If you've been lifting for any length of time and have seen some major changes in your body—especially in your chest, arms, and shoulders—you know what a battle it can be to find a nice shirt that actually fits you. Yeah, you can always find a tank or T-shirt to wear in the gym or around town, but what if you want to dine at a nice restaurant, look stylish at a formal party, or sweep your date off their feet?
Athletic clothing manufacturers have seen growing demand for more elegant shirts fit for the lifter's build, and have responded by designing "muscle shirts" and "skinny athletic shirts." Unfortunately, most of these shirt styles are cut very simply and don't meet the higher-fashion needs of discerning buff dudes. What's a fit guy to do?
One Size Definitely Does Not Fit All
Some lifters resort to buying standard XL or XXL shirts off the rack. Larger shirts can accommodate boulder shoulders and oversized lats and pecs, but the shirts end up looking like pup tents billowing over small waists, with tails that barely reach your belt line. Translation: You may be lean and built, but from the outside, you may as well have a giant belly and a muffin top.
Shirts designed specifically for athletes carve out and highlight those killer V-tapers. Unlike shirts that are just "large," these shirts look comfortable and stylish, and can be extremely flattering. Not only are these shirts cut to match highly developed bodies, they're also made with stretchy fabric that allows the big guys more freedom of movement—and less risk of splitting seams.
Follow Your Body Type Over Trends
Of course, there's more to looking sharp than just having a shirt that fits. Fashion is all about personal expression and knowing what looks best on you.
As a case in point, let's look at fashion choices from the stars of the latest version of "Baywatch." The show's two male stars, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Zac Efron, have very athletic bodies, but each man's degree of fitness dictates his choice of clothing.
The Rock is just big, with an insanely large neck, caveman jaw, and bulging traps. Among his savvy fashion choices are the classic "Kent" shirt collar, with moderate-spread collars, or collars with forward points. Both styles serve to narrow his face and compliment his jaw. If your body shape is like anything like The Rock's, then thank your lucky stars and follow his fashion lead. This includes avoiding extreme cutaway collars and collarless granddad shirts, neither of which looks good on a developed upper body.
The smaller but still muscular Zac Efron can get away with tighter shirts with extreme collar spreads, short collar points, and skinny ties—all of which compliment his slimmer frame, face, and jaw. If your body type is like Zac's, you've got more freedom of movement, fashion-wise, and can probably get away with the granddad shirt or other hip new style for men.
The Art of the Untucked Tail
Shirt tails may be the most overlooked feature of a shirt. If you always wear your shirt tucked in, then all you need are tails long enough to stay in your pants. But if you follow modern fashion trends, you've no doubt noticed that more and more men are wearing their tails out. Pulling that off successfully requires some thought.
What's so hard about wearing your tails out, you ask? Your shirt tails frame your entire body , so you should choose wisely. Having a longer-than-usual tail on a slim-cut shirt designed for athletes can elongate your form to create a long, lean look. Getting a shirt with a curved hem at the bottom can do a lot to highlight a narrow waist. With the right style, your shirt tails can draw your whole look together.
Don't Set Yourself Up for Awkward Hulk Moments
If there's one thing men should stop doing, it's wearing shirts that are too tight or ill-fitting. They might think it's a flattering look, but everyone else is either waiting for the sleeves to tear or the buttons to pop. Or they're trying to ignore the huge sweat patches under the wearer's arms caused by the shirt fitting too tightly around their armpits. Either way, it's not a flattering look.
Brands dedicated to manufacturing well-fitting shirts for lifters know that the size and position of an armhole for these athletes' shirts should be different from that of a standard shirt. These brands adjust the pattern so athletes can wear nicely tailored shirts with fitted arms—without the risk of ripping apart the sleeves.
The same principle applies to shoulders. The shoulder seam of a well-designed shirt should finish on the edge of your shoulder. Unfortunately for bodybuilders, standard XL or XXL shoulder seams can end up halfway to your neck.
In this era of casual dress, it's possible for most lifters to meet all of their sartorial needs with a stretch top, a nice pair of jeans, and some decent flip flops. But if you need more than that, there are brands available, such as Thomas & More of London, dedicated to making menswear that make men look good, V-taper and all.
Sure, taking your fashion seriously will cost you more than a T-shirt with your favorite gym or supp company logo, but how good you look just might make it worth the investment.