If there’s one piece of style advice I want to drill into your heads, make it this: Getting clothes that fit correctly will solve 80% of your style problems.

Of course, this can be a challenge, especially if you have a “weird” body type.

A lot of the advice I see online if you have fit challenges jump straight to the “get custom clothes/go to a tailor” advice.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I think this piece of advice is terrible.

Why? Custom clothes can be 1.5-3x more expensive than something off the rack, it’s a huge hassle going into fittings, and tt can take months for you to get the final product.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a busy guy, and sometimes the only time I can shop is in the middle of a coffee run in between clients.

My goal for my clients, myself, and you: getting clothes that fit straight off the rack.

No, it’s not impossible.

Today I’m showing you a few tricks I teach my private clients on getting the perfect fit off the rack, regardless of your body type.

WHY SOME BRANDS LOOK TERRIBLE ON YOU

Are you a size 32 in Levis, but find yourself needing a size 34 in A.P.C. cause the legs are suffocatingly tight?

You’re not going crazy. (And no, I’m pretty sure you didn’t gain a bunch of weight walking over to the designer denim section.)

The reason some brands don’t fit and look terrible on you? There’s no standard set of measurements that all designers follow.

Each brand bases how their clothes fit off a “fit model,” an actual model that a brand will deem their “ideal customer.” I’ve worked with brands where their fit model for their “medium” is what most brands would consider an XS.

To sum it up, if you’re shopping and nothing seems to fit you right, it’s probably not just your fault.

BUT HERE’S THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH: YOUR BODY TYPE IS PROBABLY MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK

In the last decade working with guys on their style, I can count on one hand the number of guys I’ve run into with unique bodies that absolutely required them to go custom.

Here’s the truth: your body shape probably isn’t that weird, unique, or hard to dress as you might think. You don’t need to go full bespoke.

With the inconsistent sizing between many brands, you need a better way to find clothes that are just right.

Here’s the 2 step process I take my client through you can use to find your perfect fit.

#1: FIGURE OUT YOUR BODY TYPE COMBO

Forget all that apple, pear, inverted triangle nonsense everyone talks about when it comes to body types.

Let’s keep it simple. For clients, I break down body types into two parts:

  1. Build: Your overall shape. This affects the size you get.
  2. Height: Self-explanatory. This determines how long something should be.

Find your combination based on my real world descriptions below.

BUILD

SKINNY

You can be a bit boney in places. Your limbs tend to be the same width throughout. The most common fit challenge you face is baggy areas – baggy sleeves, body, or baggy butt because you don’t have the build to fill these spots out.
Skinny guy examples: Jay Baruchel, Whiz Khalifa, Andrew Garfield

AVERAGE

You have some definition in your limbs. You have a bit of muscle (and body fat). You don’t have a problem filling out shirts or pants. Overall, you don’t have many fit challenges and can find things that fit well off the rack.
Average guy examples: Jason Sudekis, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Kaluuya

ATHLETIC

A lot of guys tend to put themselves in this category just because they play some type of sport. When it comes to clothes though, athletic is defined as someone with a big chest, big arms, and big thighs/butt. These will be the most challenging areas for you. If you size up where these spots fit correctly, the rest of the garment will be too baggy and not look flattering.

Athletic and big can be interchangeable, but the big difference is guys with athletic body types will have an overall lower body fat with smaller waists and stomachs. Think MMA fighter, Crossfitter, or Football player.
Athletic guy examples: Chris Hemsworth, The Rock, Michael B Jordan

BIG

You have higher body fat. You’ll face similar challenges at the athletic guy, with the bonus of having to deal with your stomach. Your limbs tend to be the same width throughout, just bigger.
Big guy examples: Jack Black, DJ Khaled, Pre-slim down Jonah Hill

HEIGHT

Short: For most brands, this is 5’8” or shorter
Average: Generally between 5’9” – 6’1”
Tall: 6’2” or above

#2: DON’T JUST FOLLOW TO THE SIZE ON THE TAG, PAY ATTENTION TO THE CUTS AND FABRIC

As a 5’7” guy that lifts, arms and thighs are sometimes a problem for me. The great thing is, brands now realize that not all mediums or size 34s are built the same. This is where cuts and fabric come into play.

Think of sizes like portions of food, while cuts are the spiciness level (if you will). You can get something that’s a medium, but adjust the cut to suit you better.

This means if you’re a tall skinny guy, you probably want to go for a medium with a slim cut, so you don’t look like a kid wearing his dad’s clothes.

The brand with the widest selection of size and cut combinations I’ve found is Bonobos. It’s replaced J.Crew as my go-to place to stock my client’s closets with essentials (and then some). It’s also the first place we go when we start working together (see pic of my client getting measured at Bonobos above).

I’ve worked with enough guys to experience every type of body type combination over the last few years.

Below are the more common fit challenges I’ve run into, and what I recommend you try out if any of these fit issues resonate with you:

SKINNY GUYS

Problem: Your shirts have baggy sleeve and body.
Solution: Regular-sized shirts can be cut a little too generously for a slim guy. Baggy sleeves and bodies give me flashbacks of bad high school prom suits. The solution: Opt for a slim or tailored cut shirts, which slim down the sleeve and body for a much closer, flattering fit.
Recommended products: My clients are big fans of Bonobos’ Daily Grind shirts and Jetsetter shirts, which have a hint of stretch to make them more comfortable. Note about Bonobos’ cuts – their tailored is their slimmest fit, while slim is in-between regular and tailored. I recommend trying both slim and tailored to see what works best for you.

ATHLETIC GUYS

Problem: Pants are too tight in the butt and thighs. When you size up, the legs get too baggy and look like you’re wearing bell bottoms.
Solution: Guys that don’t skip leg day know the struggle. Pants are too tight in the thighs, so you size up. But now you have that dreaded bell bottom effect from pants that are too big. Go for pants with an athletic cut, which give you more room in the butt and thigh, but taper down past your knees to avoid the bell bottom look.
Recommended product: Bonobos’ stretch washed chinos in the athletic cut

BIG GUYS

Problem: Suits that “fit” feel too tight and uncomfortable. When you sit or move, you feel like you might pop a button or rip your pants. Bigger suits are comfortable but make you look sloppy.
Solution: Just like the athletic guys advice, we’re going to go for an athletic cut suit but also pay attention to the fabric. Look for suits made with a bit of stretch, which will make sitting and moving a lot more comfortable as the fabric will have a bit of give. All my bigger clients end up wondering how they lived without stretch.
Recommended product: Bonobos’ Jetsetter Suiting, which has a hint of stretch, in the Athletic Cut

SHORT GUYS

Problem: T-shirts and tops are too long, making you look like you’re wearing a dress.
Solution: Go for tees and tops that offer a “short” length option, which shave off an inch or two from the length.
Recommended product: Many of Bonobos’ tops come in a short length. For a good starting point, every guy needs a classic white tee, and Bonobos’ super soft Peruvian cotton yarn spun tee comes in a short length.

TALL GUYS

Problem: Jacket sleeves are too short, making it look like your jacket shrunk in the wash.
Solution: Make sure you pick up tops (dress shirt, blazers, and jackets) in “long” instead of “regular”, which just means they add a bit of length to the sleeves and body to keep things proportional.
Recommended product: I’m a big fan of Bonobos’ indigo shirt jacket, which comes in a long length for all you tall guys out there.

HERE ARE SOME MORE OF MY PICKS THAT COME IN ALL FITS

WANT SOME HANDS-ON HELP FINDING THE PERFECT FIT?

Longtime readers know how much I praise Bonobos for their selection of timeless essentials and sizes. If you want some more help,  pop into one of their try-on stores. As I mentioned before, this is one of the first things I do with new clients.

I highly recommend you set aside an hour, try on all their clothes and fine-tune your fit with the help of the staff (that’s always knowledgeable). The staff will save all your sizing to your account online, which makes ordering clothes in the future so much easier.

This post was in partnership with our my friends over at Bonobos, who’ve been my go-to shop for my 1-on-1 client work. Thank you for working with me on this featured story!

peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here