We’ve already looked at clothes for tall, skinny men on this blog, but what about their counterparts on the short end of the bell curve?
A lot of clothing specifically marketed as “for shorter men” seems to focus on adding inches, or at least pretending to, which kind of seems to miss the whole “flattering your body” part of dressing up.
So we took a look around, thought about styles, drew on the excellent men’s style guide over at A Tailored Suit, and put together a few basic guidelines for being short, skinny, and stylish all at once:
What to Look For in Clothing for Short Men
For the most part, forget about things that promise to add physical size. Thick-heeled shoes or super-padded jacket shoulders don’t make you look stylish, they make you look like you’re embarrassed about being short.
Relaxed confidence is what style is all about, and cheating for every spare half-inch or extra pound is the opposite of relaxed.
Instead, look for clothing that adds the impression of height with clean, unbroken vertical lines. Breadth can be added to the body without losing the impression of height by wearing heavier fabrics, wide V-shapes on the front of the body (more on that later), and careful layering.
Anything that incorporates bold patterns or strong horizontal lines is right out — these will simply stop the eye in its path up your frame and create a squat appearance rather than a balanced one.
Pants of the Well-Dressed Short Man
Good trouser selection goes a lot further than shoe lifts in adding height to a man. Look for a good fit that doesn’t have too much sag in the crotch or thighs.
A little looseness below the knees can help add some weight to your appearance, but bagginess above it will draw the eye and look clownish.
Reduce details to make the trousers seem smoother and unbroken: cuffs add no real practical function and shorten the impression of your legs, and pleats are designed to add flexibility that a slender-framed man doesn’t really need. Omit both for a cleaner, crisper visual impression on your lower body.
If you can go without a belt by adding suspenders, go for it — a belt makes a broad horizontal band that cuts your height cleanly in half, while loopless slacks held up by suspenders encourage the eye to keep right on traveling upward. They also fit a touch looser on the waist while maintaining a clean drape, giving you a broader front without any unsightly billowing or bulging.
The Upper Body, Short and Skinny
Above the waist things get trickier. A dressed-down, jacketless look needs a close fit in the shoulders and a little looseness around the ribs to keep from making you look emaciated.
A loose shirt will flap around your body and a tight one will give you a kind of skeletal look, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for error when there’s only one piece of clothing involved.
Adding some layers is great when the weather and social situation allows. Cabled sweaters add vertical lines and significant breadth, making them a great cold-weather choice (they’re flexible, too — dark slacks dress them up to church-going formality; blue jeans make them at home somewhere as informal as a college classroom).
If you’re in a situation that warrants one, a sport coat or suit is a short man’s friend. A single-breasted jacket with low buttons makes a deep “V” across the chest, giving the viewer an “upward and outward” impression of your frame.
Adding peaked lapels to the jacket encourages this impression even further, and adds a bit of flair as well. The shoulders of the jacket can be padded to add a bit of bulk, as well.
Ties should be on the skinny side, to avoid hiding too much of your chest, and should avoid extremely bright and vibrant patterns that will catch the eye and hold it. Simple, dark colors or and very minimal, vertically-oriented patterning is best here, just as anywhere else.
Try to avoid a big, bulky knot at the neck — a simple half-Windsor, tightened down carefully, will keep your tie from looking too big for your neck and face.
Simple, dark colors or and very minimal, vertically-oriented patterning is best here, just as anywhere else. Try to avoid a big, bulky knot at the neck — a simple half-Windsor, tightened down carefully, will keep your tie from looking too big for your neck and face.
A hat to top the outfit off adds a few inches, but choose something with a pointed crown to complete the upward impression of your body. Flat or lowly rounded hats (porkpies, bowlers/derbies, etc.) provide too much of a topping effect to serve you well.
Bad Styles for Short and Skinny
There’s not much that a short and slender man can’t wear, as long as he’s careful about fit and visual elements. The real cardinal sin is a loose fit — baggy clothes will look like they’re swallowing you. Nothing looks worse than a man being overpowered by his own clothing. Keep things mostly close to the body (though a bit of looseness around the lower legs or the forearms is fine, and adds a little size to your visual impression).
At the same time, avoid anything that hugs so tight you can see the definition of your body through it, especially when wearing unlayered outfits. Keep the patterned elements to a minimum and especially avoid anything with strong horizontal striping or gridding.
Outside of those key areas, the world’s your oyster. Dress with confidence, and you’ll add more presence than anything that promises to increase your size by adding inches and half-inches here and there.