In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to dress if you’re a shorter gentleman and we’re going to cover tips, tricks, and recommendations for making sure you look great.
As a man who is 5’6”, I can relate to the issues we’re going to focus on. I’ve tested the trends, networked with the experts and we’ve come up with ways to combat the issues that plague vertically challenged men each and every day.
Why It Matters
The fact of the matter is that clothes were not designed for men under 5’8”. If you fall in this category, chances are you have had to get a little creative when shopping for clothes. Unfortunately, not every man has the bankroll to finance a wardrobe that consists exclusively of bespoke and made-to-measure clothing. For the vast majority of men, shopping off the rack is the least expensive option. Or is it?
The fact is that unless you’re built for the runway, the designs you’ll find OTR (off-the-rack), aren’t going to fit without at least a little tailoring. For shorter men, especially those who aren’t “in shape,” but are “a shape,” the cost of having alterations completed combined with the price tag of the item can often be far higher than having a MTM (made-to-measure) shirt or a pair of trousers made for you. That’s before we even take into account that most OTR clothing is fast fashion and likely won’t last more than a season or two before being replaced. At Gentleman’s Gazette, long-term value always trumps short term gain. That’s why we focus on classic menswear that can be worn 5, 10, or even 30 years from now. Considering there are more than 30 million men under 5’8” in the U.S. alone, we find it shocking that unlike “Big and Tall” stores, there aren’t many “Short and Small” ones.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the list of some menswear companies catering to shorter gents, but we’ll also talk about tips and tricks for making clothes work for your body type and size.
Definition of Short(er)
Everyone has a definition of what they deem short or shorter. Some men who are 5’10” complain about being short when guys who are 5’5” hanker for those few extra inches. In this guide, we’re defining shorter men as gentlemen who are under 5’8” but over 5’0”. While some of the information in here will work for men who are taller or shorter than those heights, the tips and tricks we list below are specifically designed for that 8-inch range.
Off The Rack Clothing
Off-the-rack clothing, or OTR is generally the least expensive and easily procured clothing for most men in North America and Europe.
Where to Shop
Most brick and mortar stores don’t cater to shorter men. Purchasing clothing at these stores will mean higher alteration costs and the increased chance it still won’t work. However, there are some brands that do focus on shorter men and we recommend the following:
Silas Jackson is a relatively new brand that focuses exclusively on clothing for men under 5’8” tall. Their philosophy is a cliché, but accurate in that any good business solves a real problem. With shirts starting at under $30, Silas Jackson has solved the issue we often complain about. “Why are we spending the same price on less fabric as larger men have to spend on more?”
While we haven’t personally tested the clothing from Silas Jackson, Brock McGoff at The Modest Man stands behind the brand, and as an authority in the field of short men’s style, we trust his opinion.
For more information on the brand, be sure to check out McGoff’s article here.
Peter Manning NYC
With prices slightly higher than Silas Jackson, Peter Manning is another micro brand that specializes in designing and manufacturing clothes for shorter men. The fit is everything, and they’ve mastered the ability to cater to a specific demographic that has long relied on tailors to modify clothing. At Peter Manning, their apparel is made with a shorter body length and factors in the length of arms and legs as well. Sleeves are narrower to combat billowing, and even collars and cuffs are pre-altered to flatter a shorter gent. When it comes to trousers, all of them are made with a 26-30” inseam with a modest rise and proper ankle opening for shorter men. Just these alterations alone can cost close to a hundred dollars depending on who your tailor is. The higher price tag will still save you money since you won’t need to worry about as many alterations. In other words, your tailor may have to find someone else to pay for his kid’s braces and college tuition next year.
Be sure to check out the Peter Manning website to see their latest collection.
Fort Belvedere – Ties For Short men
Most ties on the market are either made for men of regular height or for taller men. Fort Belvedere recognizes that short men should be able to buy nice ties that are proportional to their body types and therefore all ties that come in regular length are also available in a version for men 5’8″ or shorter. This is probably one of the largest assortments of short quality ties you’ll find anywhere!
With a slimmer width of 7cm / 2.75″ these ties are perfect for men with a smaller frame and because they are shorter, you can now tie a normal four-in-hand knot and get a proper tie length rather than having to go with a double Windsor knot, which is too large for most men’s heads.
Jimmy Au’s For Men 5’8″ and Under is the original store for shorter men. They operate a 3200sf showroom in Beverly Hills with the largest selection of clothing for shorter men in the United States. They realized a long time ago that most designers focused on men between 5’10” and 6’0”. What began as a custom clothier out of the trunk of car blossomed into the largest store in the nation because they didn’t think of shorter men as an aftermarket. But as the market. If you’re looking for well-made clothing off-the-rack, Jimmy Au’s is our top pick.
Many of their items can be found on the Jimmy Au website if you’re not in Beverly Hills.
Ash & Anvil
Ash & Anvil is another great OTR clothier for shorter gentlemen. Specializing exclusively in shirts – which can be the most difficult item for short men to find – Ash & Anvil makes a wide selection of shirts that are reasonably well priced.
Designed with colors and patterns that complement smaller men, these casual shirts are ideal for men under 5’8”.
You can purchase their shirts online at the Ash & Anvil website.
What to Look For
The biggest thing to focus on when buying clothes is not to dress short, but to dress proportionally for your figure. Whenever you’re buying clothing off-the-rack in the hopes it won’t require a ton of tailoring, you’re going to want to focus on a few key things:
Everyone talks about fit. We talk about it all the time. Whether you’re short, slim, tall, broad, husky or obese, proper fit is what will make you look great. It also has the ability to make you look terrible. If an item doesn’t fit correctly – which it likely won’t – try to view it through the eyes of your tailor.
- Does it need to be taken in more than a couple of inches?
- Do you need something more than a full size smaller?
- Are the sleeves puffed out like a pirate?
- Is it too baggy? Can it be reigned in through existing darts?
These are all factors that play into whether your tailor can successfully take in the item. The last thing you want is to spend $100 on a shirt, another $100 on tailoring, only to find out your tailor couldn’t do the job and now you can’t return the shirt.
Patterns and Colors
As a shorter man, you want to focus on dressing so you look proportional. This doesn’t mean you have a lack of confidence. It just says “Look, I know I’m short. I’m cool with that. But I don’t need to advertise it.”
Dressing taller isn’t about looking tall. It’s about not looking short. It’s, so people look at you and think ‘wow, look how rakish that guy is,’ rather than ‘wow, look how short that guy is’.
Sticking to monochromatic colors or patterns that move vertically will force people to look up. It encourages them to move up your body rather than across it which happens with horizontal stripes or down. If you’re wearing a striped shirt, focus on shirts with thin stripes close together that don’t create dead space. This is easy for shirts, but pants can be slightly more challenging. Thankfully, in cooler climates, we can opt for corduroy or a herringbone pattern which helps to elongate the body.
Keep it Simple
Busy and vivid shirts, accessories, suits and other apparel will only make you look shorter. Instead, focus on a clean and simple appearance. Use accessories like a pocket square or boutonniere to add sprezzatura, rather than a patterned tie or bold shirt. When it comes to your trousers, focus on sleek looks. Flat fronts over pleats, a simple hem over a cuff. Of course, this is based on what you’re wearing. If you happen to have a penchant for double-breasted suits, you will want to stick with the rules of style and opt for a pair of cuffed trousers.
If you’re buying clothing off-the-rack, you will need alterations. There are few exceptions to that rule. We have never met a man who walks out of the store in a suit that fits perfectly.
When it comes to shirts, the fact is you can find made to measure shirts for around the same price as an OTR shirt. Furthermore, you’ll spend less on a MTM shirt because you won’t need to have it altered. Always buy made-to-measure or bespoke whenever possible.
As far as trousers go, focus on the inseam and the rise. The inseam is fairly easy to alter, and a good tailor will be able to tell you exactly where to cut it off. As far as the rise goes, that can be a challenge. Most OTR rises are between 7-12” with the average being on the higher end which doesn’t work for most men under 5’8”. Instead, focus on a short rise no more than 10”. One big tip is always to make sure the merchant offers returns and take the item directly to your tailor, not for alterations, but to find out if it’s worth having it altered or you’re better off returning it.
When it comes to suits, we recommend buying separates if made-to-measure or bespoke isn’t an option. Buying separates gives you more options when it comes to fit and style. You may find that you’re better off with a Donegal tweed blazer instead of a suit that may not be the perfect fit. Paired with a great trouser, a blazer may not be as formal, but will look better if it fits better.
Made-to-measure clothing is our top recommendation for men with tighter budgets. You may think it’s too expensive, but once you factor in the cost of alterations on OTR clothes, you’ll likely find that MTM is actually less expensive.
When it comes to MTM clothiers, there is a wide range of quality and talent, more than with any other fashion sub-industry. You can find a great suit at MyTailor made from fine Italian wool, or you can find a poorly constructed, bargain-bin MTM suit from a company like Eph Apparel in Canada. We recently received a shirt from MTailor which was featured on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. It was one of the worst quality MTM garments we’ve ever seen.
That’s the big issue with Made-to-Measure. There is a huge range in quality and craftsmanship which only gets more difficult to guarantee for shorter men who the tailors may not be familiar with fitting.
We recommend the following companies if you’re looking for clothing that is the same or better quality than off-the-rack, with a fit that will likely not require a ton of alterations.
Here are some tips for a perfect fit:
Precision is critical when sending your measurements to a MTM company. Although you may think you have your measurements, be sure to read the individual company’s fit guide as many have unique or different ways of measuring your size. Then, measure twice before they cut once. Have someone help measure you and do it a few more times if you come up with different numbers. Being precise is vital.
This also means measuring both arms and both legs. Most men will have one that’s slightly shorter or wider than the other. As an example, the bicep on the dominant arm is usually larger than the other because that arm receives more activity on a daily basis.
Don’t Accept Anything Less Than Perfection
This is made-to-measure. If it doesn’t fit, send it back. Be sure to work with a clothier that accepts returns and pays for the return shipping. Any quality MTM company will offer free alterations for an imperfect fit.
Buy Quality, Not Quantity
The quality of the material used by MTM clothiers is diverse, to say the least. Just because they say their suits are made of 100% wool or their shirts from 100% cotton doesn’t mean that all wool or all cotton are considered equal. If the brand isn’t willing to disclose who they buy their fabric from, there is likely a reason. Most of the clothiers who use premium fabrics are all but too happy to tell you they buy from Albini or Luciano Barbera. Without asking questions, you won’t get answers.
Send in a Picture
One tip, especially when buying online, is to send in pictures with your order. Have someone take a full-length photo of you standing against a blank backdrop or wall from the front, the back and both sides. In it, wear slim-fitting clothing such as underwear and an undershirt so the company can see your body type.
Odd Body Types
One of the biggest misconceptions is that just because you’re short doesn’t mean you’re slim. Even the companies that specialize in clothing for not-so-tall gentlemen often forget to think about men with odd body types. Men like Danny DeVito or myself for example. Men with a bit of a belly.
For many shorter men, this is a forgotten component of the shopping experience. We get so focused on buying for our height, that we forget to focus on width. If you’re not slim and you do have an odd body shape, be sure to explain that to your clothier and to ensure they can accommodate. Most MTM clothiers will be able to, but often they don’t get to meet you in person, and so it’s important to paint them a visual, so they don’t go off the measurements alone.
Never expect MTM clothing to fit perfectly. If it were this easy, bespoke tailoring wouldn’t require so many fittings. It’s important to factor in the cost of final alterations when purchasing MTM clothes. It should never be close to the cost of buying off-the-rack, but you should make a habit to take every clothing purchase directly to your tailor for expert review. They will be able to tell you whether you need an adjustment or if it’s something that should just be sent back.
If the cost of alterations for a MTM purchase exceed 20% of the total bill send it back and get a refund or have the clothier incur the cost of the alterations.
If you have the budget, go bespoke. There is no better option for shorter men or any man for that matter. The key with bespoke is to select a tailor who is qualified. On a recent trip to local tailors – none of whom were qualified – I asked a dozen if they could create a bespoke suit for me. A handful of them said yes, another few didn’t know what ‘bespoke’ meant but then said yes after I explained it. The rest said they could send it away. There wasn’t a hope in hell I was going to pay them for it. I would have been better off buying a suit from Sears.
Dos and Donts of Being Short
- DO focus on fit.
- DO wear streamlined outfits that elongate your body.
- DO wear vertical stripes that are thin such as candy stripes over bengal.
- DO wear slim jewelry such as ultra-thin timepieces, slim rings, etc.
- DO wear classic shoes or add heel lifts for height.
- DO be confident. A well dressed shorter man will always look better than a well-built man who’s 6’0” in ill-fitting clothing.
- DON’T just wear something off the rack without having it tailored.
- DON’T wear bold patterns that create breaks.
- DON’T wear horizontal stripes.
- DON’T wear large accessories such as bold watches, necklaces or rings.
- DON’T wear bold shoes or elevator shoes.
- DON’T be ashamed of being short. 1/3 of the male population is under 5’8”.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this primer on how to dress if you’re shorter. We would like to thank Brock McGoff at The Modest Man for allowing us to use his images. Are you a shorter man? What are your tips? Don’t forget to send us a picture in your favorite outfit. It may just be featured in a future article or on our Facebook page.