Five Tips on Dressing to Flatter the Short(er) Body Type

June 28, 2012 · 19 comments

in Apparel, Classic, Tips

The following is a guest article from Brock McGoff of The Modest Man.

The average height of the American male is just above 5’9”, which means there are over 80 million men who might be considered “short” in the United States alone. At 5’6”, I’m one of them, and I can tell you from personal experience how hard it is to find clothes that fit well off the rack.

The problem is, clothes are initially designed for the most popular body type – average height, weight and build. They are sized up and down, but the proportions aren’t adjusted, so shorter gentlemen (along with our big and tall friends) get screwed.

On top of that, like anyone, short guys have unique body types. Maybe you have short legs and a long torso. Perhaps you are an athlete with wide shoulders and long arms. Whatever the case may be, finding the right clothes can be a hassle.

If you search the web for advice about this, you’ll find a handful of articles about “how to dress taller”. While a couple of these are very good (Art of Manliness, Real Men Real Style, Style Blogger), I take issue with the very idea.

You don’t need to dress “taller”. The goal shouldn’t be to stack up as many imaginary inches as possible. Instead—and this goes for men of any height—you should dress to flatter your body type.

So, before you go out and buy platform shoes and a pinstripe suit, here are five simple pieces of advice for men of modest height:

1. Get your pants hemmed

If there was only one piece of advice I could give you, it would be to get every pair of pants adjusted to the appropriate length. It’s all about how and where your pants “break”, and different types of pants require different breaks. For specifics, check out the EG post about this.

The good news is that this is the easiest and cheapest alteration you can make. Most dry cleaners will hem your pants for $10-25. Just make sure to ask them to keep the original hem, especially on jeans.

2. Buy “Made to Measure” Shirts

One of the most common clothing complaints I hear from shorter guys has to do with long-sleeved shirts. I don’t know why every department store brand thinks that we have ape arms, but it seems impossible to find a dress shirt that doesn’t go past the hands and billow at the waist.

Certain stores are better. I’ve had some success at Banana Republic, for example. But if you buy your button down shirts off the rack, you are probably used to rolling your sleeves up.

Recently, I started ordering all of my dress shirts from online custom shirt makers. There are a bunch of them, and you can get MTM shirts starting at $50 each. It is SO worth it. If you are skeptical, just try it. I guarantee you won’t go back.

3. Get Your Jeans Right

Don’t settle for sub-par jeans. They’re the most versatile and timeless part of your wardrobe. Buying jeans for short men isn’t too hard…just stick to these basic principles:

  • Jeans should be form-fitting. Not baggy (you’ll look like a teenager) but not skinny (you’ll look like a…teenager). Straight leg jeans are your best bet.
  • Bootcut jeans are great for short men. They add some shape to your silhouette without being baggy.
  • When trying on jeans, pay attention to the rise, not the length. If they feel good in the seat and thigh but are a couple of inches too long, buy them. You can have them hemmed for a modest fee.
  • Go dark. If you’re an EG reader, you already know how important a great pair of dark wash jeans is. Listen to Barron on this one!

4. Accessorize, Tastefully

When it comes to accessories like watches, pocket squares and jewelry, it’s all about proportion. If you have short arms and thin wrists, a giant watch is only going to make them look shorter and thinner. If you are short and stout, a skinny tie is will only make you look, uh, stout-er.

In general, you’ll want to keep accessories small and narrow (unless you happen to be a very wide man). Slim ties work wonders for your figure. Same goes for narrow lapels with high cut gorges and belts.

Keep it simple and understated. Be intentional.

5. Avoid Heightening Shoes

Stay away from any shoes that are created for the sole purpose of adding a couple of inches to your stance. If you ask any woman what she notices first about your getup, she will most likely tell you that it’s your shoes. So don’t buy them for height. Buy them for looks and comfort.

Now, if a great pair of shoes happens to have a thick sole that gives you a modest vertical boost, great! But don’t ever pass on a pair because of its thin sole.

Look for high quality shoes that aren’t too pointy or boxy. Wingtips and boat shoes are always a safe bet. Be honest about your size and never size up due to insecurity or lack of availability. If you find the perfect shoe but need a 7.5 instead of an 8, go home and order it online.

Summing Up

Men, if you follow these five tips, you will be heads and shoulders above most guys in terms of style. When you look good, you feel good. Never forget that so much of your personal presentation is about confidence and attitude.

Will these tips help you? Have any questions for Brock? Ask away in the comments below.

About

Brock is the founder of The Modest Man and the author of Short Man Style. You should Join his newsletter for more tips on how shorter gents can dress better by finding clothes that fit.

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