5 Style Principles That Will Help You Look Tall and Lean

The right clothing and accessories can literally make you appear taller and leaner. But the wrong style choices will have the exact opposite effect.

These five techniques will help you maximize your stature, no matter how tall you are. Use them wisely!

5 Ways to Look Tall and Lean

Note: Big thanks to my partners at The 5th for making this post possible. Their new Tokyo watch collection is super sleek and minimal, and you can use the code MODEST for a special discount on your next order.

If you've got a copy of my Dress Taller guide, you're already familiar with these principles. But don't worry: this post will still be helpful.

I'm going to review the five most important concepts from the guide in more depth, with real life examples.

Oh, and if you haven't read the guide, what are you waiting for? Grab your free copy right here!

If you prefer video format, watch this:

If not, read on to learn all about all five tips.

Tip #1: Wear clothes that fit.

You've heard it before, and hopefully you're already making this a priority.

But just in case you're not convinced about the power of fit, just look at these two pictures of me wearing a suit.

Bad suit vs good suit

Left: off the rack | Right: Oliver Wicks

The suit that doesn't fit makes me look shorter and heavier than I really am. I look like a kid playing dress up!

But the suit that does fit makes me look thin and elongates my figure, making me look taller. I look way more mature and professional too.

Fit is especially crucial for formal clothing like suits. So if you have clothes that don't fit, the first step is to find a good tailor.

Tip #2: Make sure your accessories are proportionate to your build.

Ever see a guy with super thin wrists and really small hands (like me) wearing a huge watch with a 50mm case and oversized, chunky strap?

It makes his wrist and hands look tiny and, well, kind of weak. No man wants that! So you want to make sure your accessories are proportionate to your build.

Wearing the right size watch

Left: oversized monstrosity | Right: The 5th Tokyo Fuyu

If you're a smaller, thin guy, you should wear small, thin accessories.

In the same way, if you have huge forearms and hands, you should wear a bigger watch that doesn't look unnaturally tiny on your wrist.

It's not just watches. It's all accessories. For example, think about neck ties. If you're a small guy, you don't want to wear a wide tie and use a full Windsor knot.

Instead, go with a slim tie and a four in hand knot.

Tip #3: Don't cut yourself in half with contrast.

I don't mean this literally…although, you shouldn't do that either. I'm talking about contrast – specifically contrast between the top and bottom halves of your body.

You want to avoid stark contrast between your torso and legs. For example, wearing a white shirt with black pants.

Outfit contrast

Instead, try to minimize contrast by wearing colors are more closely related. Here are three more examples of low contrast color combos you can try out:

Celebrities use this trick all the time to look taller on the red carpet. Assuming your clothes fit, this is probably the best way to maximize your height, or at the very least, avoid looking shorter.

Tip#4: Wear small scale patterns.

In the same way that size matters with accessories, it matters with patterns.

You've probably heard people say that short men shouldn't wear horizontal stripes be cause they'll make you look shorter, and that vertical stripes make people look taller.

Well, this isn't accurate. It's not about the type of pattern, it's about the size and scale of the pattern.

Horizontal stripes scale

Regardless of what kind of pattern you like – gingham, checks, vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, polka dots – it's a good idea to wear small scale patterns.

Why? Because large patterns will make you look smaller. Even thick vertical stripes are a bad idea for the shorter, smaller man.

Tip #5: Avoid low rise pants.

Pants rise is one of those things that varies widely based on what's trendy, but regardless of trends, shorter men should almost always avoid wearing low rise pants that sit down on their hips.

Why? Because it makes your legs look shorter.

Here's the thing: everyone has a different leg to torso ratio. But regardless of where your actual waistline is, your perceived waistline is determined by your clothes.

So if you wear pants down on your hips, it lowers your perceived waistline (even you have really long legs compared to the average person).

In most western societies, long legs are attractive. They're a sign of fitness, beauty and athleticism, which is why high rise jeans and shorts are insanely popular in women's fashion right now. They give you a smaller wast and longer legs. It's a win-win!

So if you want your legs to look longer, you just have to wear pants higher up on your waist.

But remember…

I hope these 5 tips gave you some idea for getting the most out of your clothing, so you can look like the lean, handsome man you really are.

And remember, my friend, it's not about trying to be someone else.

There is NOTHING wrong with being short, and anyone who says there is, is obviously very immature and insecure about their own self-worth.

Try to be comfortable in your body. And if you're a younger man, don't worry about your height. Worrying is just a waste of time and energy. So focus instead on what you can control, like how you dress.

Thanks again to The 5th for supporting The Modest Man.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below!

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  1. Great video. Nice and simple. Biggest change and best investment is getting clothes that fit. Finding a good tailor or ordering made-to-measure is a life changer. The point about proportions was great for watches as well. The biggest struggle is the part about patterns. Keep it up.

  2. Robert ORourke says:

    Thanks! I can relate to the oversized watch/ small wrist issue. Actually I tried to order from your link to The Fifth….however their website makes it impossible to make a purchase without joining as a “member”….a bit hokey, and as a result they’ve lost a sale.

  3. About the rise in jeans. I agree in principle, but I have long legs and a short torso. Long legs might be considered a plus, but it can go too far. You can end up looking like a stump on two legs. Still, low rise is extreme and looks horrible and inappropriate on men and not even great on women. For me low-mid rise is ideal especially if I am tucking my shirt.

  4. “clothes that fit” has made the biggest difference for me. Mastering it is an ongoing effort, my weight fluctuates seasonally 5-8 lbs., adding or subtracting an inch around the waist.
    High waist pants are a little hard to find, I struggle evaluating fit when trying on clothes.

  5. Fair points, as always. But you need some more emphasis for those of us that are short, but not small. Most of your advice is for the smaller guy, but if the emphasis of the blog is “Height under 5’8” you need to cover more than just the small, slender guys. I realize that you are easily available for photos for the slender build, but it would be helpful to have some photos of some heavier short guys for contrast (and not just chunky guys).

  6. Excellent advice Brock. Might be even more useful if you could add a link to sellers of the type of clothing that you recommend in your article…for example a link to companies offering high rise men’s pants.

  7. Hey wait…at 6:41 in the video you’re wearing a “high contrast” outfit on the right side! Honestly though, it’s not as easy to avoid doing that as you think. I often wear my light blue dress shirts with dark jeans or dark pants because I don’t really like khakis or tan chinos, and tucking a dress shirt into light jeans would look awful.

    • I don’t really see these as hard and fast “rules” that you always have to follow. I just want guys to understand the principles so they know what they’re doing. You don’t have to follow the rules all the time, but you should understand them. Make sense?

      I hear that contrast is hard to avoid. That’s why suits are so great. Throw on a jacket, problem solved!

    • Just an example of how you can use this idea. A few years ago I had black leather that was too short by an inch or so and made my short torso even shorter. If I had a white t-shirt on, the bottom would extend down past the jacket and the contrast between the black jacket, white shirt and blue jeans really accentuated the problem.

      I switched to a dark colored–navy or dark grey– t-shirt and the whole thing blended together. You couldn’t even notice the shortness of the jacket or my torso.

      Knowledge is a good thing to have. You never know when you might have to use it.

  8. I agree on almost everything you stated except for the low raise pants. I look much better with low raise probably because of torso and legs ratio. I have a very short torso but long legs.

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