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When I was in high school I was fat…but also athletic enough that I could pass for a “big guy” instead of the soggy doughnut-lover I’ve become.
In those days, if I wore a tight shirt, people thought I was just one of those super strong fat guys that probably played football or something.
However, somewhere along the line of my weight-gain journey wearing tight shirts went from flattering to comical and a bit off-putting.
So, if you’re in the same boat I’m in (or the boat I was in) you’re probably wondering whether fat guys should wear tight shirts or not. Or, a better question, when are you too fat to wear a tight shirt?
Well, to that point, you’re never too fat. Wear what you want and what makes you feel comfortable. However, if your goal is to look more appealing to the general populace, I’ve got some tips for you.
As I’ve said many times on this blog, selecting the appropriate fit for clothing is a critical aspect of style, regardless of one’s body size. While some people believe that tight shirts might help accentuate the body’s better features, others argue that they could bring unwanted attention to particular areas.
So let’s talk about how to find that balance between looking stylish and feeling comfortable, our goal being to discover whether or not fat guys should wear tight shirts and how we can choose attire that aims to both flatter our physiques (as much as possible) while staying comfortable.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Fit
The bigger you get, the more important the fit of your clothes becomes. This is true for both men and women but is often not fully appreciated by fat guys.
Skinny people can get away with the entire gamut of fashion but big guys have to confine themselves to styles that work a bit better with our bodies.
In addition to the general silhouette and shape of the shirt, we’ll be looking at the fit in 5 areas. Each area has a different “tightness” that is most flattering and comfortable.
We’ll start at the top of the shirt:
I have an unusually large neck, even for my size. Finding well-fitted dress shirts with a 20″+ neck is easier than it used to be but is still a challenge.
A shirt that’s too tight around the neck can feel restricting and uncomfortable, while a shirt with proper neck size ensures you can breathe easily and also accommodate a tie if necessary.
No matter if you’re looking for dress shirts or t-shirts you’ll want a neck opening that is snug but sits low on your neck. Too tight and it sits higher up, creating the effect that you’re a neckless wonder.
Another detail worth considering is the choice of collar. Spread collars can create a more flattering appearance for larger guys, as they visually widen the neckline and draw attention away from the neck area.
That being said, your neck hole might be the least important part of your shirt’s fit. So let’s move on.
Shoulder & Arm Fit
How “stylish” your shirt is is largely determined by the fit of the shoulders and arms. Within reason, slimmer and more fitted is better.
Having said that, a shirt that’s too tight in the shoulders can feel constricting and cause discomfort, while a shirt that’s too loose can look sloppy. Aim for a shirt that sits comfortably on your shoulders, with the seams aligned just at the edge of your shoulder.
You’ll want your sleeves to be slim but not overly tight. You’ll know if they’re too tight by bending your arm as much as possible (like you’re doing a bicep curl). If your shirt is tight enough to create an indent in your arm and a bulge underneath, it’s too tight.
Sleeve length also plays a significant role in finding the right balance. If you’re dressing up, opting for long sleeves that reach the wrist bone can help create a sleek look and elongate the arms.
Chest fit is a bit tricky as it really depends on your build. The point of manipulating our shirt’s fit is to emphasize our best parts and reduce the attention the other parts get.
So if you have a large manly chest, by all means, wear a tight shirt. If, however, you have significant moobs or pointy nipples, you probably want to choose a slightly looser fit in the chest area. (Compression shirts are also an option if you have gyno or are self-conscious about your chest).
No matter your chest shape, however, a common mistake that larger guys make is wearing shirts with too much extra material. This can create an unflattering and bulky appearance. In general, I recommend that people opt for a shirt that’s snug but not overly tight, allowing for a bit of room without excess fabric.
No matter what type of shirt you’re wearing, it shouldn’t be tight on your belly. Many guys think they need a shirt to be slim on their arms and chest and simply size down. This means that their shirt is too short and too tight on their belly.
If you’re trying to get a more flattering fit, you’ll typically need a different cut of shirt, not a different size.
So choose a cut of shirt that gives you a bit of extra fabric around the midsection to keeps things mysterious. If this isn’t an option because of your build, at least make sure your buttons are straining.
Finally, don’t forget about the existence of pleats. They can provide extra room in the back of the shirt, allowing for better freedom of movement and improved comfort.
One of the least flattering things a big guy (or girl for that matter) can do is to let their belly hang out under their shirt.
Believe me, it’ll only take one time of a small kid loudly pointing out your stretch-marked belly hanging out of your shirt to ruin your sleep for the next year…
For most guys, your shirt length should fall to about mid-zipper or just below the belt on your jeans. If you have a very long belly, get a longer shirt or tuck your belly into your pants. Wearing your pants over top of your belly is typically a better option than letting your belly hang out.
Long shirts also have the added benefit of keeping your butt crack covered which (in my case) is really just a public service at this point.
It is true that an overly long shirt can create an unflattering silhouette (especially if you’re short) but it’s often preferable to exposing your midsection.
Finding the Right Balance
Another factor to consider is personal style and fashion preferences. Fat guys can still look stylish and fashionable, but it’s essential to choose pieces that frame your shape and provide structure without adding bulk. Options such as V-neck tees or open button-down shirts can create vertical lines, drawing the eyes down, and providing a more elongated appearance.
Lastly, tailoring and customization can play a significant role in ensuring a comfortable and stylish fit for any body type.
If you’re a larger individual who wants to sport a slim-fit shirt, consider getting the shirt tailored to better accommodate your unique proportions. A well-tailored shirt can make anyone feel confident and look fashionable, regardless of size. Get used to taking your clothes to a tailor and asking them to fix them for you.
I learned a couple of years ago that having my clothes tailored for me gave me a huge boost in confidence and, as they say, confidence plays a massive role in pulling off any outfit, regardless of your body size.
Choosing A Shirt – Style & Fit Tips
Complementing Your Body Shape
If you want to be confident and comfortable, the tightness of your shirt is just one aspect.
You’ll want to balance how fitted your shirt is with the rest of your wardrobe to make sure it’s balanced and complements how you’re built.
If you’re struggling with shirts, consider adding a blazer or jacket as a way to add some flair to your outfit and cover the majority of your shirt. For example, if you have a well-fitted blazer you can get away with just about any fit of shirt as long as it isn’t overly baggy.
In terms of jackets, look for options that are made from lightweight materials that drape well on the body, ensuring they have a nice fitted cut rather than baggy or tight. This will help create a more streamlined and flattering silhouette.
For big guys, it’s important to choose materials that will accentuate your best features and detract from the areas you’d like to subtly conceal. Polyester, for instance, is a material you’ll want to avoid, as it tends to cling to the body and highlight every curve in unwanted ways. Instead, opt for natural fibers like cotton, which will drape more gently over your torso.
You’ll also want to avoid most clothing items made from heavy or stiff fabrics as these can add unnecessary bulk to your frame. Opt for lighter materials that offer more comfort and breathability, and a bit of stretch.
Patterns and Colors
There’s no denying that colors can make a difference in your overall appearance. Solid colors, particularly darker shades like navy, black, or charcoal, can help create a slimmer appearance. If you want to incorporate patterns, choose small, subtle designs rather than bold or large ones, as this will prevent drawing attention to areas you’d rather downplay.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid lighter colors altogether, but be mindful of balance and use them strategically. For instance, consider pairing a dark-colored slim-fit shirt with lighter pants to draw attention away from your midsection.
Oh and despite what you’ve probably heard, fat guys can totally wear stripes (both vertical and horizontal) as they help to create the illusion of a more slender frame.
Wear Your Shirts The Right Way…
You didn’t know you’d been wearing your shirts wrong, did you? Well, not wrong. But maybe not optimally. So let’s optimize your shirt-wearing.
First off, ensure that your clothing is proportional. For example, avoid combining a tight shirt with loose pants or vice versa. Instead, aim for a balanced silhouette that complements your body shape and size. A crucial element in achieving proportion is investing in well-fitting clothes, which means avoiding baggy or tight cuts, as both can accentuate the areas you’d rather minimize.
Secondly (and lastly), consider tucking in your shirts. Tucking in your shirt can help create a cleaner, more streamlined look, but it depends on the specific outfit and personal style preferences. For some, leaving a shirt untucked may provide a more casual and comfortable appearance. Experiment with both options to find the style that works best for you and makes you feel confident.
So long story short, yes, fat guys can wear tight shirts. However, we’re typically better off wearing a balance of tight and loose to flatter our bodies.
So try a bunch of different shirts (I’ve literally tried dozens of brands in the past year alone) and figure out what works for you. Good luck!