Increased availability and popularity of slim-fit clothing is leading more and more men to wear slim-fit items. Yet most adult men are not thin or otherwise right for slim-fit. The clothing style is not what matters - the end result is. Note: for simplicity, this article only discuss shirts, pants, odd jackets (e.g., sportcoats), and suits.
Slim-fit vs. the Visual Ideal
Stomach bulges, etc. - men who are overweight or deconditioned should avoid most slim-fit items. Someone large who fears looking goonish or boxy probably will not fix that by wearing slim-fit clothing.
The skinny look almost never looks good on men who are not rock stars.
Slim-fit clothing can highlight bad posture.
Hard to put on and fully fasten (even if not to be worn that way) nearly always means the item is too small.
An item that quickly becomes quite wrinkled anywhere when put on probably is too tight if slim-fit.
Underwear or other things showing through equals too tight (and probably light-colored fabric).
Restricted ability to move arms, bend, and so on can indicate an item is too small.
Pants (including jeans) should not hug the, ahem, butt crack.
When standing up, non-denim pants usually should not make much contact behind the upper legs.
Sometimes lightweight jeans should fit tightly at the waist when purchased, if one is buying pre-washed denim that is meant to fit close to the body (because that denim often loosens up after some wear).
Rarely will slim-fit pants look nice on someone whose legs, hips, waist, or rear end is big. Slim-fit pants usually look bad on crooked legs.
Slim-fit pants with relatively big feet can look bad, especially if contrasting colors are involved.
As a moderate v-shape is the male ideal, narrow-shouldered men should be careful with slim-fit jackets and suits. At the other extreme, very v-shaped men should avoid slim-fit pants.
If the shirt seam ends before the shoulderline, the shirt is too narrow.
Men without much chest muscle often look skinny in slim-fit lightweight knit pullovers (such as tee shirts).
Slim-fit on the upper body becomes risky when hips, waist or legs are big (though darker colors on the lower body can help).
If a fastened jacket shows tie or shirt near the waist, it likely is too slim.
Narrow lapels on slim-fit jackets and suits often look out of proportion.
Nearly all men who are college-age or younger soon will outgrow purchases that are quite fitted.
Tight long sleeves can rip at the elbows at a desk job.
Buttons someday will pop off items that are too tight in those spots.
Light-colored items might discolor in places if too fitted there.
Non-heavyweight pants fabric will thin at the thighs if too snug there.
Tight pants can potentially cause a very embarrassing incident like seat tearing or a crotch blowout.
Feels Wrong? Physical and Psychological Comfort
Slim-fit is not the right choice if it keeps making the wearer feel exposed. - if chosen correctly, patterns and colors can lessen body consciousness unease.
Knowing an item is too small and wearing it anyway usually comes with embarrassment.
Significantly restricted movement (think of a knight in armor) creates stiffness and often with it psychological tension.
Tightness risks skin irritation, discomfort after eating, or worse.
Slim-fit reduces air flow, which can lead to sweating (and in turn fabric damage and other issues). Slim-fit non-wicking synthetics (which also usually look too shiny) do that even more.
Usually clothing for situations involving moderate physical activity should not be slim-fit.
Pockets of slim-fit items tend to be harder to access (and contents might disrupt the slim-fit look).
Situational Standards and Impressions
Slim-fit on a middle-aged person can suggest desperation to look young, and thinness can look sickly on a middle-aged man.
Slim-fit odd jackets tend to be good for casual socializing, but they (along with slim-fit suits) are inappropriate for some work environments (not authoritative).
Because wool pants are traditionally full-cut and drape, the slim-fit version is best left to men who are truly skinny.
Colorful and light-colored slim-fit pants and jeans often look feminine (in part from the leg shape created). So can black pants, if fitting like tights.
Colorful slim-fit shirts can raise questions about male sexuality, depending on overall style choices, physical features, geography, etc.
A shirt hugging multiple different muscle groups at the same time very likely will cause a negative reaction in some people and is not office-appropriate.
A shirt that is tight enough to highlight the entire chest is almost certainly distastefully tight to some.
Despite what fashion magazines show, slim-fit dress shirts should not fit like body-hugging tee shirts. ("Slim fit" dress shirts from traditional menswear brands often are closer to regular fit and therefore okay for most men who are not large, but shirt measurements should be checked first.)
Slim-fitting short shorts usually look vulgar.
By their late twenties, females tend to outgrow any fondness for an all-over slim look on men.
Fit type (slim, regular, relaxed) is safest when not very different from that of peers.
There is no universal retail standard for slim fit - maybe there is something out there that will fit well.
Jeans are very limited, but other than that alterations usually are possible and can involve turning a regular-fit item into something that fits slim in only the right places. Other than the pants waist (up to about 2 inches), rarely can clothing be made larger.
If buying off-the-rack, athletic-looking men might do best with suit separates.
Fitness changes are advisable for any man not already in good shape who wishes to wear slimmer clothing.
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