The Vast Majority of Clothing Retailers Completely Ignore Men Under 5’8″
I know this headline is a little ridiculous, but I wanted to get your attention. I apologize in advance for this rant…
Men who don’t have average builds need to work a lot harder to dress well. Short men, in particular, have a hard time finding clothes that fit properly off the rack. That’s why I started this blog – to help men who are below average height dress better by getting into clothes that fit well.
Now, I try to maintain a positive attitude. Sure, us smaller gents have to put in more effort when it comes to clothing. We often spend more money on alterations or custom clothing than our taller counterparts. But, in general, I try not to get frustrated or dwell on these unfortunate facts of life.
Sometimes, though, I can’t ignore the fact men under 5’8″ are blatantly underserved by the retail clothing industry. It’s both mind-boggling and infuriating when you really think about it.
I went to the mall the other day. Didn’t really need anything particular, just felt like trying on some new clothes. I left three hours later, angry and very disappointed in major retailers (even some of my favorite stores). Nothing fit. Most places didn’t even stock small sizes – some didn’t even have mediums left on the racks – and the small sizes that were available were too big.
For example, this “extra small” J. Crew slim fit washed shirt is at least three inches too long when it’s worn untucked (as it’s meant to be worn). It didn’t look good tucked, either.
Hmm…let’s try another store. How about one of my favorites (for pants, that is), Banana Republic?
Well, it’s better than J. Crew, but still not good. While the polo almost fits, it’s still a bit too long. The button up and sweater are too big all around:
They do make extra small sizes, but many are sold exclusively online, so I could only try on smalls.
What about the department stores? Well, it took awhile to even find a small shirt at Lord & Taylor:
Ok, found some small shirts from Calvin Klein, Ben Sherman and Ralph Lauren. Fingers crossed:
What’s funny about this Ben Sherman polo shirt is that it fits very snug in the arms and chest.
I’m no fitness model, but I’m relatively built for my size, and this shirt is tight on me, but WAY too long. So who would this shirt fit? A very thin 5’10” man.
Why is Ben Sherman making shirts for such a specific body type but ignoring the millions of men below average height? Ralph Lauren is no better:
Oh, what the hell, let’s go to Target:
Most of these shirts would fit perfectly if I were two or three inches taller, and there are plenty of guys who are shorter than me. I mean, this is crazy. “Small” and “medium” clothes don’t fit small and medium men. You know who they do fit? 6 foot 2 models:
Is it unreasonable to think that a size medium should fit the average adult male, who is roughly 5’9″ and 180 lbs., rather than a 6’2″ guy with a model’s build? Wouldn’t it make more sense for a someone who is five inches above average height to wear a large, or even an extra large?
If medium sized clothes fit 6’2″ males, and small clothes fit average males, then what about small males? The bottom line is:
If you’re below average height, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that fits properly off the rack in the vast majority of American clothing stores.
It boggles my mind that millions of men (in the U.S. alone) remain completely underserved by major clothing suppliers. Even my favorite stores, like Banana Republic, are ignoring us:
Just look at their departments: men, large men, women, large women, small women. What’s missing? Just one group:
What’s worse is the fact that many companies are claiming to make clothes for short men and even advertising this:
These companies are lying to us. Go ahead: search Google for “clothes for short men” and click on these ads. I guarantee you will be disappointed. In fact, in this list of search results, I only see one store that I can recommend (Peter Manning NYC).
But, if you search for “clothes for tall men”, you get a ton of great choices:
There are Big & Tall stores or departments everywhere!
Pretty ridiculous, huh?
Phew…okay… Rant = over.
Let’s talk about solutions. We have to get clothes somewhere, and I’ve found these four tips very helpful:
1. Only go to the stores that cater to smaller men
It will almost never be the case that one store is good for everything you need, and it will often be the case that a store isn’t worth your time. Stay away from stores that don’t carry extra small sizes. Stay away from department stores, in general (we don’t have time to sift through racks of XL shirts).
Try new stores, and remember when they carry something that works for you. For me right now, this is Zara (jackets), Express (jeans, sweaters, jackets), Banana Republic (chinos, trousers), H&M (sweaters, shorts), Peter Manning (button ups, polos, jeans), REISS (trousers), American Apparel (t-shirts), among a few others.
2. Shop online
As you can see from the photos above, malls and department stores are terrible places to find clothes for small men. Only a handful of stores regularly stock small and extra small sizes, but you can usually find these sizes online. In fact, many stores (like Banana Republic) sell XS items exclusively online. These usually sell out first, so stay on top of it and be patient.
3. Go custom or made-to-measure
If you budget allows, find a suit maker and get a few bespoke shirts. Or, go the online made-to-measure route. It’s full of a whole different set of hurdles, but with patience the results can be great. In my experience, the easiest companies to work with are Deo Veritas and Blank Label (Ratio Clothing is also solid).
4. Adopt a tailor
This is crucial. Use Yelp.com or ask around, and find a local tailor who understands the look you’re going for. Make sure they have a great reputation. Make sure they listen to you. If you like more of a traditional look, find a more traditional tailor. If you prefer a modern cut, go with someone who gets that (when in doubt, find an Italian). Take garments back for multiple alterations until you love the way they fit.
Finally, don’t ever settle, and don’t get discouraged. Hit me up if you want feedback on an outfit or have questions. Leave comments on articles that you read so other guys can share their advice. Upgrading your style is a never-ending process, so try your best to have fun with it!
Speak up! If you feel my pain, leave a comment below, and share this post on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.