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The Compass  /  Flawless FitStyle  /  The Flawless Fit Series: What to Look for in Suits for Short Men

The Flawless Fit Series: What to Look for in Suits for Short Men

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Many years ago a 5’8” black man in a suit told Americans about having a dream for a better country. He dreamed of a level playing field for all people. Millions who had suffered from discrimination saw hope for a new day when one’s prospects were not limited by one’s physical characteristics. The words he spoke that day still echo in the hearts and minds of many who shared his dream.

We’re talking, of course, about the rapper Skee-Lo. (What…you thought we were talking about Martin Luther King Jr.? Sorry but check the facts, MLK was only 5’7”.) At the beginning of the video for his 1995 hit single “I Wish” Skee-Lo appeared sitting on a park bench in a light gray suit ala Forrest Gump. For those who don’t know the song, it began with the following words: “Hello. I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller. I wish I had a girl, who looked good, I would call her.”

If you share Skee-Lo’s wish and are over the age of 19, you’re probably done growing so there’s nothing we can do. However, there is something you can do to look like a baller in a suit (and even use a suit to look taller). And while we can’t guarantee anything, looking fresh in a suit will certainly improve your chances of getting the number of a girl who looks good whom you would then, presumably, call.

The Rule Breaker’s Guide to Suits for Short Men

When you’re on the short side (under the national average men’s height of 5’9”) you get a lot of rules thrown at you. Always wear this, never wear that, etc. But are the rules really as iron-clad as they sound? We talked with Brock McGoff of The Modest Man, a men’s style blog devoted to men of modest height, to get the lowdown on clothes for short men.

Clothes for Short Men Rule #1

Never wear double-breasted jackets.

There are plenty of people out there claiming that double-breasted jackets are not appropriate on suits for short men. Brock says banning double-breasted jackets is selling yourself short. “If you want to expand your collection to include a DB suit or sports jacket, your height shouldn’t stop you,” says Brock. As with any suit, the fit is hugely important. Brock suggests that shorter guys pay special attention to the jacket length and err on the short side. And, just as shorter men should avoid the high-buttoning, 3-button, single-breasted jacket, Brock suggests that shorter men go with 4 by 2 button configuration on a double-breasted jacket. This will create a longer unbroken space in the torso and elongate your overall appearance.


4x2 button configuration

Clothes for Short Men Rule #2

Pinstripes are the best way to look taller in a suit.

It is true, the vertical stripes in a pinstripe suit can visually elongate your frame but pinstripes are not the only good option. “It’s not about which patterns are best,” says Brock. “Short men can wear any patterns they like. It’s about the scale of the pattern.”

Instead of instinctively reaching for the pinstripes, Brock suggests shorter guys look for small scale patterns, like the Madison Blue Micro Check Custom Suit. “Keep the scale of the pattern in proportion with your body. If you’re a small guy, large scale patterns will make you look smaller even it they’re vertical stripes.”


Madison Blue Micro Check Custom Suit

Clothes for Short Men Rule #3

Never wear non-matching pants and jackets.

This rule comes from the belief that wearing non-matching pants and jackets, like the Black Lapel Unsuits, cuts the wearer in half. “What this rule is really getting at is the fact that shorter men can dress taller by wearing monochromatic or uniform color schemes,” says Brock. The trick is to stay within the same color family. “Shorter gents can definitely pull off separates. I would recommend sticking with analogous color schemes.” The Gray Windowpane Shadow Check Custom Unsuit pictured here shows how, varying between pattern and solid can make for a jacket and pants combination that is monochromatic but still has the right amount of contrast.


Gray Windowpane Shadow Check Custom Unsuit

More of Brock’s Best

Want more of Brock’s advice on clothes for short men? Download this excerpt from How to Dress Taller – 11 Crucial Style Tips for Short Men. And if you liked that, get the entire ebook, when you sign up for emails from Brock on his blog, The Modest Man.

How-to-Dress-Taller-1

Little Big Men

To prove that shorter guys can have great style, we collected some photos of some of our favorite stylish celebs who are under the average American man’s height and made a Pinterest board for inspiration. Along with the photos of these dapper gents we’ve listed their heights. Some you’ve probably guessed will be there, others might come as a surprise, but all of the men you’ll see there know how to wear clothes for short men with style.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.42.07 PM

The Long and the Short of It

Armed with these tips, you may not be able to get a rabbit in a hat with a bat and a six four Impala (though we’re not sure why Skee-Lo wanted all of that anyway), but you will be able to look great in a suit.

Got more questions about how to pull it off? Drop a comment below and we’ll help you climb the style ladder.

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24 thoughts on “The Flawless Fit Series: What to Look for in Suits for Short Men”

  1. Pingback: Suiting Tips for Smaller Men - mohan-custom-tailors
  2. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. Id prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don?t mind. Natually Ill give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad we could teach you something, Anette. In terms of our content, we’d prefer you just link to us instead of using our copyrighted content on your blog.

  3. Rishabh nagpal says:

    I’m 5’5 and I love suits with broad lapels. My tailor advised me otherwise and suggested that I go for narrower lapels as broad lapels will make me look shorter. Is this true? Do broad lapels make short men look even shorter?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’ve got answers for you, Rishabh. Head on over to this story we wrote about choosing the right suit lapel, where we talk about which types of lapels flatter different body types.

      1. Black Lapel says:

        Our Black Lapel concierges chimed in on this one too they noted how 5’7″ Daymond John rocks a wide peak lapel with style. And one of our more diminutive stylists says “Who says looking shorter or smaller is a bad thing? Is someone walking around with a ruler? What’s more important is what wider lapels do, which is make a statement. Wider lapels say ‘Boom. Power. Style.'”

  4. I’m 5’5″ and a bit stocky, i’m confused with which type of rise is best for my trousers and i don’t like pleated trousers too. please help i’m gonna use it for my wedding.

    1. The rise of your pants refers to the seam that goes from the front to the back between the legs. A casual pair of pants, like jeans, may be refered to as low-rise because they’re worn down around the hips more, but for your suit’s silhouette to hold up you’ll need to wear the pants a bit higher and, therefore, have a larger rise measurement.

      While the rise is a measurement it is not a design feature like pleats. Pleats serve a function, they allow a pair of pants to stay narrow at the waist and bow out slightly through the thighs, but this is separate from the rise measurement. While we suggest you speak directly with your Black Lapel concierge for specific advice on this customization based on your fit type and styling choices, we will offer this bit of general advice: pleats have fallen out of favor among young men and have a lot of unflattering associations with dad jeans. That doesn’t mean you can’t get pleats put in your pants. For some guys they lead to a great fit. It’s all about your personal style and how you want your clothes to fit/look.

  5. Ritwik Gupta says:

    My Height is 5’7. Is 3-piece suit a good choice for me??
    Along with a Bow tie.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Generally speaking a three-piece suit works better on a taller frame than a shorter one, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely off limits for the under 5’8″ crowd. A three-piece suit in a stripe or herringbone can add a bit of verticality to your look helping stretch you out visually. Wearing the jacket open can also help. While we don’t suggest this for a two-piece suit, a three-piece can be worn with the jacket open. By doing this you retain long unbroken lines from your chest to your ankles which makes you appear taller.

      When it comes to ties, the bow tie lets shorter guys avoid problems with the length of the standard necktie (which can be too long). This depends less on how tall you are than how you’re proportioned. The editor of The Compass (that’s me) stands 6’1″ but with my long legs and a short torso, tie length can be a problem even for me. The bow tie eliminates these problems. The bow tie, of course, is a bit more of a statement piece, but if you like the statement it makes, we say go for it.

  6. Harshank Garg says:

    My Hight is 5″3 please tell me about size of the blazer …Which one size GOOD For me..

    1. The size of blazer that will fit you best is….drum roll please…your size! Riveting, we know. In all seriousness, everything we make at Black Lapel is made-to-measure, so every blazer would be custom fit to your exact measurements. Sizes aren’t really our thing, and we think custom is the way to go for all men, but especially those who have trouble with off-the-rack garments.

  7. Thanks for sharing these crucial insights about how can short men wear wear bespoke suits and yet look presentable. Kudos to your work.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks, Anika. Our philosophy is everyone should look presentable no matter their stature.

  8. 5’7….. 5’5……. that’s easy to fiND clothes for.. I’might 4’11 and my friend is getting married in a couple of weeks… Any ideas of chain stores to look into? Honestly, I’m not going to wear it more than once so I don’t want to be spending $200+… I canthink order online because it’s all regular size and I won’t have time to get it tailored- which is more money I don’t want to spend.

    1. You’re a great candidate for a custom suit, Jae. Perhaps you didn’t notice it, but Black Lapel is an custom suit maker. So we could suit you up. They start at a reasonable $449, but if you’re looking for a cheap disposable suit, this is not the place.

      But is a suit really what you’re looking for? It’s kind of like saying “I’m in the market for a new car, but I don’t want to spend more than $100.” There aren’t any new cars at that price point and there probably aren’t any suits you’d want to be seen in that would fit your budget. If it’s appropriate, we recommend you consider a more casual outfit. With a little digging, you may be able to find an off-the-rack pair of pants, a white dress shirt and a tie that work better.

  9. Rohil Srivastava says:

    *Note* I really like the 3/2 roll button style on my suits, so will it flatter my body?

    1. Hey again, Rohil. You can reference our first response for you question about a 3/2 roll…”You should be good to go with a 3/2 roll. When buttoned properly (only the middle button) the button stance won’t be significantly higher than your usual two-button jackets, this one will just have a cool feature that your two-button jackets don’t.”

      As for pinstripes, that’s a yes from us too! Vertical stripes can actually lengthen your appearance so it’s a smart decision. You could probably pull off those 3″ lapels, but going a little less wide could help elongate your neck and overall appearance as well.

  10. Rohil Srivastava says:

    I am 5’5″ and 1/2 tall. Can I wear suits that are pinstriped with 3 inch peak lapels with a 3/2 roll jacket?

  11. First of all thank you very much for this amazing post. Regarding suit pants(referring to short men), do you think that they should be a little bit shorter or longer then the “traditional” length?

    1. Glad we could help, Guido.

      Traditional is a loaded word. What most men think is traditional is way too long and their pants bunch up at the bottom like mini deflated blimps covering their shoes. We advise against that look for all men. For shorter guys, we suggest minimal to no break in the crease of your pants. The shorter pant length gives the illusion of length and the unbroken lines keep you looking crisp and well put together. You don’t have to show a lot of sock, but the tops of your shoes should be visible. And speaking of socks, keep your sock game on point and you’ll actually WANT people to see them anyway.

  12. What if you happen to be ‘broad’ as well a just below average height?

    1. Hi Colin,

      Brock here, from The Modest Man. Broad short men can still break the rules mentioned in this post. Just keep proportion in mind.

      For example, a very thin short man would want to stick with thin ties and four in hand knots (small knots).

      A broader short man could go with wider lapels and half windsor knots. Maybe even spread collars if you have a thick neck and wider head/face.

      Broader men can also wear larger scale patterns, although you should still avoid large scale horizontal patterns, which are pretty much bad for any shorter man (like thick horizontal stripes).

      -Brock

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