How to Be a Fat Man, Dress Well, and Not Look Dumpy-Part 4 of 6
Illustrations by Brian Parra
Don't let your pants gather about your ankles.
So common is this faux pas that it deserves to be addressed directly; slouchy or too long pants gathering at the ankles create a terrible look that adds volume to your silhouette and looks slovenly. If you've bought slacks or jeans that are too long for you, do the dignified thing and take them to any strip mall dry cleaner and pay the $8 or thereabouts to have them properly hemmed. If they are dress slacks, verify they will use a blind hem so the thread isn't visible from the outside. The blind hem stitch requires a special sewing machine attachment and is a tad beyond what the average person familiar with a sewing machine is capable of. (Not impossible, DIYers, get a blind hem presser foot, the right thread, and practice it a few times before you tear into those $80 slacks.) If the person helping you with your alterations looks like they don't know what you're talking about when you ask about a blind hem, sometimes called an invisible hem, you're standing in a front for human trafficking and not a dry cleaner; gather up your garments, back out slowly and find another dry cleaner or a proper tailor. When you stand upright and have pulled up your waistband to your proper waist, the back of the pant legs should hang straight down to the back of your shoes, right above the heels, and the fronts should break slightly over the tops of your shoes. Your pant legs hanging straight down, without gathering or bagginess is the best look for you, granted some slight gathering at the bottom is acceptable for jeans. The ultimate length of a pant leg may differ depending on the cut and style of pants, say dress slacks or jeans, so you need to try on, measure, and alter each garment separately; don't allow a rushed attendant to measure one garment and then say they'll use the same measurement for the rest. A proper tailor will ask you how much you'd like your pants to "break," which references how much the pressed crease that runs down the front of your slacks will fold over the tops of your shoes. Full breaks look best on tall guys with skinny legs and for anyone still having their Zoot Suit tailored seventy or twenty years too late. Bigger guys should avoid full breaks and choose half or quarter breaks, which are appropriate for business and casual looks. Guys with short legs (sub 28" inseam) should always choose quarter breaks, sometimes called slight breaks, or no break, which is a look common for military and work uniforms and formal tuxedos. A break is not the same as slouchy pants gathering around your ankles, so be sure to pull your pants up to your navel when they are being measured for hemming and wear them the same way afterwards. If you are having jeans hemmed, where the hem stitch is visible on the outside, it is worth asking about matching the golden denim thread on most jeans, so they look like you bought them like this. If they don't have golden denim thread, again, back out slowly.
Alter your slacks when your weight fluctuates.
Constant weight gain and weight loss are a reality for fat guys. I have taken to buying dress slacks with a hidden elastic waistline which is good for normal fluctuations, but if you didn't know already, hear this: Most slacks and some casual pants have an extra two inches of fabric folded into the rear seam that can be used to alter the garment a full size in either direction and sometimes more before affecting the overall proportion and fit of the garment. This is an inexpensive alteration ($10-$15) which can be performed at any dry cleaner or anyone handy with a sewing machine. It's certainly cheaper than buying new pants. If you or a friend knows the way around a sewing machine, this is an easy procedure that takes about 10 minutes and does not require any fancy stitching. This will extend the wearability of your pants if you happen to be gaining weight. It's also crucial to take them in if you are losing weight because saggy pants bunched up at the waist is the number two reason fat guys look dumpy and you'll want to take advantage of looking slimmer.
Learn two or more ways to tie a tie. Then wear them right.
Knowing a few ways to tie a tie is pretty handy for any man, as factors like the wideness of the shirt collar, style of shirt and thickness of the tie material all impact a tie's final length. A thicker neck and the sloping descent of a paunch are two more variables fat guys need to consider. There are extra-long ties that make these waters a little easier to navigate, but often that simply isn't an option. If you are part of a wedding party and everyone is given the same tie to wear, you can't expect to find an XL version of that tie so you may have to tie it differently to achieve the same proportions and proper length. A good start is the Four-in-Hand Knot, which produces a thin knot which doesn't eat up a lot of length of the tie. It's great for making standard length ties end up longer, which compensates for the extra length used to make it around a thicker neck, and can elongate the appearance of a short neck. A Half Windsor or Full Windsor Knot uses up more of the length of the tie, but creates a thicker knot, which may help when other skinnier guys are wearing the same tie: a thicker knot maintains proportional uniformity on a bigger frame and looks better with certain ties, shirts, and collar styles. If a tie is too short because of your sloping paunch, thick neck, or height, a common work around is to tie the tie farther up the length of the tie, utilizing the length of the tie where it thins out considerably. Knowing how to tie thicker knots compensates for the tie's reduced width. When you do this, often the small end of the tie won't reach the loop on the backside of the thick end, meant to hold it in place. Use a small pin to tack it to the back side of the tie so it doesn't flop out into view. It's worth mentioning a properly worn tie should end in the vicinity of your belt buckle, but not cover it completely. If your belt buckle is buried under your belly, your tie won't make it and certainly shouldn't hang off the edge of your paunch. Pull up your pants.
Use colors and patterns to draw attention to your face and center-body line.
When putting together outfits, you want colors, patterns, and accessories to be aligned toward your face and center body line, the zone directly south of your head's width, down your torso to the floor. Items like ties, v-neck sweaters, polished belt buckles, colorful shirts covered with neutral colored suit coats all draw the eye toward you face and slim down the overall perception of your body. You can draw the eye toward the center line of your body with a colorful shirt or tie, then choose pants and a jacket of a complementary or neutral color that demands less attention. While suits always look great, a change in color from garment to garment, like say slacks paired with a non-matching sportcoat breaks up your shape into familiar forms, each not so large as to reinforce your bigness. For example, if you are going to wear a bright blue shirt covered by a black v-neck sweater, navy or grey slacks are a better looking option than black slacks. You'll want to avoid wearing everything the same color; the most common offense being big guys wearing a complete outfit: coat, shirt, tie, slacks, shoes, all in black like they are some sort of nightclub bouncer. The sameness of an outfit like that acts to unify your shape into one solid bulk, which I suppose is an appropriate look for a nightclub bouncer, but pretty lame for everyday wear, business attire, or special occasions. It's a common assumption that black is slimming, but too much works against you. Without a full course on art history and color theory, I can't begin to explain how to set about picking all the right colors for you, but the simplest thing I can suggest is to ask your mom, girlfriend, wife, mistress or gay best friend this simple question, "Does this look good on me?" and if the answer is anything less than an enthusiastic "Yes!" it probably looks awful. There are some good combinations that are pretty fool-proof for large guys. Grey and black are standard as neutral colors that can be paired with anything: you can put basics like black or grey slacks, suits, and sweaters with just about any contrasting solid color or patterned shirt and look good. Blue suits look great with yellow, orange, and brown items, like brown shoes. Pair greens with orange, brown and off-white. Some items like blue jeans, khakis pants, or Oxford blue dress shirts are near-universally regarded as neutral that you can pair them with anything; they are so ubiquitous and familiar, people eye's don't notice when they don't coordinate in the traditional sense. If you need a simple rubric, you can leverage the color-matching skills of a professional designer by taking something patterned, especially if you are going to wear it, like a paisley tie or a plaid shirt, and then make sure that the other articles of clothing you put on are represented in that item or neutral. You can't get into too much trouble doing that. Certainly some guys are particularly adept at pairing colors and patterns and can pull off looks that defy these suggestions, so please don't feel constrained by them. It goes without saying that most things look better when paired with a smile and a touch of confidence, so try those on too.