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.
- Cee-Lo Green
- Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld)
- David Robotham
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.
David….you are handsome, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just beautiful.
That he is!
At this age, men tend to ignore themselves, often put on weight around the belly and also do not care much about what to wear. This post can prompt them to get stylish again and feel young.
Thanks, Chris. Yeah, we can let ourselves go at a certain age and it gets harder to set things straight the later we leave it. Still, it’s always possible to renew one’s sense of style!
Amazing ideas to look smart with the huge physic. Thank you for the great designs and ideas.
Love this article. Thanks for posting. My BF is heavy set and we need to get him some good quality shoes. I’m new to this and want to use the proper lingo. Are you recommending what I used to know as “wing tipped” shoes for heavier men? Can you recommend any brands that i should be aware of when we go shopping? Anything else I need to know? Thanks.
Head to our brogues shoe guide for specific recommendations!
At 5’8″ish…and 200lbs, I feel I look out of proportion just a bit. Wearing the brogues shoe…Is it the style and design that helps offset a heavy guys look, or is it simply that you are recommending a sturdy shoe?
Because of the extra material and ornamentation, it does look like a sturdier shoe, which can help offset a heavyset build.
Thank you, T 72 I challenged my self to make my first mans suit. I finished the jacket following your idea of how to fit a man of this stature. I succeeded well and it fits lovely. I and my son son are very pleased. Now onto the pants.
Bj Hein. Calgary Alberta canada
Really the most stellar explanations/suggestions I’ve found – confirmed by years of practice and positive results on my part. Your model, David, also obviously has an impeccable sense of style – courage and common sense in style always pays off! Hopefully more fellas pay attention to your advice. Nice work and thanks for getting the word out!
Delighted that you enjoyed it, J. Sullivan. Glad that it was helpful to you.
As someone who wore suits and waistcoats a lot when I was young and skinny, I was horrified to put on a load of weight when I turned 20. I held on to my collection for more than a decade, but I had to, eventually, admit that I’d never be a 32″ waist again – even my shoulders were broader: I’d grown up. I’ve worn a suit maybe 3 times in the last 20 years, and felt like an idiot every time. Finding this, however, has me nearly in tears! Bugger me, I wish I’d known.
I’m off to buy a nice new suit.
I sympathise as, despite a constant battle with weight, my body’s morphology has changed in such a way that I’ll never be able to wear some of my old suits either. Just enjoy being you!
All the best,
Very informative article to read, such a beautiful way of guide, i really appreciate your work.
Do windowpane suit patterns reduce looking bulky or do they contribute to it?
It depends on the size of the check but they can contribute to it. What’s the most important is the cut of the overall suit. If it’s flatteringly tailored, then it should be fine. We have a guide to windowpane and check suits but I admit that it doesn’t talk about its effects on a body type.
All the best,
Hi there. I found this really helpful. I wonder if you could help a bit more. My hubby is a big chap, 52 chest, 59 round the belly both normal measures no tightening of the measuring tape.
I need to order him a waistcoat for next week. He says get 52L as he is 6ft 3in. But I wonder if that would be too tight over his belly? His shirts tend to be 20.5 collar not sure about the chest size. He says he only buys by collar size…
Do you have any advice?
I imagine so, yes. Waistcoats tend to have extra material and can be tightened with the belt and the back. I imagine at 52″, it should take into account a little excess in the midriff. You could always order a second one that’s the size about and return the one that you don’t want. It’s probably what I’d do in that scenario.
Bear in mind that a waistcoat will sag around the chest if it’s too large so you might want to anticipate a few alterations, which are easy enough for a seamstress or tailor.
All the best,
Awesome article. Keep up the good work.
Hello, this has been a great find! I’m in the process of evolving my style because I’m approaching 40 and desire a more classic, dressy look. I started to embrace my balding hairline and let the sides grow in. And I’m growing mutton chops to appeal to the Victorian gentleman ideal. I am a power lifter with a big everything. I have a big belly that hangs a bit, but is sturdy and protruding otherwise. Recently, I noticed belts just make me look out of proportion and highlight my over hang. But when I saw the photos of David…I thought, yes! That’s what I want to dress like. I have very wide shoulders and large thighs with an ample behind. I’m also 6’5”. I didn’t notice a lot of mention about my body type in the article though. I think the pleated pants at the natural waist would be good, but you said in the article that it would be good for men with narrower shoulders much shorter than I am. My shoulders are massively wide. Should I adopt the pleated pants worn high on the waist, or is there something different for taller, broad (muscular and overweight/bellied) men? Thank you kindly!
Thank you for the comment.
I’m 6′ 4′ and a bigger guy myself.
For someone of our height, you can go either way. So depending on your budget and timeline maybe try out both and see what you like best / best suit your visual makeup.
Personally, for me, I’d never wear suit trousers again without braces/suspenders, total game changer.
All the best – Paul
I’m a 6’1″ and 210 lb. Is that a little easier to dress?
Should be fine, yes! I’m 5’8″ and 280 lb and it’s pretty proportional.
Didn’t see this in the article so, AVOID T-SHIRTS LIKE THE PLAUGE. They will emphasize the stomach and make you look larger. There also just not very stylish. Other miscellaneous tips
-Get a great leather or jean jacket as they will help you look more proportional as they build up shoulders making you look stronger
-A hat will add vertical space distributing weight
-Get everything tailored
Thanks for your input!
I landed at this website actually looking for sizes rather than fashion hints. Also you’re article says unless you are super shot, but then doesn’t address those that are. I’m 5 foot 3 inches which most of my family is as Mom and dad were both short. I’m fat with a beer belly build. The thing is when I try on clothes the sizes are confusing. Some 2 or 3 XL outer wear fits fine. in some makes. But other makes the opening of the jacket only reaches my nipples. Its like the same size XL is use for us heavyset men as for thin very tall men.
I think the guide you’re looking for is this one: https://bespokeunit.com/style/body-type/portly/. Unfortunately, there is no standard for what an XL piece of clothing is so, as you’ve already noticed, it will vary from brand to brand. Really, the only two solutions for this are either going made-to-measure or basically doing trial and error, testing which clothing manufacturer fits you best and then seeking out more articles of clothing from their collections.
Thanks for the article! I just have one question about the braces. How thick should the braces be?
If you are on the heavier side, broader braces (like the ones pictured in the article above) are going to look better as they’ll appear more proportional to the eye. With that being said, the best course of action is to check out a couple of different braces and see which size you like the best! Obviously it’s most convenient to do this at a physical store, however, most retailers will let you return unworn items. I’d read through any seller’s return policy if you chose to go this route.