How to Dress as an Athletic Man

So, you’ve been hitting the gym and and now have to learn how to dress as an athletic man.  Good for you! This article gives you some helpful tips and tricks to show off that build. 


Ironically, the body type many of us want is what so few do. For that reason, off-the-rack manufacturers don’t make things to fit you. If it fits your neck and chest, it’s a tent in the torso. If it fits your thighs, it’s sagging in the waist.

But, there are some ways to work around this and get a better fit. 

Suiting to Dress An Athletic Man

Off-the-rack suiting is going to be tough for an athletic man. Most are cut with a six inch “drop” between the jacket and trousers- e.g. a 46 jacket will have a 40 trouser. 

But, what happens if you’ve got an 8, 10 or even 12 inch drop? If something fits you in the chest and shoulder, it will often be blousey in the torso and will look comical once the waist is taken in. Additionally, the pants will have to be cut to fit your narrow waist-which can be quite expensive and come with mixed results.

For that reason, we’d strongly suggest going custom. Not only will you get to choose fabric and pattern, but you’ll get a better fit as well. 

But, if buying off-the-rack, consider brands with suit separates available: Banana Republic, JCrew, and Suitsupply all do this very well. 

Additionally, you can, on some occasions, find athletic cut suits. It’s an older thread, but we have some information on that on our forum


Looking for a “natural” shoulder style with little to no structure. Excess structure will make your head appear smaller, as if you’re wearing football pads!

Two button or a jacket with a higher, “rolled” third button would be best. You can play with the button stance, but we’d suggest one right in the middle of the torso. That way, there is enough shirt showing to showcase your V-shape, but no so much that it become exaggerated. 

Consider wide, but balanced, lapels that sit right in the middle of your chest. Unless you’re extremely broad, 3.5-4.25 inches will be right in there. 

Patterns and Colors:

Stick with darker colors and subtle patterns if you’re an athletic man. You’re bulky enough as it is, so additional structure will, again, make it look like you have a very small head on top of a large body!

A solid navy blazer and mid-grey slacks work well on everyone. Conversely, the “Northern lights” of a lighter jacket and darker trousers may help in balancing the physique of, say, a cyclist with larger thighs and a slimmer upper body. 


Medium or lightweight fabrics work better than anything bulky. Consider hopsack or “tropical” wools. Lighter weight flannels are a good substitute for a tweed. 

Shirting and Trousers

Shirts and Ties:

Slim fit shirts  are far and away going to be your best bet. However, in order to fit your shoulders and neck, you may need to size up and adjust accordingly.

When you slim them, though, we’d suggest asking your alterations tailor to take them in from side seams instead of darting them. 

Try a straight point collar rather than a spread collar. Vertical stripes work well, as they accentuate your V-taper.

As for ties, consider solids with texture, like grenadine.


As an athletic man, you will need a fuller cut to accommodate your thighs! If buying off-the-rack, considering going up a size in the waist and then having it taken in. You may also want to taper the leg.

However, we’d advise against anything super-skinny or cropped here. 

Shoes and Accessories for An Athletic Man


Look for streamlined (but definitely not spearlike) shoes. Excessively bulky, square-toed models add extra mass and really aren’t elegant. 


Try braces (suspenders) to hold up your pants, unless you are barrel-chested. The vertical lines of a pair of braces helps reduce your chest bulk.

Additionally, if the braces are spaced correctly, they’ll sit in such a way that actually further defines your V-taper. 

Eyewear Shape:

If you have a square face try glasses with rounded lenses to soften the square line. Large faces should avoid little frames like “granny” glasses and look for frames that bridge the face (like wrap-around sun glasses).


Single breasted with set-in sleeves will look good on you.

Summing Up

So, you’ve built an athletic body. That’s certainly an achievement!

 In short, we’d recommend suits with balanced lapels that come to the middle of your chest. 

Consider slimmer fitting shirts and having them altered accordingly. 

Look to tapered pants and “size for thighs” instead of sizing to your waist. 

And, consider slimmer, streamlined shoes.