Being the short guy can be tough. Trouser legs always need altering, shirt sleeves are often inches too long, and the typical winter scarf wrapped snugly around the neck tends to look more like a python constricting its prey than a luxury item to keep oneself warm.
But some of the most well-dressed, best-looking men were, and are, short: think James Dean, Marlon Brando, Nick Wooster and Daniel Craig. And then there’s those feel-good sayings “Good things come in small packages” et cetera, that have done a good job and making short people feel ‘tall’.
However, the model heights of the fashion world make it hard for the short guy to ‘reach’ his full potential in the style stakes. So, we’re here to give you a much need leg-up.
In this story…
Breaking It Down
The golden rule for shorter guy dressing is to take attention away from your small stature. This means, minimising unnecessary details and hang-ups on your outfit and creating an overall stylish look. Think streamline; limiting pockets on coats and shirts and big accessories, like watches and ties. That way an onlooker can scan your body from top to bottom, and not get caught on a ‘busy’ detail or something that ‘cuts’ your look in half. Let’s take a like at five key tricks to dressing as the shorter guy.
In the vein of toning down visual busyness, monochromatic or a loosely tonal colour scheme assists in creating a streamline look. Bold colour-blocking is not an option for the shorter guy, as it literally cuts your body in two – accentuating either your stumpy legs or short torso (or both). Dark tones (navy, black, charcoal) are even better when thinking ‘monochrome’, adding to the appearance of blended height as the dark hues run up from your shoe to collar.
When wearing colour or two-tone, the shorter guy needs to keep the colour and light shades up top. In maintaining a vertical line – from toe to head – mix light and bright shirts with black or navy bottoms. We like navy with white and dark grey with red. And experiment with colours – but in darker hues – like marsala, plum, mustard and olive.
Accessories are your chance to splash colour on a duller-hued look (think pocket square and necktie but avoid long scarves). Finally, matching your trouser colour with the colour of your shoe is a visual trick; it blends the two together – preventing your legs from looking cut-off, and therefore, they look longer.
Vertical Lines & Textures
Typically associated with ‘slimming’ for the larger gent, vertical stripes are the shorter guy’s print, too. Unlike horizontal stripes, which ‘flatten’ or widen the torso, patterns that run vertically make you seem taller because the eye wants to follow the lines – from the waist to the shoulder line. Keep the stripes narrow, like a pins-width for suits, or slightly more candy-striped for casual shirts and pants.
Corduroy, a cloth with textural lines in vertical streams, offers the same effect. So too do herringbone weaves and tweed. Overall, the fabrics that you choose should be flatter, less densely woven options, going for mohair wool, cashmere, cotton and linen. Denim is another great option, especially for jackets and shirts.
Adjust The Shirt
Shirt length calls for a touch of sartorial rebellion from the shorter guy. Forgot the rules governing the sleeve-length-to-jacket-cuff ratios – you need to look good. The shirt cuff should remain on show under your suit jacket or blazer, like usual but aim for a quarter of an inch cuff-show and no more. This adds to the illusion of your arms being normal size in proportion to your jacket.
For smart casual shirting (without blazer or jacket) go for the shirt tucked in to slim fit jeans, chinos or trousers. This will stop the length of the shirt falling too far past your waist. Keeping the shirt collar unbuttoned will create a suave, Euro look and opting for no belt creates additional casualness, as well as visual length to the trousers.
As with all body types, a made-to-measure suit is key for the shorter gent. The length of your jacket needs to cut past the pant line but across the top of the butt. Keep the jacket shoulders sharp and a snug fit, maximising flatness as the jacket is buttoned-up across the front.
Trousers should be work higher on the hips to accentuate the length of the legs. Go without pleats and avoid trouser turn-ups, which destroy the vertical leg break and create a stumpy look.
Key Shorter Guy Fashion Items
Avoid double-breasted or three-button suits, leaning toward one or two button jackets. Search out jackets with pockets are that aren’t too spaced out, helping centralise and lengthen your torso. Shawl and notch are your key lapel selections, keeping them narrow.
Bomber, biker and racer jackets are perfect shorter guy outerwear for their naturally cropped length. Be sure to keep the fit snug, and the metal hardware and pockets minimal. Mac and trench coats are your best ‘long’ coats, compared to military overcoats, which may engulf your frame.
Opt for shirts with collars with shorter points that aim downward – like the English spread, snap-tab or cutaway – are best. Stay away from spread collars of more than 120 degrees and collar points of more than 2.5 inches. Tees need to be slim-fit and cut at the belt-line – never longline or oversized. Try a rollneck sweater to elongate the neck from the shoulders.
Cropped trousers are very on trend and should be part of the shorter guy wardrobe. Otherwise, look for a ‘short’ or ‘S’ leg trouser when buying separates off the rack. Shorts are key bottoms, too – avoiding chunky, pocket and anything ‘cargo’. Three-quarter pants are banished.
Stick to slim-fit as your safest bet. Feel free to turn-up the cuff for a cropped effect but don’t over roll-it as it will accentuate your short legs. No socks are a good look to break up the denim between the shoes.
One way to elevate your stature is by wearing height-increasing footwear such as thicker insoles and shoes with thicker soles. You can use lifts or elevator soles too, which easily slip into your shoe. Whatever you do, avoid man-heel shoes, like the Cuban. It instantly says “I have a problem with being short”.
Dressing for your shorter guy body isn’t about over-compensating for the fact you aren’t as tall as your colleagues or mates. You’re short, but you’re still a dapper gent. With a few fashion adjustments, the few inches still lacking are then made up by your confidence and assertiveness in dress.