What are Big and Tall Sizes?

What are Big and Tall Sizes?

A brief history

The terms "Big" and "Tall" are often used interchangeably. While this is accurate, it does not paint an entire picture of who these pieces are for. There are plenty of pieces that fit the bill to be both Big and Tall, but there are also pieces that fit one or the other label exclusively. In order to truly understand the difference between these pieces, it is important to have a general understanding of where they came from and how they came into being.

big and tall men wearing different styles of clothing

So what separates Big and Tall? Let's start with "Big." Athletic apparel for men has been around since the early 1900s. The first documented company that started making athletic apparel specifically for men was Russell Athletic. They started making shirts in 1904 and expanded to pants in the 1920s (1).

The first documented company that started making athletic apparel specifically for men was Russell Athletic. They started making shirts in 1904 and expanded to pants in the 1920s.

Big & Tall essentially came into being with Title 9, which enacted equal opportunities for men and women in collegiate sports (2). Once this happened, bigger people were included in participating in sports. With this inclusion came the demand for bigger clothes. Eventually, manufacturers began making bigger clothes and labeling them as "Big and Tall."

The emergence of Big & Tall:

1904: Russell Athletic makes shirts for men.

different russell athletic shirt tags

The 1960s: Big & Tall begins to emerge after Title 9.

2003: The first documented store exclusively for Big & Tall people opened (3).

Today: There are over 300 stores in North America dedicated to Big and Tall clothing, accounting for over $4 billion dollars annually (4).

What about "Tall?" Similar to the timeline of Big, there is also a definitive timeline for Tall. The first company to make Tall sizes was Haggar Clothing. They put out their first "Tall" pant in 1977 (5).

The emergence of Tall:

1977: First documented Tall pant made by Haggar Clothing (5)

1986: Levi's puts out the first Tall Jeans (6).

levis red tab closeup brand

The 2000s: Tall clothing begins to be manufactured en masse.

Today: Tall Clothing typically comes in sizes 36 or 38, while Big Clothing starts at sizes 40 or 42 (7).

So what does all of this mean? It means that there are big people and tall people, but the specific terms "Big" and "Tall" are exclusive to each other. The difference between Big and Tall clothing is that the term "Big" generally refers to larger sizes (up to 6XL), while Tall clothing typically starts at 4XL (8).

Style considerations when you're Big and Tall

If you're a big dude, congratulations! You have lots of great things going for you. Big guys are often seen as more mature and masculine, but that doesn't mean this isn't totally true.

big guy with eyeglasses wearing formal wear

Even though there are plenty of style considerations for being a bigger guy, these 10 tips will help you stay stylish while looking out for your health and wellbeing.

Fit Is The Most Important Factor In Style

This is a biggie! I know you've probably heard this before, but when it comes to being a bigger guy, fit really becomes even more important than for other guys. You have to look at not just how something fits your body, but also how it's cut. You want to wear clothes that are flattering and slimming, not baggy or billowy. 

Wear Clothes That Fit Your Shape

You might be surprised at the number of bigger guys who don't know what type of fit they should look for in their clothes. But first, let's talk about the difference between the three fit types.

big man trying to button his pants

The two key things to remember are that slim fits should be more fitted, while relaxed fits should be more comfortable. And the third type of fit is athletic, which is tighter on your arms and legs than anything else.

Or if you're really confused, just think about it this way: Slim = fitted. Relaxed = roomier. Athletic = tighter on the arms and legs.

Know Your Proportions

The thing with being a bigger guy is that you have to look at not just how something fits, but also your body shape. You want to wear clothes that complement your build, meaning that they'll draw attention to your strong points and minimize attention to your problem areas.

big man taking selfie checking his style

For example, I'm tall (6'2") with a slim build, so most of the time I'll buy clothes that are fitted with slimmer silhouettes. This gives me more edge than if I dressed up with baggy or billowy clothing which would only make me look bigger than I am.

Know Your Measurements (Down To The Millimeter)

You might be tempted to just go with the standard measurements that you've always worn, but trust me when I say that the times are changing. Most brands now offer slim and extra-slim fits, so you're going to want to know precisely how a certain piece should fit your body.

For example, a lot of brands will offer slim and extra-slim fits for pants, but some might also have relaxed or athletic fits as well. If you're not familiar with how these things work, I would recommend going somewhere that can measure you up so that you know exactly what to look for.

Mind Your Kics!

Remember, you're the one who decides what works best for your personal style. You might be tempted to buy clothes that are too baggy or billowy just because they'll help you hide your figure, but remember that it's also about feeling confident in what you wear.

big guy wearing casual style

If something is too big, it's going to make you look bigger than you are. A great way to look put together is to dress with fitted silhouettes that will give the illusion of a sharper shape.

Don't let your Clothes have People Treat you like Kids

Even when they're not wearing baggy clothes, if your body isn't conforming to what's generally seen as age-appropriate, people are going to treat you like a kid.

You might notice that you're asked if you need help finding something in places like clothing stores. The reason is that they think you'll have trouble getting the right sizes, but this still doesn't make it fair or appropriate.

If you're sick and tired of being treated like a child, then dress in outfits that give off authority and confidence. Dress like an adult whether you're shopping or getting ready for work.

Know Your Color Blocking

Color blocking, the use of contrasting colors or patterns, is an awesome way to make your wardrobe pop. You can either combine certain colors together or mix patterns, but whatever you do, just make sure it works for your skin tone.

plus size man wearing light pink dress shirt

For example, if you're dark-skinned like me then bright colors aren't the best idea because they'll only wash you out further. Instead, I recommend looking into color blocking that uses earth tones or neutrals to bring out your natural beauty. Don't be afraid to play around with color blocking, but if you have a question about it then speak up and ask an associate or stylist.

Don't Wear Big Clothing With Big Accessories

Just because you're a bigger guy doesn't mean that you should wear an oversized shirt with equally large accessories. This is going to make you look bigger than you are.

Instead, dress with smaller accessories so that they don't overpower anything else you're wearing. Smaller accessories tend to be more sleek and elegant anyway, so this is just one of those cases where bigger isn't necessarily better.

How do you measure yourself for big and tall?

You probably know this if you've been shopping for clothes before, but it's still worth noting: Men who wear big and tall clothing tend to be taller than average and also have a larger build. However, there isn't an official sizing standard that guarantees that someone wearing a certain size will definitely be big or tall—it only indicates the body measurements at which a certain size usually fits.

Identify your body type

big man taking selfie checking his untucked dress shirt

Start by identifying your body type and what brands of big and tall clothing you'd like to start wearing. There are three common types: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. Endomorphs gain fat easily and typically have larger builds with shorter limbs. Mesomorphs are usually thick or muscular, have large bones, and have athletic builds. Ectomorphs are typically leaner individuals with small joints.

Get your measurements

tape measure big tall man size

Once you've identified your body type, it's time to take some measurements. For the shoulders, measure around the fullest part of the chest. The waist should be measured around the narrowest part of your midsection, typically above or below the belly button. This will usually be at least four inches below where you wear your pants. The hips should be measured around their widest circumference, which is usually about a half-inch to an inch larger than the waistline.

Determine what size fits you best

At this point, you should be able to locate your size on most big and tall clothing manufacturers' charts. Typically, you'll measure the same around the chest and waist as your corresponding pant size, but for other brands, you can simply locate yourself on the sizing chart.

Once you've determined what brand fits best, choose the clothes in that size. While some brands offer loose and relaxed fits, others offer a more traditional slim or tailored fit. You might need to go up or down one size depending on the brand you like best.

Know which brands to shop for

While there are many brands of big and tall clothing, not all of them carry the variety of sizes needed to fit every man. However, there are a number of brands that do offer a wide range of options to ensure your satisfaction.

Know which brands to avoid

What's worse than shopping for an item of clothing that you like only to discover that it doesn't come in your size? Shopping for an item of clothing and discovering not only that it doesn't fit, but also that you can't return it because the retailer has closed its plus-size department.

This means that before shopping for big and tall clothing, you need to know which brands are available in your size range. While some retailers have closed their plus-size departments, others have expanded them to accommodate the needs of their customers.

Know when to shop

Where many men run into trouble finding big and tall clothing, however, is by only looking for these items at the traditional places where men's clothing is sold. Unfortunately, many men's clothing retailers only stock small and medium sizes, leaving larger men to shop at women's stores or on websites that specialize in big and tall clothing.

Where to find big and tall clothes in person?

The stores that sell big and tall clothing are getting better these days, but not all are created equal.

big tall man wearing white dress shirt with black coat and pants

The store I know best is Casual Male XL, which has an extensive line of big and tall men's clothing. Their clothes start at 3XL (waist size 44-46, length 32/33) and go up to 8XL (waist 56+, length 36).

Casual Male XL clothing is quite popular with the big and tall man crowd for several reasons:

1. It's not THAT expensive. I'd say you can get a shirt or pair of pants for around $25-$35.

2. The sales are frequent but not extraordinary. For example, I got a brand-new 32/33 dress shirt for $20 during their Black Friday sale last year.

3. They have an above-average number of items available in stock at one time, with no annoying, time-wasting out-of-stocks.

4. Most importantly, I think their fit and quality are pretty good. For example, the white dress shirt I got last year is still maintaining its original shape and size with almost daily wear (and I've washed it a bunch of times).

Where to buy big and tall online?

Here are a few of my favorite big and tall clothing sites:


Sears has taken serious steps in the past few years to improve their men's clothing selection, and they're now one of the best places to buy big and tall clothing for men, as well as big and tall women's clothing.

sears online shopping big tall man

Their selection of jeans is pretty good too!

Men's Warehouse

Men's Warehouse is certainly one of the go-to stores for Big and Tall sizes. An early establishment that is a great place to shop for all, has really become synonymous with Big & Tall clothing.

This store has very good prices on big and tall menswear, especially on casual clothing like polos and jeans. They have an amazing selection of all kinds of products from dress Shirts, to Pants, to Suits. You name it, they have it!


DXL is the one stop shop to buy all the Big & Tall clothes you'd ever desire! They have a great selection of big and tall men's shoes in a variety of styles and colors, including some casual shoes that work well for the office.

This is absolutely my favorite website for buying clothes. Their selection is huge, including everything from denim jeans to dress clothes like suits and ties, plus they carry various shoe styles. They even have an in-house brand of clothes, called "Casual Male Big & Tall," that you might want to check out.

The other great thing about DXL is they really do carry all ranges of Big & Tall, all the way up to 5XL and beyond.

Bring us your questions!

Is there anything we missed you'd like answers on? If so don't hesitate to leave a comment, or drop us an email; we're here to help!

1 comment

Billy Dee Sorrells

Your description of sizes is inaccurate and will lead people who are both Big and Tall astray.
Big starts at 1XL or 1X this sizing is given more room in girth as you go up in sizes it will also be longer to accommodate for the extra fabric needed to keep your belly from hanging out. Big Sizes are meant for people 5’.6" to 6’.2"
Then we have tall sizes these have extra length but not tons of girth. These sizes are meant for people who are Tall example 1XT
Lastly we have Big and Tall sizes which are harder to find over 4XLT. They are given extra girth and extra long beyond what XL sizes offer.

Some manufacturers will try to pass off an in between 4XL sizes and up as meant for Tall people as well as Big. From personal experience being 6’.5" and having weighed between 300-425 The XL sizes meant for tall people are too short in hem and bow out to much. You end up looking like you are wearing a short tent. Not a good look. Look closely how clothing fits “average” sized people and you should attempt to have your look be similar. Tailors will try to get you to wear sleeves that are too short, hems that aren’t long enough, improperly cut suits that bunch when you move because they don’t live in the clothes you buy. But you do.

Neck sizing suggestion don’t let a short tailor size your neck they measure around the neck and you end up with a shirt that doesn’t lay right and a collar pressing into your larynx. Your neck measurement is around the stock or base of your neck and should fall where your collar bone and neck meet. This will not only give you the appropriate neck room you need without being sloppy but will allow your shirt to lay correctly down your chest.

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