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.

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23 Responses

  1. Nick on

    Great article. I’m a shorty, and my biggest issue is shirts where the sleeves are too long. For my next business shirt purchase, I’m going to give TM Lewin a try, which does adjustable sleeve lengths. Suit jackets are the same – It’s always worth getting a good tailor to adjust the sleeve length (and typically they also need to adjust the jacket length as well). Not cheap – but there are plenty of good online deals for suits. Where you save money there, you’ll need to spend it on tailoring.

    • Brock on

      Nick – so true. Some of the online MTM shops (like Indochino) will actually give you some cash toward local tailoring. So rather than send your suit back for adjustments, you can have a local tailor fix it up.

      Either way, ordering online usually involves some trial and error, but it’s well worth it once you figure out your size and the right vendors.

      -B

  2. Doug on

    I’m a bit on the short site as well but my main problem is my shoulders. It’s been hard to find shirts that will fit my wide shoulders without the rest of the shirt looking like a tent on me, just have to be patient.

    • Brock on

      Yeah…shoulders are tough. And they have to fit well off the rack because there’s not much a tailor can do. For tee shirts, I just found this company called Shortees that you might want to try.

      For other clothes, there’s a new line called Peter Manning. They’re actually sending me some clothes, so check The Modest Man in a couple of weeks for an interview with Peter and my review of their shirts, chinos, etc.

      -B

  3. Gus on

    My god, good man. You do adress every problem that I encounter.
    Thanks for another great article, I wasn’t expecting this, haha.

  4. larry ramirez on

    I agree with all the tips, in fact, I’m in the process of implementing the first two. For me, it’s been a process determining what works best for me and I’ve come to the conclusion that fitted looks best, which is essentially what you’re saying. Kinda makes me wish there were blogs like this growing up.

    • Brock on

      I agree…fitted is the way to go. For anyone, really, but especially shorter men. I wish there were blogs like this when I was younger too. I really didn’t dress well until a couple of years ago, in my mid-twenties. Even right after college when I was in an entry-level professional environment, my sense of style was awful. It’s a process. If you’re here, you’re already way ahead of the game.

      -B

  5. buddycasino on

    Thanks for that one!
    Now all we need is something for us slim tall guys – I’m 6’3″/ 191cm with a 40″ chest, and I can tell you that sucks sometimes.

    • Brock on

      I haven’t tried them yet, but a fellow DC guy started a line of dress shirts for slim/athletic builds. It’s called Hugh + Crye. Check em out (or just order some 5&B of course…).

      • buddycasino on

        Thanks for the hint, but unfortunately I’m german. I like the american basics a lot (e.g. J.Crew), but most of the stuff doesn’t fit me right because of my size.

  6. Jack on

    Hi Brock, thanks for the article. I have a question though: I am a short man, do you recommend I should wear fitted tops (dress shirts, sweaters) which will make me look small or wear tops that have rooms so that I will appear not small and/or short? Thanks

    • Brock on

      Hey Jack – Thanks for reading. Definitely go with fitted. Baggy, roomy clothes won’t fool anyone. Remember, the goal is not to try and look bigger. You can’t change your height. The goal is to flatter your body type, and the best way to do that is by wearing clothes that fit well.

      -B

  7. Josh on

    Great post. I’m 5’3″ myself (so seriously short) and it’s always so difficult finding clothes. They either seem to be made for 6’5 bodybuilders or men that are so skinny, I can’t even comprehend it!

  8. Joel on

    Great article! Everything is spot on. If I were to add one thing…look for a really good tailor. Do some research in your area and get some reviews. Yelping might help. I live in San Francisco and I’ve known my tailor for 6 years now and he’s amazing. You won’t regret it!

    • Turtlenewz on

      May I ask what is the name of your tailor and where he is located , U am in need of a good tailor in san francisco

  9. Nick on

    I think its ironic that many shorter men find it hard to find clothes. I myself am 6’6” and I find it absolutely impossible at times to find anything. I feel it is easier if you are shorter. At least you can get your clothes altered for your size. When you are my size there are no alterations available. I also where size 16 shoe. Most shoes (good shoes, stylish shoes) goes up to a 13. I wish I could afford to start my own business where I could tailor to the shorter and taller gentleman. I feel all of your pain. Just on the other side.

    Josh you may assume most clothes seem to be made for 6’5” bodybuilders but believe me they are not.

    • Barron on

      Hey Nick, so out of curiosity, where do you currently shop if you had to? Also, have you looked into the big/tall sizes of your favorite brands to see if they make your size?

  10. Rachel on

    My husband is 5’5″ with a very muscular/stocky build. His problem is always finding jeans that actually fit him. His thighs never match up to his waist size so he always has to go with something much baggier than is flattering on him just so he can move his legs. Does anyone have any suggestions on brands or where he might go?

  11. Mike Rodriguez on

    Hello,

    Thanks for the article.

    HAHA “department store brand thinks that we have ape arms” Yeah! that’s why I pay a tailor for “Made to Measure” Shirts and I just love them. They fit me perfectly and I may say that they have better quality.

  12. wildejamey on

    Great prices for hemming in the US but you are also worse off on price here in London UK – recent quotes (inc original hem) around £25 (around $38-40!) One point also on straight leg jeans, I find if you are slim, the openings (usually 8″) are too wide – slight tapering seems worthwhile.