Muscles and threads: tailoring tips for well-built gentlemen

It is a sad truth that men who work hard at the gym have to work just as hard when it comes to buying a suit. We’ve probably all had the misfortune of meeting a muscly man in an off-the-rack suit with the look of an overstuffed sausage: shoulders desperately straining at the seams, buttons clinging on for dear life, biceps ready to burst.

The structured lines of a suit versus the dynamic contours of a well-built body are hardly a match made in heaven. But while the perfect fit poses unique challenges to muscular men, it doesn’t mean you can’t look great.

Just think of some of the best-looking men of our generation – Jason Statham, Henry Cavill, Hugh Jackman – with their Herculean frames and titan biceps. They all look remarkable in a suit.

For all you muscly gents, here’s how you can look just as good.

Understand your body shape

The key to nailing your suit is understanding your body shape. Not all muscular men share the same issues. You might have a Superman frame, with a wide chest and more defined arms than your average chap. You might have the stocky thighs of a rugby player, or the shoulders of any Olympic swimmer. Recognising and understanding these nuances will help you to find the perfect suit.

Fit is king

Unfortunately, most designers tend to design suits with lithe in mind, which means that off-the-rack is not an option for men with more muscles than most. A good suit requires a good tailor.

The aim is to strike a balance between showcasing your physique while maintaining comfort and mobility. Be wary of overly tight suits that restrict your range of motion or cause unsightly pulling at the seams. Pay attention to your shoulders, chest and sleeves.

The perfect shirt should sit flat on your chest and shoulders, and the shoulder seam should sit precisely at the edge of your shoulder without dropping or pulling. This will ensure there is enough room in the chest to accommodate your muscular build without any unsightly stretching or bunching as you move.

When it comes to trousers, it’s best to avoid slim fits that practically “stick” to your muscles. Instead, opt for suits with a straight leg that allows more flow.

You should be able to comfortably button your suit jacket without any pulling or strain across the chest. Avoid jackets that are excessively long, too, as they can overwhelm your frame and detract from your muscular physique.

Colour works

When it comes to colour, a suit in a single block colour such as traditional black or navy blue is an excellent all-round choice for men with muscular builds, but it’s worth playing with subtle patterns and textures, too. These will add visual interest to your ensemble without overwhelming your frame, though exercise caution at all costs. For example, a subtle pinstripe can help you look taller, but plaid or wider stripes may backfire by creating the perception of a larger figure.

Fabric matters

While it might be tempting to invest in a thick Winston Churchill-style wool suit for winter, it’s a bad choice for muscular builds as the thick composition will make you appear larger. And if there’s one thing a ripped gent doesn’t need, it’s more inches.

Instead, opt for lightweight materials such as wool blends and linens over stiff or heavy fabrics to maintain breathability without adding bulk to your silhouette. For shirts, stick to fabrics with a little stretch that offer flexibility without sacrificing style.

The cut makes the man

Remember, it’s not about fitting into a suit, but making sure a suit fits you. A good tailor should be able to advise you on appropriate cuts, but it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for, too.

Opt for suits with some structure and a defined waistline to accentuate your muscular physique while maintaining a polished silhouette. Single-breasted suits tend to be the go-to style for muscular men because double-breasted jackets draw the eye across, making you look shorter.

Many designers will put “shape” into a suit, for instance, through shoulder padding and interfacing to help adjust your silhouette. Sometimes, this can be helpful. For example, a jacket that cinches at the waist will show off a triangle physique, while suits with minimal padding will show off, rather than swamp, broad shoulders.

Tailoring tricks

This leads us nicely onto tailoring tricks that can help achieve the perfect fit for a muscular physique. A good tailor can make subtle adjustments to accommodate your specific shape, such as tapering the waistline of the jacket to create a more defined silhouette and adjusting armholes and sleeves to enhance mobility and prevent constriction.

You can also elongate your appearance with slightly longer jackets and larger peak lapels to make you seem taller and less bulky.

Don’t forget about accessories, either. Personalised touches, such as contrasting button stitching and pocket details, can add a unique flair to your ensemble, but keep proportions at the front of your mind to ensure your accessories complement, rather than overwhelm, your physique.

Final thoughts

Wearing a suit can be tough if you’re ripped, but with the right approach to fit, fabric and tailoring, it’s possible to achieve sartorial excellence. Embrace your physique, communicate your preferences clearly and trust in the expertise of a skilled tailor to create a bespoke suit that celebrates your unique style and silhouette.

We look forward to seeing you soon, chaps!

Author: Gary Sweeney