Vertically Challenged


If you have a male friend or relative who falls under 5’ 8”, this is for you.

I read an article recently offering some great suggestions for the shorter man.   Even though one third of men in the United States fall under the height of 5’ 8”, we don’t see stores targeting that market.  There are numerous big and tall men shops so why don’t we see specialty shops for shorter men?  The answer in part, may be the assumption that regular clothes can be altered to fit a smaller frame.  That is easier said than done.  The proportions of regular clothing do not adapt to a smaller frame so that the tailored garment still looks out of scale.  Quite often the collar is too broad, the elbow falls too low, not to mention the scale of pockets is too large,   armholes are huge and the rear of the trousers droop.   Smaller men look even smaller if their garment appears baggy.

If you are wondering why appearance is so important for short men, take note of this statistic.  Height for a man portrays power and will earn about $600 more per year per inch in height, provided that his qualifications are equal.   Height is also an important factor in attracting a mate.  This leaves the shorter man at a definite disadvantage.

Jimmy Au has a specialty store in Beverly Hills catering to the man under 5’ 8”.  He, standing at 5’ 2”, has a selection of clothing from jeans to tuxedos.  If a man is 5’ 7”, he must go the store’s tall section.  The scale of all the garments is adjusted just enough to fit the shorter man – smaller scaled pockets, slightly narrower collars and sleeves and higher crotches.   He even offers smaller socks and shoes.

Mr. Au’s customers include a “Who’s Who” list of professions that cater to smaller statured men among which are jockeys, astronauts, and jet pilots.  His celebrity clients remain nameless but he sent a large assortment of outfits to the Grammys.

Interestingly, research has found that a man who had an early growth spurt but ended up being short will be perceived as taller than he actually is.  Conversely, a man who got his growth late will often be perceived as being shorter than he is.   Apparently, the self-perception of being tall or short appears early and carries over into adulthood.

The article told of one man from Boston, 5’ 5” tall, who discovered Mr. Au’s shop and purchased a suit, several jackets and slacks as well as casual wear.  He has subsequently placed other large orders.   He stated, “I get compliments from people who say, ‘something is different about you.’”

Taking all of this information into consideration, I would like to suggest several strategies for the shorter man.  First, if it is not in the cards for him to go shopping in Beverly Hills, he should consider having his suits and slacks custom made, making sure the tailor scales the pattern for proper fit and proportion.  Secondly, choose styles that fit closer to the body unless you are a stout build.  Suits should be one color and might even have a small, subtle, vertical stripe.   Lastly, slacks should have a trim fit without a pleat if you have a trim build.  Do not add cuffs as that breaks the vertical line.

When someone starts getting compliments like Mr. Au’s client from Boston, he will undoubtedly carry himself with more confidence and appear taller.


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