Being tall has its advantages. You’re picked first in pick-up basketball. You can date short women and tall women (hey now, double the options!).
But when it comes to your outfits, there are a few things you need to take into consideration, or you risk looking like a giraffe who stumbled through the discount aisle on the way to work. Here are the official rules for how to dress well when you’re over six feet tall.
1. You’re wearing ill-fitting off-the-rack dress shirts.
Why you should avoid it: There are way too many variables that go into a good shirt fit. “You want to avoid loose collars, tight shoulders, and short arm lengths, all of which will make you look taller and more giant-like,” says celebrity stylist Michael Fisher. “It’s nearly impossible to find all three of these qualities in an off-the rack-shirt, and even hard to fix with tailoring.”
Do this instead: Pay the extra money for a few custom dress shirts. You won’t be sorry when they all fit you like they were made for you (because, y’know, they were). “Investing in made-to-measure shirts will pay off in the long run,” says Fisher.
2. You buy “big and tall” clothes.
Why you should avoid it: “Finding clothes that are long enough can often mean the body ends up being too full,” says Dwight Fenton, chief creative officer for BONOBOS. The result? Baggy pants and droopy shirts, which doesn’t do anything for your style game.
Do this instead: If you’re tall but not big, make sure to have your clothes taken in as needed. “This can easily be rectified with some alterations, keeping you from looking like an ‘after’ picture in a diet ad,” Fenton says.
3. You wear vertical stripes.
Why you should avoid it: “Be careful with vertical stripes, such as a pin-striped dress shirt or striped suit,” says Kevin Harter, vice president of fashion direction, Men’s and Home, for Bloomingdale’s. “The stripes will add height to your overall appearance,” Harter says, and you don’t want to look too long and lean if you already are.
Do this instead: “Look for subtle plaids or textures when buying a suit or a dress shirt,” suggests Harter. Avoid any elongating stripes of the head-to-toe variety.
4. Your tie is too short (or long).
Why you should avoid it: “The length of your tie should always just grace the top of your belt buckle or waistband,” Fisher says. If it’s shorter or longer than that, it’s going to throw off the whole look.
Do this instead: Buy a tie that hits you at the correct place, or simply adjust the one you have, if that works. “It doesn’t matter if the front length of the tie is drastically longer than the back. You want the portions to compliment the length of your torso,” says Fisher.
5. You always match your belt, shoes, and outfit.
Why you should avoid it: When you have extra height to work with, mixing rather than matching can be a good thing, as monochromatic colors from head to toe are visually elongating. Great for short guys—not for you.
Do this instead: “Wearing a belt that complements your shoes [and contrasts with your suit] will draw the eye towards the waist and will break up the look,” says Fisher. The idea is to dress in two contrasting colors (think: navy suit, brown shoes and belt), which has the effect of “segmenting and shortening your height,” says Fisher.
6. You go too bold with prints.
Why you should avoid it: “Be selective when choosing prints,” says Fenton. “Bold prints are everywhere these days in men’s fashion, but what looks cool on smaller guys can end up looking like a vacation billboard on taller men.”
Do this instead: Stick to the classics, like solids, checks, and plaids. Fisher also recommends taking advantage of horizontal stripes, which help balance out your tall frame.
7. You don’t have a go-to tailor.
Why you should avoid it: When you look like you could be related to Big Bird, “not being buddies with your tailor can be a big miss,” says Fenton. Even if you find jeans in the right inseam or “tall” pant sizes, you’ll still need to make tweaks to some of your clothes to ensure the fit is perfect.
Do this instead: Find a tailor who both listens and offers advice, and see him regularly every season when you buy new suits, pants, or shirts.