Myth: Men don’t need to worry about a tummy.
Truth: Men do need to be concerned about a tummy.
Recently, I heard from a couple of readers who mentioned that many men over age 40 have larger tummies and that it’s worrisome because of health issues. If that larger tummy is actually excess weight, then those readers are absolutely right. But whether the man is actually healthy and just happens to be built larger or if he’s actually overweight and is working on getting healthier, he still needs to look good.
From me, you get the truth.
As my readers know, I’m more passionate about good health than about any other aspect of looking good. The healthier you are, the easier it is to look great. So if you have a tummy, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself why you have that tummy. Is it because you’re just built large? Or is it because of excess weight? If there is excess weight, then you do owe it to yourself to get it under control. Ask your doctor for help as needed and make small changes one at a time.
Having said that, you do need to look good even if you have a tummy and even while you’re making those changes to get healthier. So how do you do that?
Structure and good fit in your clothes are paramount. Structured tops like jackets and button-down shirts will give you a good shape and camouflage the tummy. Some softer knit tops are good as long as they’re just heavy enough to fall right without adding bulk.
No matter what, your tops have to fit properly. Oversized tops won’t hide anything; they’ll just make you appear bigger all over. But too-small tops will only show the bulge. If the buttons are pulling on your shirt or jacket, then it’s too small. Always buy the top that fits your largest part and then have the rest taken in by a tailor. It’s okay to wear your jacket open over a shirt or your button-down shirt open over a T-shirt as long as you can wear the overtop closed. If you’re wearing the jacket or shirt open because the buttons are pulling, that’s not good.
Jackets and shirts also have to fit well in the shoulders. The shoulder seams must sit right at the tip of the shoulder. This makes the shoulders appear broader, which makes the torso and tummy appear narrower by comparison. If the seams fall past the tip of the shoulder, they’ll look sloppy. If they fall further inward, they’ll make the shoulders appear narrower.
On jackets, the best lapels are either notch lapels (with a triangular cutout on the sides) or peak lapels (which have sharp corners pointing up to the shoulders). If you already have broad shoulders, stick with notch lapels, which are universally flattering. If your shoulders are narrower, then peak lapels will visually broaden them for balance.
The best jackets overall are always single-breasted. That means that there’s only ONE line of buttons in the front under the lapels. Double-breasted jackets have two lines of buttons on either side of the waist area. Those two lines of buttons create a tummy where there isn’t one and emphasize an existing tummy. Plus, the two layers of fabric right over the tummy add bulk right where you don’t need it. With a single-breasted jacket, the one line of buttons actually camouflages the tummy and there’s no extra bulk.
Your pants have to be similarly structured so they give you a good shape on the bottom and are neither too bulky nor too drapey. The legs need to fall straight from the waist downward. Tapered legs will give you the ice-cream-cone effect: a big tummy on top of narrow legs. (Note: A little bit of ice cream every now and then as a treat is fine, but not like this.) The legs need to be long enough to touch the tops of your feet without hiding your shoes. This will elongate the bottom half. No cuffs on the legs: they’ll shorten the leg line. This means no pleated pants either because pleated pants need cuffs. A sharp vertical crease on the pant leg is fine.
In general, your best bets for color are classic neutrals. Brighter colors draw attention, so if you’re going to wear them they need to be near your face. It’s fine to wear a shirt in a secondary neutral or a brighter color to draw attention to your face, especially if you’re wearing a neutral jacket and neutral pants. And it’s best if your top and pants are in the same color or same value so you get that one long line, which will make you appear taller and slimmer overall.
Remember that if you need a suit and you find that pre-coordinated suits are tricky to fit, suit separates are a good option. Get the navy jacket that fits your tummy and the navy pants that fit your tummy and then have them altered as needed to fit everywhere else. This is particularly good if you have a tummy because your natural drop – the difference between your jacket size and pant size – may be smaller than what pre-coordinated suits offer.
If your tummy is excess weight but you’re making the necessary lifestyle changes and you’re losing the excess, you may think you shouldn’t shop for any new clothes until you’ve reached your goal weight and your tummy is down. But even while you’re getting healthier, you need to look good. It’s okay to keep your wardrobe and new purchases to a minimum, but you must have at least some clothes that fit you even during this time. Try taking some items to a tailor and see what can be taken in to fit. If you need to shop stores, get only a few new items at a time; you don’t need a whole new wardrobe for every five pounds down.
If you have a tummy, the goal is to get healthy, stay healthy, and look healthy. With my tips here you’ll be able to do all three.