Outerwear for Short Men

You need to stay warm, and you want to look good. But how? Winter coats aren't exactly tailor made for short men.

George gortex coat

What NOT to do!

Most cold weather coats are too long, too bulky or both, which makes you look smaller and shorter than you actually are!

You know that fit is the most important aspect of style, so does that mean short men are out of luck when it comes to outerwear?

Fortunately, there are some very basic rules you can follow to make sure your cold weather style is on point.

It's mostly about what NOT to do. Just remember these two rules:

  1. Avoid bulky outerwear (like puffer jackets).
  2. Don't wear any coats that go past your knees.

If you follow these two rules, you'll be good to go. Everything else is just icing on the cake. We're going to dive a little deeper into these guidelines, but first I want to show you my outerwear collection:

Now let's look a little closer at the outerwear “rules” for short men.

Avoid Bulky Outerwear

You don't want to look like the Michelin Man. This look doesn't flatter any body type, but it's especially bad for shorter men. Any bulkiness will be over emphasized by your small stature.

Most winter jackets contain some sort of insulation, which adds bulk and weight to the garment. That's okay. After all, warmth is more important than style.

But you should do your best to avoid excess bulk. For example, consider puffer jackets – those quilted jackets stuffed with goose down. Sure, they're warm, but they add way too much unnecessary bulk and padding to your body.

Just look at this photo of Elijah Wood (left) and Jeremy Strong. Who looks better?

Puffer vs slim

Source: FlynetPictures.com

Both men are short and slim, but Jeremy's padded jacket dwarves his svelte build. Elijah's fitted jacket, on the other hand, flatters his smaller stature.

If you are going to wear a puffer jacket, make sure it's slimmed down and small in scale (i.e. small puffs):

Tom Cruise slim puffer jacket

Source: celebitchy.com

Way better than this:

Tom Cruise puffer jacket

Still, these types of jackets just don't do it for me. They look out of place with most outfits and, in my opinion, should be reserved for outdoor activities like hiking.

Regardless, just remember to stay away from overly thick and bulky outerwear.

Don't Wear Full Length Coats

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most short men just don't look good in coats that go past their knees.

Sucks, I know, but it's the truth. Any coat that goes past your knees will be very hard to pull off. It will need to fit perfectly, like this:

James Dean full lenth coat

Source: GQ.com

This jacket fits wonderfully, which is probably the result of painstaking (i.e. expensive) alterations. Not to mention, James Dean can pull off anything, and this was a different time period (as evidenced by the cuffed, full cut trousers).

I'm not James Dean, this isn't the 50s, and I'm still pretty young. So I prefer shorter coats. Mid-thigh is a great length for men under 5'8″. For example, your go-to “dressy” winter coat can be a grey, navy or camel topcoat.

Closet Freaks topcoat

Source: Closet Freaks

These coats are typically made from thick wool, and they're usually fully lined, which makes them warm and toasty. They should end about halfway down your thighs, a perfect length for shorter men.

Lots of people will tell you that short men shouldn't wear long coats, but believe me: a mid-thigh coat can actually elongate your figure in a way that shorter coats cannot.

Notice how Anthony (in the above photo) has the sleeves cropped extra short, which creates the illusion of longer arms. You should do this too. Just don't go too short. Make sure your sleeves end just past the bump above your wrist on the outside of your arm, opposite your thumb.

A good topcoat isn't cheap, but it's one of those wardrobe staples that's worth investing in:

Another classic men's coat is the pea coat. It's less formal than the topcoat, but it still works for a “dressed up” look. Uniqlo makes a good entry level pea coat.

It's a good one for smaller gents because the lapels aren't ridiculously wide, which is normal for pea coats.

Uniqlo pea coat

The sleeves are about 25″ long (XS) but can be shortened pretty easily for $20-40, depending on where you go.

Here are some other affordable pea coats:

Another option is to go to your local military surplus store and buy an authentic pea coat that fits in the shoulders, then take it to a tailor to get it fixed up (it will probably only need the sleeves shortened).

Pro Tip:

Before you buy anything, I highly recommend checking out Grailed.com, an awesome place to buy high quality secondhand clothing for men.

The sellers often list an item's specific measurements along with their body type. If they don't, you can always send them a message asking for more info.

Plus, it's not all designer clothing. They have a section called “Grailed Basic” that has great outerwear from brands like J. Crew, Club Monaco and more.

I recently bought a sweet military for just $40. Definitely worth checking out!

Casual Outerwear

Of course, you won't always be wearing topcoats and pea coats. They're great for weekdays, but what about the weekends? You're not going to wear a topcoat to the snowball fight!

Closet Freaks parka

Source: Closet Freaks

For casual outerwear, I recommend the parka-style coat. There are TONS of different kinds. Some have fur-lined hoods, some have fishtail backs, and some are more insulated than others (although they should all be waterproof).

These are all worth checking out (in order from least expensive to most expensive):

Here's the thing – you can find casual outerwear that fits pretty well, but the sleeves might be too long. Tailoring a waterproof jacket is much more complicated than tailoring, for example, a wool pea coat.

But it can be done. The key is to find a tailor who knows what they're doing. If you buy a new jacket, ask whoever you bought it from (either the store or the manufacturer) if they can handle alterations in-house.

See Also: How to Find a Tailor

If they say no, ask them to recommend a tailor. You may have to send the jacket to a speciality shop. I've heard good things about both of these places:



These speciality tailors will take longer and be more expensive than your local tailor, but it's worth it to get that perfect fit.

Wear Layers

Instead of wearing one super-warm coat, you can just layer up with multiple lightweight layers.

Here are some examples of casual cold weather layering from some of my favorite stylish short gents:

Cold weather layering

Source: Dressed to Ill

Casual cold weather layering

Source: Dressed to Ill

Donald Glover outerwear

Source: Gap

Aziz Ansari outerwearSource: Pacific Coast News

Elijah Wood layersSource: WilliamYan.com

By wearing layers, you can be stylish and warm (the ultimate cold weather combo). Plus, you can always add or remove a layer when the temperature changes.

Perfect for those days where it's cold in the morning, warmer during the day, then freezing again at night.

Summing Up

Shorter gents should avoid baggy, bulky outerwear. Instead, opt for thinner, fitted coats, and use multiple lightweight layers to stay warm.

What's your go-to cold weather coat? Leave a comment below!

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  1. Couldn’t agree more on these tips, same hold true to tall thin guys too on some accounts, especially if you’re all leg.

  2. That’s why I moved to Florida. End of my problem. Lol

  3. I was always told that double breasted was off limits for shorter guys. Probably because of the lateral direction it moves the eye (supposedly). It may also add unwanted bulk.

    • DB is okay for outerwear! It does get tricky when it comes to suits/jackets, but I wouldn’t shy away from it, especially since it would rule out most pea coats.

  4. Great article. I just got a pea coat for Christmas – I confess I didn’t know that’s what it was called before I read this article – and I was relieved to read that this was a good choice. I think my wife has a pretty good eye so she tends to steer me in a sensible direction. And she is 3 inches taller than me, so I need to look as tall as I can 🙂

    Interesting recommendation about the parka coat – I am going to try a few on today to see how they look!

  5. I looked at most of the outerwear choices you made and my problem has always been sleeve length. I am 5’4″ & 168 lbs. my suit size is 42 short so to get a jacket to fit at the shoulder, my hand are submerged in the sleeve with most outwear. Any ideas for a guy my size?

    • I think getting the sleeves shortened is your best bet. I have to do this for almost every jacket I own… not convenient, but it’s worth the extra effort.

  6. I’ve never been very into fashion but this makes me see the value of being intentional about style and what you wear. I’m starting to see how important it is and what a difference it makes!

  7. I need your help! Since I’m an Asian guy living abroad, I cannot be sure about the sizing of J.crew Top coats. I am 5′ 6″ (about 167cm maybe..?) & quite slim, and satisfied with the overall length of XS sizes shirts in both Jcrew and Club Monaco. You’ve recommended the Jcrew Top Coats, but still I think it will be a bit long on my body. Probably size 34/s is what I should go with, but my all time problem is the length. Could you please help me out? Thanks in advance!

  8. Do penfield jackets fits you in XS without having to get the sleeves shortened ?

  9. “The key is to find a tailor who knows what they’re doing.”

    And … how do you do that? If you’ve never used a tailor before then you are pretty much going blind. None of my friends tailor clothes. Is there a review site for tailors?

  10. Nice read Brock! What would you recommend for a guy who is 5’3, 170lbs with a beer belly. Hiding my belly and choosing outwear while keeping my height in mind is quite difficult.

  11. Where does a car coat fit in? The topcoat looks too long for what I prefer to wear. Something like this? https://www.schottnyc.com/products/mens-car-coat.htm?catID=9

  12. Hi Brock. Do you prefer a 100% wool coat or an 80/20 wool/synthetic blend? Whats the difference?

    • I’d go with whichever fits better. Given the choice, pure wool is usually a sign of higher quality. But there lots of really nice blends out there these day, so fit should be your priority.

  13. Hi Brock, I’m 5’3″ and am wondering if it is viable to wear women’s parkas or jackets of sorts, considering its very difficult to find a good fitting jacket for guys of my height? Thank you!

  14. I am 5 2 and have more weight in the gut than I need or want. I need help with shirts and outerwear. Please give me some suggestions. This is a real problem for many men. I love your website.

  15. Hi. I am 5’7′′. Is it ok for a top coat which ends right at the beginning of knee?

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