Muscle for life

The Lifting Guy’s Guide to Dressing With Style

The Lifting Guy’s Guide to Dressing With Style

If you’re into lifting weights and looking stylish, you know how tough it is to find the right clothes. This guide will help.


We know the many health benefits of lifting weights, getting our cardio in, and eating nutritious foods.

It’s quite an incredible feat to build a muscular body. It takes hard work in the gym consistently over time, and sticking to your diet. But staying in shape does have a few drawbacks. While they’re few and far between, one in particular is finding clothes that fit.

These days modern menswear is formulated for a slender male that has slim to no muscular development. At least no more than that which is naturally achieved by just having the right parents. Even though it may require more work than our scrawny counterparts, by the end of this article you’re going to have all the tools necessary to dress that brawn like a superhero.

General Rules for Men’s Style

Before we get into the meat of the matter let’s cover a few guidelines to make the shopping experience as straightforward as a workout.

You Want Your Clothes to “Hug” Your Body

It’s all about creating a slim silhouette. What attraction research has identified as the ideal male body is one of broad shoulders and taut waist. Essentially the goal is to outline the shape of your body with clothing.

Try Sizing Down

Most men wear clothes that are too big for them. Sizing down may be a quick fix to a fit issue. Try a medium if you typically wear large.

The Tailor Is Your Best Friend

Short of getting custom clothing, befriending a great tailor is going to give you a huge bang for your buck. Develop a relationship with your tailor. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

Find Your Brand

Each brand is tailored to a specific look or body type. You can often tell by the type of models they use for advertising. Two mainstream brands that are tailored for fit men are Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Kickin It Casual

For the average gym goer most of don’t have to suit up more than once a week, maybe even once a month. If this is the case casual wear is going to be where you place the biggest emphasis on your wardrobe. 



Focus on plain basic shirts and t-shirts with minimal propaganda. Most brands have specific fits for all there shirts. Experiment with all fits but in general you can stay away from relaxed fits.

Higher End:

More Affordable:



Finding pants is easily the biggest issue among muscled men. Especially with the trend favoring skinny guys most companies are making pants accordingly. However it’s just a matter of looking in the right places, as well as seeking the right fits.

As I said before to goal is outline your body via clothing. We want to strike a blend between tapered fit, slim-fit, and straight cut pants. These 3 fits are straight or tapered at the knee, which contributes to your silhouette.

When there’s a flare at the knee like boot-cut jeans this actually makes you appear short and bulky. contributes to your silhouette.

 Higher End:

More Affordable:



Shorts are a different beast entirely. I too used to just buy a big baggy pair of cargo shorts and call it good. Now shorts have come a long way. While it’s not so much “don’t buy cargos” it’s more, “break up the bulk.” They’re great alternatives like tailored fit shorts.

You want to strike a balance with the inseam. You don’t want the inseam far past your knee or barely covering your upper thigh. Each extreme has its downsides. You want to shoot for an inseam right above the knee. This will elongate the legs giving you better proportion.

Higher End:

More Affordable:


Outerwear is classified as hoodies, jackets, sport coats, blazers, and more. Good outerwear just seals the deal on all things style. It can real complete an outfit and take it from zero to hero. Isn’t it impossible to not look cool in a leather jacket?

As with most upper body apparel the obvious problem areas are chest and shoulders. Here are some off the rack items that will require very little extra effort.

Higher End:

More Affordable:

Suiting Up


Casual wear is pretty straightforward for muscular men. However, trouble can rise to the surface when it’s time to suit up. They’re a few issues muscular men run into when buying a suit:

  1. Jackets are tight in the chest/shoulders.
  2. Well fitting trousers are difficult to find.
  3. Shirts are too small in the shoulders.

Visiting a tailor and knowing exactly what to buy can solve all three of these issues.

Short of spending thousands of dollars on a custom suit there’re some great off the rack options, as many brands are starting to catch on that fit men also want to dress well too.

If you’re really pushing the limits of your maximum muscular potential but don’t want to spend the money on a custom suit, your best bet is size up and take it to a tailor.

Higher End:

More Affordable:

Dress Shirts


The conservative nature of a dress shirt makes it a pretty easy shopping experience. The only problem area you need to worry about is the typical snug feeling in the chest and shoulders. There’re a handful of brands that make athletic fit dress shirts. When in doubt try classic fit, slim fit, or athletic fit.

Higher End:

More Affordable:

In Summary

Men of all shapes and sizes can be hesitant about upgrading their style and this is equally true for men who are fit and muscular. For the amount of time and dedication you put into your training and diet you should show it off by wearing well fitting and flattering clothes.

Try new things, experiment with new looks, and don’t be afraid to ask for real advice on how you’re looking. How you dress communicates to your environment how you feel and believe about yourself.

You wouldn’t take financial advice from a guy wearing rags and no teeth would you? Those who look the part command respect from peers and colleagues.

You now have some solid ideas about where to find the right pieces at the right places. If you would like to get some masculine outfit ideas featuring the clothes in this article click here.

Derek John

Derek John is the creator of I am Derek John, a men’s style blog dedicated to inspiring men to upgrading their look through style, grooming, and fitness.


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  • vrk1975

    Nice! Lot more information than expected.

  • Find clothes that fit you well, stick to solids (most of the time), and you are ahead of the curve. It’s really simple! But the majority of men have zero clue. Far to common to see big boxy clothing with logos plastered all over the place.

    Solid article. Obviously, there can a lot more to men’s fashion game, but building your foundation like the article explains will take you a long way, and put you ahead of the mASSES!

    A nice fitting dark denim is a KEY to any mans wardrobe, and a great place to start.

    • Right on Will!

      Very true, plain solid shirts are very flattering.

      A solid shirt + nice fitting dark denim = slick

      • Yes sir! Simple. Great foundation, especially for the guy who is just getting into men’s style.

  • Tele Mundo

    Awesome article!

  • Steven Scott

    Ask your wife or girlfriend for input before buying new clothes. They have a better idea what we’re supposed to look like than we do (at least that’s what mine have always told me!) 🙂

    • I do not agree with that at all. I think they may have an idea but you should develop your own style. Be a man and pick your own clothes. Shows that you care, which you should.

      Even guys who are clueless and don’t care can become pretty decent dresser following a few basic guidelines. This article provides a good start.

    • It’s always a good idea to get some input!

      • You’re right, I should of been more specific. Input is a good idea, but I think you should be the driver and not just let them “dress you”

    • Tony

      Trying to buy clothes to impress the ladies in the first place means you’re all your own -_- I wish I had more female friends just to give me their input.

  • Tony

    This is a GREAT article. Bookmarking this and going to refer to it many many times. Express is a personal favorite of mine, even though I have to buy a size smaller than I normally would for shirts. Calvin Klein Slim-Fits are almost always a good bet, and The Gap is hard to beat for affordable clothing that looks good and fits pretty well.

    An article on shoes would also be welcome. Shoes that look good but can still handle a lot of walking are a must for physically active men (e.g., Rockport Walking Shoes).

    • Thanks for the feedback Tony! I’m glad you liked it.

      Agreed on Calvin Klein/Gap comment.

  • Zook024

    Interesting article Derek, definitely one for the bookmarks. Dress shirts and pants have been the biggest problem for me because as you say, crack up any issue of GQ and find some awesome clothing but being worn by very skinny guys. For dress shirts I have lucked out with certain brands of slim fit (Calvin Klein and Macy’s Club Room) and pants have just kinda been luck of the draw. Heres to hoping I find some good stuff here!

    • Pants can be tricky. Getting them tailored/altered seems like a hassle but it’s truly worth the $15-30.

    • Thanks!

      Yeah Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren Dress shirts are good options. Nordstrom also can be good for dress shirts.

      Definitely check out the pants I recommended. If pants are typically your issue I’d start with relaxed taper fits. The 7 For All Mankind I referenced above has worked well with some of athletic types I’ve worked with.

  • David Murphy

    When are you thinking of bringing out your gym gear Mike?

  • Jarrod

    In the UK and AUST try tm Lewin slim fit and tailored for business/dress shirts. They have fractional fittings so are pretty good unless you are a monster that is.

    • Good to know! Speaking of monsters… even Phil Heath knows the power of a good tailor. As seen in Generation Iron.

  • Esther Mozo

    How about a guide for athletic girls? 🙂

  • nick weber

    How about a guide for fat people?

    • saveourskills

      that’s 90% of the articles on here. AKA how to recomp your body

  • JimmyO

    My biggest problem is long-sleeved button down shirts for work. They’re always too tight in the chest, or if they’re not, then they’re baggy/sloppy/annoying around the waist. Slim fit always works in the waist, but then too tight up top. Calvin Klein slim fit aren’t too horrible in the chest, but still annoying to me.

    • As annoying as that is, it’s a good problem to have man. Unfortunately, not much you can do other than spend $10-15 and get it tailored in the waste area.

      Well worth it!

    • Gabe

      I am always struggling with the same problem as well. My chest isn’t huge, but I am definitely in above average shape. I have given up on slim fit shirts since they just don’t have enough room in the chest area. I own a bunch of Hugh & Crye shirts, which I like, but they are still a bit baggy in my waist and Mizzen + Main which fit me well, but I wish they were 100% cotton. I recently came across Batch shirts http://www.batchshirts.com on Instagram and I’m really impressed. The shirt is the best off-the-rack fit I have found. They base their sizing off of your waist size and they are larger in the chest and shoulders. I am now getting my older shirts tailored to match.

      • JimmyO

        Thanks! I’ll check them out.

    • Matt Bulger

      Agreed! And golf shirts are all gigantic! I feel like an idiot in biz-casual.

  • George Harrison

    To be honest, if you really struggle from being big the only place i find that’s ever fit me is oxcloth. http://www.oxcloth.com

  • So, here’s a tip to men with muscles. H&M is only good for tees, maybe. I haven’t seen one with a good selection of items for men with any kind of substantial meat on his bone. I mean if you’re a slim guy, then Okay, but my husband works out and has huge arms, chest, torso. For our wedding, he had to get a bigger suit and get it cut down, or spend crazy money on one. As far as shirts, you have to think like us curvy women. Look for shirts with spandex/stretch. I have a smaller waist, but have butt and thighs. I look for 3%, but 5% is even better. It gives you better fit. You can move more comfortably and not be nervous about ripping a seamless, or just tearing anything in general.

  • Mike

    I’m definitely looking forward to shopping after I get there 🙂

    As someone who’s looking to do this down the line (currently skinny fat and starting BLS to trim/recomp and then bulk), do you have some advice for when to buy? For example, should I do so after a bulk is “over” (e.g. going from 10% after a recomp to 15% after a bulk) or maybe after trimming back down after that?

    • Hey! Good question. I’d wait until you cut after the bulk. Even then, keep in mind that your body will still be changing!

  • Matt Bulger

    Fruit of then Loom makes the best V-neck tees! They fit me like a glove and they make me look and feel great. They only come in a multi pack of 2 black and 2 grayish blue though… hard to get your hands on. Only target has them, sometimes.

  • flossbee

    So I’d assume that athletic to muscular built men should stay as far way from skinny fitting pants/denim as possible?

  • Harry

    For dress shirts for Athletic and Muscular men, sons of titan is awesome

  • Alex

    These muscle fit shirts have a really nice design: http://hypertrophy.eu
    medium waist line and large around chest, not baggy at all ;D

  • Poe

    I’m looking for undershirts that go nicely underneath my dress shirts and polos. I have a friend tailor the shirts so they for nice but I can’t have her doing that for my undershirts.

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