Where to buy Suits, Chinos, Sweaters, and more… for the shorter crowd.
About the author: Brock is the founder and editor of The Modest Man, which he started to help men under 5’8″ dress better and feel more confident about themselves. When he’s not writing, you can find Brock practicing jiu-jitsu or making breakfast for dinner.
We live in a world (country?) of mass-manufactured, oversized clothing. Even guys who are dead average in terms of height and weight have a hard time finding stuff that fits. But it’s a nightmare for us men who are super short/tall/skinny/heavy.
I’m 5’6”/130 lbs, and believe you me: almost nothing fits properly off the rack.
Everything needs alterations, which is why waiting for sales is that much more important for us non-average men. We have to save our hard-earned cash to pay that tailor tax, you know? Over the years, I’ve found a few go-to stores with items that work for the smaller men. In no particular order, here are my all-time favorites:
Chinos: Banana Republic
I love BR chinos. They have a variety of fits, but the Aidens are my personal favorites. They’re kind of like the J. Crew 484s but with more taper below the knee. With waists and inseams starting at 28″, most should be able to get away without too much extra tailoring. Not only do these chinos fit great, but they’re always on sale, so don’t pay full retail. For those who prefer/need a little more room in the seat and legs, give the Emerson a shot.
Merino Sweaters: Express
It’s not exactly hard to find slim fit Merino wool v-neck sweaters these days, but my go-to source is Express. They’re slim. Real slim. Even the arms are nice and tapered, which is great for smaller guys. Plus they’re available down to XS, even in many brick and mortar stores, and they’re usually on sale (typically a buy-one-get-one-half-off sort of deal). Express doesn’t make the highest quality stuff, but their sweaters do seem to keep their shape and hold up nicely (compared to, say, H&M).
Shoes & Boots: Allen Edmonds
I’m not saying that all short men have small feet (joke, anyone?), but my non-scientific, completely anecdotal research suggests a positive correlation between height and foot size. Me? I wear a US 7 in most brands. And I die a little inside everytime I discover a cool new boutique shoemaker that doesn’t produce anything below size 8.
Allen Edmonds is one of the few shoe companies that sells high quality, but still affordable (if only once or twice a year) dress shoes in smaller sizes. And for that, I commend them. AE offers most of their collection down to size 7 (even the Dalton as seen above). They usually carry around 40 styles in size 6, and they even stock some casual styles in size 5. They also take custom orders for extra small sizes that aren’t regularly manufactured (for an extra $75).
Button Up Shirts: Peter Manning
Peter Manning shirts are the only off the rack button ups I’ve ever worn that didn’t need alterations. That’s because they are made specifically for men 5’8” and under. There are only a handful of clothing companies focusing on shorter men, and Peter Manning is one of them. They make classic American sportswear – sweaters, chinos, jeans, polos, button ups, etc. They aren’t the cheapest option, but hey, think of all the money you’re saving on alterations. They only have one showroom (in Brooklyn), but shipping and returns are free in the U.S., so you can try them out risk free.
ASOS carries a bunch of different brands, but I’m talking about their house brand (aptly named “ASOS”). They offer several cuts/lengths for shorts, my favorite being the mid-length “skinny” chino short. They’re the only shorts I’ve found that have enough taper for my slim legs (substantially slimmer than J. Crew Stantons). I know what you’re thinking: “Does this guy even lift?” Well,maybe I should hit the squat rack. But for now I’m going to double up on my ASOS chino shorts while they’re on sale.
For the most part, socks are two-sizes-fit-all, which sucks if you have small feet. Most dress socks that “fit shoe size 8-12” are too big for anyone with smaller than average feet. The heel sits up near your ankle, and “over the calf” pretty much means “over the knee”. It took some serious hunting, but I found some great socks for small feet. Whatever your budget, there are options. My favorite happens to be one of the most affordable options – Viccel. Based in Turkey, this online sock maker offers socks in pretty much any combination of material/color/size you could imagine. Their website looks like it was created by a middle school computer science class, circa 1994, but I promise they’re legit.
Suits & Dress Shirts: Made to Measure
When it comes to fit, my best shirts and suits are made-to-measure. Simple as that. Online MTM isn’t for everyone, and it’s a process riddled with pitfalls. But once you nail down your measurements and build a relationship with a good MTM company, you won’t go back. Thing is, I could buy Charles Tyrwhitt or J. Crew shirts on sale and get them altered, but it ends up costing the same or more as a decent made-to-measure shirt plus a trip to the tailor. For me, MTM is the way to go. If you’re sick of having all of your dress shirts tailored, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
There are many made-to-measure companies and plenty of reviews for each of them, so do your homework before committing to one. For suits, my go-to is Dragon Inside. They offer full construction at a relatively affordable price. More importantly, they actually look at your self-submitted measurements and let you know if they recommend any adjustments. This kind of dedication and customer support is crucial for getting made-to-measure right.
It doesn’t get much more basic than the t-shirt. But even with the basics, fit matters, and short men have once again been short shrifted. Until now. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Threadmason has created a proprietary sizing system to the king of clothing staples, the solid tee. This system allows for different shirt lengths, which solves a huge problem for shorter men. You may not know this, but the vast majority of shirts are too long for men under 5’8”. I’m 5’6”, and almost every t-shirt I’ve ever worn has been at least two inches too long. I bought a Threadmason tee during their Kickstarter campaign, and it’s the best t-shirt I own, hands down. One of the more expensive too, but worth it to me. Full review right here. UPDATE: Looks like these guys are no longer in business. Dang.
Anything else? Now that Brock has shared some of his favorite clothes for svelte gents, make any additions you might have in the comments. For more from TheModestMan, head to the website, or like them on Facebook.