By Tim Martin
I believe our society has a warped view of what makes a man. By today’s standards, you are not a real man if aren’t rippling with muscles, possess dark hair and smoldering eyes, and perhaps most importantly, stand at least 6 feet tall. And when the average height for an American man is 5’ 9”, shorter men are overlooked, quite literally, by women as well as by their fellow men. I’m a man of 5’ 4” and I understand the challenge to style yourself in a way that doesn’t draw attention to your stature. Your clothes sag and wrinkle around you, your pant cuffs drag the ground, leaving you in a constant state of frustration. Be frustrated no more. Here are ten style tips to help you dress for your height.
1. Dress Dark
The fact is simple, bright colors create harsh focal points that cause people to focus on specific places. They make you stand out from the background, causing you to pop. They also create shadows that highlight and accent wrinkles and sag in your clothing, the tell-tale sign of ill-fitting clothes on a shorter man. By contrast, darker clothes reduce shadows and the appearance of wrinkles, giving you an overall slimming effect. And when it comes to style for the shorter man, slimmer is taller.
2. Make it Monochrome
Like bright colors, contrasting colors create harsh breaks in the wardrobe to which the eye is drawn. I’m not saying you have to wear all one color, but choosing clothes of a similar color palette causes the eye to flow over the entire ensemble, not focusing on one particular aspect. With this comes the great benefit of certain undesirable aspects; short legs, small stature, being glanced-over. Find a color palette that lends itself to your style. For example, with my rugged-esque style, I choose earth tones of browns, greens, reds, and blues that blend well together.
3. Wear ‘Em at the Waist
As a short man, I know how hard it can be to find pants that fit like they’re supposed to. A lot of men add to their anxiety by wearing low-rise pants. Most jeans are designed today to sit at the hips instead of the waist. By pulling your pants up to sit at the natural waistline, you decrease the bagginess of your jeans, making you look slimmer. When buying jeans or trousers, avoid “loose” or “relaxed.” These cuts will sit low at your hips. Try a “slim” or “classic” fit. I’m a simple man with simple taste, so when it comes to jeans, I love Levi’s. They have both classic and slim fit and have a vintage American look and feel. If you want jeans and slacks made specifically for the shorter man, check out Peter Manning NYC. Their pants are a perfect fit for the shorter style! When it comes to supporting your trousers, I recommend suspenders to belts. Suspenders provide constant support while belts tend to allow your pants to sag throughout the day.
4. Check Your Checks
When discussing patterns, it’s usually best to stick to solid patterns, but if you simply must wear plaid shirts or your favorite houndstooth jacket, remember to keep the pattern small. Normal-sized checks look fine on average or tall men, but look gigantic on smaller men. When searching for patterned apparel, it’s best to look for small or micro patterns. Also, when it comes to stripes, keep them thin and vertical. Horizontal stripes make you look wider, whereas vertical stripes have a slimming effect.
Photo by Clarks
5. Consider Your Kicks
I feel too many men overlook the importance of choosing good shoes. For a long time I never really put much thought into my shoes. I bought either black or brown. I’ve since learned that having a variety of footwear allows you to express yourself and dress appropriately for different terrains, weather, and social situations. When it comes to footwear, you want shoes that fit your style and bring out your personality. Try to choose shoes that have a thicker sole. Many shorter men make the mistake of choosing thin, flat shoes with no height to them at all. Let’s be honest, when it comes to height, we need all the help we can get. It’s also important to choose shoes that aren’t too bulky, otherwise they end up looking like clown shoes. If you’re looking for a general, all-terrain kind of shoe to start off your collection, I highly recommend Clarks Desert Boot. These classy-looking, rugged boots are perfect for a hike in the woods or a stroll down a city street. And, with a variety of colors, they go with nearly any outfit. I bought my first pair a year ago and couldn’t be happier with them.
6. Accessorize Appropriately
I’ve struggled with it too; getting that bow tie perfect so it doesn’t take up my whole shirt front, buying glasses that don’t swallow my face, choosing hats that don’t cover my eyes. If it’s tough finding the clothes that fit, it’s even more so working with simple day-to-day accessories. The thing to remember with accessories is exactly the same for patterned clothing: Keep accessories small. Spend time searching for just the right glasses that are the proper size and fit your face shape, don’t be afraid to wear child-size hats, and make sure that watch face doesn’t take up your whole wrist. The idea here is to have accessories that match your style. Remember, smaller accessories will look normal on you.
7. Straighten Your Stance
Whenever I see a male model in some clothing magazine, I’m always impressed by his ability to communicate casual nonchalance with his posture. It’s as if, with his sloped shoulders and hands-in-pockets stance leaning against a wall, he’s saying: “I don’t care about these awesome clothes I’m wearing.” And we think that if we can be as casual as model-man, we will achieve ultimate sexiness. Sadly, slouching doesn’t do short men any favors. The most effective way to make yourself appear taller is to actually stand to your full height. I’m not saying that you must be ramrod straight like some private in boot camp, but walking around with shoulders back and head high does wonders to boost your height, and your confidence. To break the habit of slouching, I recommend wearing something that will make it apparent every time you begin to droop. This is another reason why I wear suspenders. I simply stand up straight and clip them on, adjusting them to my full height. That way if I slouch at any time throughout the day, I feel the slack and I can correct my posture. I also carry my MacBook and other gear in a knapsack on my back, positioned in such a way that it is more comfortable for me to walk with correct posture. Find something that works for you and correct that slouch.
8. Banish Bulky Coats
There is almost nothing as silly-looking than a short man in a huge, bulky winter coat. He may be warm and toasty, but the thing swallows him like an anaconda. For any kind of coat, light or heavy, something dark-colored that fits your form and slims you down. There are numerous winter coats that will keep you just as warm as those padded life-jacket deals. My jacket of choice is a black, wool Pea Coat. It’s heavy without the bulk and fits my form nicely. The dark color makes me appear slimmer, and the heavy wool resists sagging and wrinkles. When buying a coat, make sure that the sleeves and hem are not too long. To measure, make sure the hem of your jacket is no longer than your finger-tip when your arms are at your sides.
9. Watch Your Weight
Remember slimmer is taller? Well that doesn’t just apply to clothes, but to your figure as well. With my short stature and broad chest and shoulders, it’s very noticeable when I gain or lose even a pound or two. I recommend Googling your height to body mass ratio to see what the appropriate weight is for a man of your height. For me, I should weigh around 125-130. This means that I try to watch what I eat and exercise at least twice a day. Talk to your doctor about healthy ways to maintain a proper weight for your height, and make the necessary lifestyle changes. Even if it’s ten push-ups twice a day and a salad for lunch, it adds up and makes a huge difference to your appearance and overall health.
10. Tailor and Tuck
The most essential tool in the short man’s arsenal is his local tailor. Getting all your clothes tailored or fitted to match your height and body type is almost essential for the man of smaller stature. Granted it does add to the cost of buying clothes, but look at it this way: you purchase a pair of Levi’s for $50 and they don’t fit right. You don’t like how short your legs look in them, so you shove them in the back of your closet and never wear them again. You’ve just wasted $50 on a dust collector. Now, let’s say you take that same pair of jeans to your local tailor and spend $50 to get them fitted. Well now you’ve spent $100 for a quality pair of pants that will last you for years to come. Not a bad bargain if you ask me. However, I understand some of us are on a budget. If you cannot afford to have your clothes fitted by a tailor, there are a few simple things you can do. Basically, tuck and roll. Don’t like how far your pant cuffs hang over your shoes? Roll them once or twice. Don’t like how far that shirt hangs down? Tuck it in. These things will raise your perceived waistline and make you appear taller and are an economical substitute for a tailor.
Please remember, the clothes don’t make the man. The tips above are just suggestions to dress in a way that maximizes your height. Find a style that fits your personality and incorporate these tips into it. Be proud of who you are, regardless of your height. Hold your head high and walk tall. Be proud and represent for men of small stature everywhere.
Top Photo: Jeremy McGree, Co-Founder of Beardbrand. Photo by Patrick Lipsker
Story Photos by Tommy Cairns
About the Author
Tim Martin enjoys folk music, walks in the woods and hickory smoked bacon. Aside from writing for Urban Beardsman Magazine, Tim maintains his own lifestyle blog for gentlemen called Vintage & Rugged. Connect with Tim on twitter: @Vintage_Rugged