Every lifter will encounter two certainties as they progress through their strength career. First, there’s the certainty that one’s muscles are growing, their health is improving, and a lifelong iron addiction is setting in. The second certainty is that it’s incredibly more difficult to find clothes that fit properly, especially in day to day settings.
In the retail world, it’s a tough life having muscle, especially when we live in a slim fit world. Everyone wants clothes that flatter their body, but there’s a fine line between slim fit and suffocate fit. How many times have you tried on a pair of pants, and realized that they’re pretty much tights? And what about shirts that suffocate the shoulders, then parachute out around the abdomen?
If you have a bigger butt, quads, shoulders, pecs, lats, or basically any somewhat larger than normal muscle, then you’re boarding the retail struggle bus of finding great fitting clothes. To help remedy the retail struggles, I reached out to Danny Lehr (CEO of Caffeine and Kilos) and Robert Sung (Founder of Fran Denim) for strength athlete clothes buying tips.
Three Keys to Great Fitting Clothes
I spoke to Lehr and Sung on different occasions, and there were three points of overlap with their advice. It turns out that whether you’re looking for tops or bottoms, then there are three things you should look for before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
1. Fabric Matters
Both Sung and Lehr stressed the importance of finding a fabric that compliments the strength athlete’s needs. Material blends in both pants and tops are the best options because there’s more variability in how this material will move with the body. For example, a 100% cotton shirt will be a little more stiff, which is uncomfortable and restricting.
2. Clothing Design
This point may seem like a no brainer, but take a moment to consider who the clothing is designed for. It can be frustrating when your favorite brand’s clothes don’t fit right. In a lot of cases, you have to remember that they don’t design clothes for a strength athletes, so you may need to take some time and explore other options.
3. Try Everything and Note What Doesn’t Work
Lehr and Sung both said that even companies designed for strength athletes have a tough time matching everyone’s needs. The truth is there are a ton of different body types, so fitting everyone perfect is impossible. Be patient and try a variety of brands, but don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t fit perfectly.
Note when something doesn’t fit right, and take that thought with you when trying your next option. For example, if one company fits to loosely around the waist, then seek that specific out in your next decision.
Tips for Finding Shirts That Fit
When I was talking to Lehr he provided a few useful tips for strength athletes looking for perfect fitting shirts.
1. How Does the Top Fit Others?
This tip is incredibly useful for online shopping. A lot (almost all) of the strength focused clothing companies don’t have brick and mortar options, so online is the only way to purchase their merchandise. Lehr said a major key to support a great fitting purchase is to look how it fits someone else.
He said to look at a company’s site for models wearing the clothes, and to even search the company’s social pages. Also, he said searching the company’s hashtags can be useful because you can find regular folks wearing the clothes, and not their models, which is often more relatable. In addition, this makes it easier for someone to reach out and ask someone in real life who’s wearing the top what size they, their height, and other fitting questions.
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2. Watch the Torso Fit
When an athlete has bigger lats and shoulders, then there becomes a problem with finding an evenly fitting shirt. Often times the shoulders get restricted, while the torso is left baggy. Lehr said this when it’s important to pay attention how the shirt looks around the torso. Athletic bodies have a natural V-taper build, so a shirt that hugs the arms, shoulders, and torso snug and tightly will be best.
Sizing can get tricky with this aspect, because you may be a large up top, but a medium around the torso. One way to test this in person is to try a shirt on and extend your arms in front of you. A proper fitting shirt should move with you without completely rolling up the arms due to larger lats and shoulders. Lehr says, “Long bodied shirts with tight arms will often fit strength athletes best.”
3. Shirt Blends
The material has to have give. Lehr said a lot of times when shirts are made out of 100% cotton and sweat wicking materials (rayon, etc) they can be very tight. Tri-blends do an okay job at this, and shirts with blends like 60/40 (polyester/cotton) are usually the best. These materials hug the body well, but also allow a little give with movement.
Similar to the first point, Lehr said reviews are another key to finding perfect fitting clothes without trying them on. Look at what other people have said about the way clothes fit. A lot of companies offer their products on multiple sites, so chances are you can find an honest review about the product somewhere. Pay attention to dislikes and descriptions of the fit.
Tips for Finding Pants That Fit
Pants are a little more difficult than tops when finding perfect fits for varying body types, but Sung gave a couple important pant finding tips.
1. Material Is Key
Sung said that for most strength athletes the normal pant sizes are almost irrelevant. This makes finding the right material so important. Since true sizes are typically out the window, then it becomes increasingly important to find a pant that moves well with the body.
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Sung pointed out that denim blends are the best option when looking for this. For example look for blends that contain cotton, spandex, and other materials. These blends will provide an athlete with an indication if the pant will stretch and move well with the body.
2. Sizing and Ratios
This point is tough because every company’s pant will fit slightly different. Sung said that size charts are super useful, but only when the company designs pants for strength athlete specifically, and even then it can be tough. Every curve has to change with a strength athlete’s pant, which is why a lot of the bigger brands promoting athletic fits are still slightly off the mark. Simply adding a little more material in one area won’t fix the issue.
This is when a company’s specific size charts are useful. For example, Fran Denim utilizes a sizing chart that accounts for the size around one’s waist at the belly button, and the widest size around the hips to give you a true size for their pants. And there are other companies that utilize similar sizing methods, or specific catered charts to their pants.
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Shoutout to @frandenim for finding the right pair of jeans that fit my pretty extreme measurements 😂🙌🏼. They're comfy and look amazing. I have a 27-28 in waist (around belly button) and 39 in hips (hips/booty) and I am wearing the size 26. Go check them out my fellow squatters!! 🍑🍑
There’s not a whole of literature lot out there for strength athletes looking for great fitting clothes. Hopefully as fitness continues to grow, then we’ll see more companies promoting clothes that fit bigger muscled individuals. Until then, it’s all about finding the companies that fit your specific needs best, and exploring the ever expanding options within the strength world.
Both Sung and Lehr said that if you find something that fits really well, then staying consistent with that specific company and clothing type can help save you time with future purchases. After all, we all have that favorite shirt or pair of pants.
Feature image from @charity_witt Instagram page.