In the latest edition of the sartorial problem-solving series entitled Dress Code, five stylist New Yorkers, of all shapes & sizes, tackle the answers:
When Mr Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for the hit tune Accentuate The Positive, he was thinking about a person’s state of mind, not his shape. Still, accentuating the good points of a person’s build while minimising the negative ones is an enduring challenge. It seems that for whatever body shape you are, there is a fine line that you walk. But what separates a beanpole from a tall drink of water? The overweight from a brick house? The mind reels when confronted with a horizontally striped piece of knitwear: is it a slimming friend or fattening foe?
In the interest of demystifying what looks good on five different archetypical builds, we asked these five discerning and tasteful New Yorkers, each with a unique personal style, to help us model some guidelines – so the next time you’re contemplating a pair of pleated trousers or a short blazer, you’ll know what to do.
THE LEAN MAN
Mr Isaac Hindin-Miller, aka Isaac Likes
New Zealand-born but New York-based Mr Isaac Hindin-Miller is a 31-year-old men’s style writer, DJ and relationship counsellor. It’s an incongruous mix that comes together on his website, Isaaclikes.com.
The problem: “I was always painfully skinny growing up,” says Mr Hindin-Miller. “People would hug me and be like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ I feel less self-conscious as an adult, but sizing is still an issue, especially with US brands, which always come up too baggy. I therefore tend to stick to European brands.”
The solution: Mr Hindin-Miller does not wear skinny jeans any more as they draw attention to his slender frame. “A slim man can play with volume to add shape to his silhouette,” says stylist Mr Mitchell Belk. “Pleated trousers and boxy outerwear such as this pea coat add dimension, making you appear broader, and a thick knitted sweater is a good way of achieving a bulkier silhouette.” Mr Hindin-Miller also has some of his own tips. His beard and thick hair help to add volume to his head. “And I prefer a chunkier-soled shoe, because I feel it balances out the outfits I wear and gives me a bit of extra stature – not in height so much, as in weight,” he says. “I also feel that wearing horizontal stripes or even just pattern can visually help make me look broader.”
Follow Mr Hindin-Miller @isaaclikes_
THE LARGER MAN
Mr Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, aka Questlove
The Roots’ drummer, star of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, DJ, record producer, restaurateur, author, New York University lecturer… Mr Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, 44, is a true multi-tasking polymath.
Waist: He’d rather not say
Height: 6ft 4in
Weight: Just under 300 pounds
The problem: “Twenty years ago, I was 100 pounds heavier, if you can imagine such a thing,” says Mr Thompson. “I’m under 300 right now. I’m trying to get to 250. I’m a big guy, you can’t just buy my clothes off the rack. A lot of my stuff will get retailored so it can accommodate me. I have my own T-shirt and hoodie company. I always felt that if I dressed more distinguished, that would add age to me. But [in my 40s] I figured dressing like a 20-year-old in jeans and T-shirts 24/7 would age me even quicker. When I first started teaching, just as a joke, I got a few of those professor jackets with the elbow patches but, as I was looking in the mirror, I was like, ‘Oh, I kind of clean up nice. Maybe this could be a new thing for me.’”
The solution: “Tailoring will help give structure to a softer body, but look for fabric that drapes in order to help disguise any problem areas,” suggests Mr Belk. “It’s better to stick to a single colour throughout to elongate the body.” Plain dark colours, such as navy blue and bottle green, are more flattering than bright colours, though you can incorporate colour and pattern through accessories such as a pocket square or silk scarf. Or, in Mr Thompson’s case, lapel pins, glasses and sneakers, too. “I tend to wear black, occasionally splashing a bit of colour, mainly because the accessories will pop out more,” says Mr Thompson. “I concentrate on accessories. I have more than 2,000 pairs of sneakers and 500 pairs of glasses that would rival Elton John’s collection.” The long scarf is especially effective here. “Not only does it add a little colour, but the vertical lines draw the eye up and down, which creates a lengthening effect,” says Mr Belk.
Follow Mr Thompson @questlove
THE MUSCULAR MAN
Mr Noah Neiman
Mr Noah Neiman, 31, is one of New York’s top fitness experts, who works with Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated models, as you’ll see from his enviableInstagram feed. He is a master trainer for Barry’s Bootcamp and a star of Bravo reality TV show Work Out New York, which documents New York’s fitness obsession.
Height: 5ft 11in
The problem: “It’s such a First World problem, but it’s hard to find that perfect fit,” says Mr Neiman. “Usually, with jeans, the waist will fit but not the calves or quads. Shirts are often super-tight. A lot of built guys want to show it off, but I know a little subtlety goes a long way. I’m thankful for the recent ‘athleisure’ trend, where fitness meets fashion. I’m a big fan. I can basically wear Nike’s elevated training gear most days and not stick out.”
The solution: “Away from gym wear, the key idea here is to look for lightweight layering with thin fabrications that have elements of structure, but in a casual way so that there is easy movement,” says Mr Belk. “Shirt jackets are ideal for this. Wearing a slightly longer jacket or leaving shirts untucked can help to lengthen the torso, so you’re not all shoulders and chest. Jeans or chinos should not be too skinny otherwise you will look very top-heavy – look for straight-leg trousers. And I would suggest substantial footwear for the same reason.”
Follow Mr Neiman @noahdneiman
THE TALL MAN
Mr Steven Rojas
New York DJ by night and corporate digital director at Morgans Hotel Group by day, Mr Steven Rojas, 34, is a well-connected man about several towns – from LA to London to Istanbul. He is also a serious runner, who has competed in more than 100 races.
Height: 6ft 4in
The problem: “I don’t find many disadvantages to being tall,” says Mr Rojas. “However, because I am also very skinny, I can sometimes look a bit lanky, which made me self-conscious as a beanpole teenager.”
The solution: “Height is an attribute to play up rather than play down – within proportion,” says Mr Belk. “Slim trousers with a small gap at the ankle will help accentuate long legs. A full-length overcoat is a smart way to balance the proportions of torso and legs, so one half doesn’t appear longer than the other.” A tall, lean frame can also easily accommodate layers such as a roll-neck sweater or a scarf, and this will add bulk so that you don’t look too gangly and awkward. Choose flat-soled shoes, though, unless you really want to tower over people.
Follow Mr Rojas @stevenrojas
THE SHORTER MAN
Mr Lougè Delcy, aka Dapper Lou
Mr Lougè Delcy, 28, is a Brooklyn-based stylist, brand consultant and photographer whose strong fashion-focussed Instagram feed saw him nominated as CFDA Instagrammer of the Year in 2014. His website, dapperlou.com, has now expanded beyond street style into art, travel, food and culture.
Height: 5ft 7in
The problem: “Inconsistent sizing across brands is the main issue,” says Mr Delcy. “I end up having to get a lot of things altered, which is expensive but usually worth it to avoid the stereotypical kid-in-his-father’s-suit look.”
The solution: “The two crucial factors for the shorter man are fit and proportion,” says Mr Belk. “If your trouser hems or jacket sleeves are too long, it makes you look short.” Wear socks the same colour as your trousers – visually, it helps to lengthen the leg. Narrow lapels, shallow collars and skinny ties with small tie knots will all work best with your frame. Look for Japanese brands, as they tend to offer a greater range for men under 5ft 9in. Footwear is an easy place to add one or two inches, so go for a pair of boots with a built-up heel, even a Cuban heel like these from Tom Ford.” Mr Delcy’s signature item is a fedora, which adds flair, as well as extra height. It also draws people’s attention up higher. However, not every man can carry off a hat, and if it’s not worn naturally and with confidence, it can backfire. “Another tip of mine is to wear vertical stripes, as this tricks the eye into elongating your torso,” says Mr Delcy.
Follow Mr Delcy @dapperlou