The #1 Most Important Fashion Tip for Short Men

Jonah Hill at the Oscars

What's wrong with this suit?

There are a ton of little tricks, hacks and DIY solutions that you can use to make your clothes fit better, but BY FAR the most important one is this:

Get your pants hemmed.

It’s quick, easy and cheap, and there is no excuse not to do it. In fact, EVERY guy should be getting their pants hemmed. No matter how tall you are, it is rarely the case that clothes fit perfectly off the rack.

But we’re not talking about every guy…we’re talking about those of us on the shorter side. The problem we have is one of proportion. For example, say you are 5’6” and have a relatively athletic build. Not skinny, but definitely not fat. Not a bodybuilder, but fit. You might need a pair of pants with a 29” waist and a 28.5” inseam.

Good luck finding these at Banana Republic.

Instead, you will most likely have to settle on some 30×30 trousers, or maybe you will get lucky and snag a pair of 29×30.

Now, it’s not a big deal if the waist is an inch or so too big. Just wear a belt. But if the legs are too long, it will ruin your entire getup. When short men wear oversized clothes (like pants that are too long), it accentuates their shortness, which is obviously not what we want.

Just look at Jonah Hill's red carpet photo above. He looks amazing in that black-on-black suit with a bow tie, but the pants are too long! I don't know who overlooked this detail, but it ruins the whole outfit. It's distracting and takes away from the overall look.

On the flip side, when your pants are hemmed to stop right past the top of your shoes, they actually compliment your figure and produce a heightening effect.

Adam Lampell

Adam keeps his pants and sleeves extra short to elongate his body. (Courtesy of The Style Blogger)

If you’re not yet convinced that you should have every pair of pants you own hemmed, pay attention next you go out in public. Look at random guys (try not to be creepy). Pay close attention to the length of their pants.

Are they bunched up around the shoe? Do they drag on the floor? Are there multiple breaks in the fabric running down the leg?

I guarantee you will notice how much better it looks to have that tailored, put together look that can only be accomplished with custom alteration.

Convinced? Good. Now let’s talk about how to get your pants hemmed.

You can go about this one of two ways.

  1. Pay someone else to do it
  2. Do it yourself

Most dry cleaners will do minor alterations (hemming pants is as basic as it gets) for a very reasonable fee. I wouldn’t pay more than $15-20 for this. If you have a really nice pair of dress pants, you can go to an actual tailor (found at any suit or tuxedo shop) and pay a little more to make sure the job is done right.

I recommend taking an old pair of jeans – like that pair you bought from American Eagle three years ago that never really fit right – and testing our your local dry cleaners alteration skills. Make sure they keep the original hem! This is important, so I’ll say it again:

When you get your pants altered, make sure they keep the original hem.

Otherwise, your pants will end abruptly, as if you folded them under to shorten them. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to pants with no hem (like many modern pairs of dress pants).

If you are crafty, want to learn a new skill or just like saving money, you can easily hem your pants at home. There are a ton of great “how-to” guides and videos out there that explain this process. Like this one:

*For all of you young gentlemen out there who are still growing, there is a way to alter pants that allows you to “let them out” later on. This means you can buy them long, have them shortened, then restore them to their original length when you get taller. If you are still growing, make sure to ask your tailor (or mom) to preserve your pants in this way.

For what’s it worth, I prefer to pay someone else to handle my alteration needs. I’m a “time is money” kind of guy, and I don’t own a sewing machine, so I’m always happy to pay my dry cleaner twenty bucks to take this task off my plate. It’s part of my routine now:

Whenever I buy a new pair of pants, I take them to the cleaners during my normal weekly dropoff, get measured (or, to save time, just bring a pair of similar pants that have already been shortened to an ideal length), and pick up my perfect-fitting pants a few days later.

Homework: Take one pair of pants to your local tailor or dry cleaner, get measured and have them shorten them to the appropriate length. Then, leave a comment below to share how much of a difference it made!

Short Man Style - How to Achieve the Perfect Fit

Comments

  1. I don’t comment frequently on individuals websites, chiefly due to the fact that the information is horrible and I am not there long enough to care…. however this blog actually forced me to stop in my tracks. The content is awesome, and I do mean awesome. Fantastic work and I have saved the site and will return later, hopeful for more.

    • I don’t know how I missed this comment, but thank you! What a great compliment. Glad you like the articles…I’ll keep them coming!

      -B

      • bencherian says:

        Hi…I am having 174cm height and weighted 95kg little fat guy… Am a Doctor aged 25years and residing around hot climate at India, kerala. Could you guide me about clothings and other things that I should follow

  2. First off, cool website. I need some advice though on my self esteem though. I’m your height (5’6) and I feel like I’m a walking target in society. I feel I can’t got to college football games or anywhere with a huge crowd without feeling lost and out of place. I’ve had experiences where people walked all over me (I can feel because my height had to do with it) and I feel my chances of ever getting a gf again (got out of one recently) are slim… idk, I just need advice on what you do?

    • Hey Brandon,

      Glad you like the site! Just wondering, how old are you? I ask because for me, the older I get, the less I care about my height. It used to be a source of insecurity, especially in high school and college. But now I own it, rather than letting it own me.

      There’s a correlation between how we look and how confident we are, but try to understand that being big or tall or handsome or rich doesn’t necessary make you a confident person. Sure, it can help, but confidence isn’t tied to anything like that. It’s a separate thing, and there is plenty you can do to nurture it.

      One of the reasons I post the Men of Modest Height articles is to showcase small men who achieve great things. It’s not to prove anything about “overcoming” their height. It’s just to show that your attitude and the actions you take trump any physical characteristics you were born with. So start with the things you can control – how you think and how you talk to yourself. What you do everyday. How you treat your body (you can’t change your height, but you can change your weight, muscles, smile, hair, and of course, how you dress).

      Brett McKay from the Art of Manliness talks about your mindset and how to feel more manly when you look young or small and feel “lost and out of place” in this video:

      http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/11/17/man-to-man-episode-4-how-to-feel-like-a-man-when-i-look-like-a-boy/

      Listen to what he says, and really focus on your attitude. Improve yourself everyday. Stay in shape (you’re a surfer, right? ever try martial arts?), read more, dress really well. Don’t worry about your last relationship. Worry about yourself, put yourself out there, and I guarantee you will find someone. If you’re shy and don’t feel confident meeting women, give online dating a try. I’ve done it, and it’s a great way to meet women (check out this Primer article about it).

      I’m glad you asked this question, and I hope to address this more in the future. This is primarily a style blog, but the reason we dress well is to feel more confident. That’s the underlying issue, so thanks for bringing it up.

      Feel free to hit me up anytime, and keep in touch!

      -Brock

  3. Jack Dunne says:

    I’m 5’6″. I boxed and did martial arts throughout my school career and it wasn’t until I was 20 years old and in college that I saw a photo of myself next to my friends that I said, “holy shit! Are you guys that much taller than me??” So I didn’t realize I was short until I was 20 years old. But later, in my mid-20s I had a gf who commented she wasn’t into me when she first met me because of my short stature, which cut me to the core. A few more incidents like that and my confidence was gone. I read someone where there was a marine colonel who was 5 foot nine. His buddy, who is 6 ft. 4, commented that he hadn’t noticed the height difference and since he hadn’t thought about it, did realize he was so much taller than his friend the colonel… basically because in ‘Nam, the colonel had been such a badass. I guess my point is that I agree it’s all about confidence. I’m still working on that. But in the 20 years that have passed since that one GF made her comment that shook my confidence, I’ve had TONS of hot chicks parade through my bedroom. Was I trying to prove something? Most likely, and it’s unfortunate since some of them should have been keepers. But that’s another story.

  4. Brock, you beat me to the punch! I recently came across J Crew’s new (I think) line of shorts with a 7″ inseam and thought, damn, there needs to be a website that identifies sources of clothing for short guys (I’m just under 5″5″, with a 33 waist and 42″shoulders (ex gymnast)– you think you have problems getting clothes that fit; tailors hide from me). While I’m disappointed I didn’t think of this first (I was ready to quit my day job and start a site), I applaud your effort.

    One question though, unless I’m missing something, outside of this string, the site doesn’t appear to have a blog — It would be great to have a place to read and make posts about short-friendly clothing lines. For example, the best place I have found to buy jeans is (you’ll laugh) Costco..for under $20 (I don’t care of they are $200, I’m just sick of wearing out the back of the cuff because a 30″ inseam is too long, and hemmed jeans just look dorky). Similarly, J Crew T-shirts rule — arms are perfect for us runts, particularly if you have large biceps.

    At any rate, glad I found your site, can’t wait to follow-it.

  5. I’ve recently $100 getting 8 pairs of pants and jeans hemmed. And aside from fitting/looking better – they make me feel a heck of a lot better. So much so that I’ve stopped wearing the un-hemmed jeans.

  6. wow, great blog. In regards to this particular post: my tailor hemmed my jeans to the perfect length, but the jeans no longer have the original hem on the bottoms. I’m not sure if I like it. What are your thoughts?

    • Eddie,

      For pants with hems (like jeans), always ask your tailor to “keep the original hem”. If they don’t know how, go to someone else.

      Often they will just stitch around the new bottom in the same color thread, and it looks like a hem (which isn’t a terrible solution).

      But definitely find someone who knows how to keep the original hem.

      -B

  7. Brock can you help me how a perfect dress shirt should fit? I’m 5’5 athletic built. I mean how should the shirt be measured. Example if i have 15″ arms biceps then how much fabric should be kept? 17″?

  8. My wife taught me the “keep the hem” trick for my jeans. This means that how the bottom of your jeans look now will stay the same. They actually cut out the bottom hem, trim your jeans then add it back on so your jeans still look the same just fit perfectly. I would never wear a pair of unhemmed pants again being only 5’5″, it just looks sharp, clean & professional.
    To the other guys, if the lady you are with is not happy with your height then she isn’t for you. It’s better to be alone than be with a person that would talk you down and make you miserable(you will never be confident..). There is someone for everyone and not every girl likes only tall guys. I think that if she is bringing this up she has settled in (her mind). If a woman loves you the height wouldn’t bother her at all and you would be more confident with yourself.
    Also, only non confident men will mock men of shorter status. I’ve met many people who are successful and this is what I have observed. If a man is taller and you have more the only thing left to mock is your height. cheap shot but remember (They hate us cause they aint us)…

  9. It makes perfect sense to pay $15-$20 for a pair that you pick up for $12 !!. That makes absolutely perfect sense!!. Do the manufacturers know the concept of lost sale opportunity because men don’t find pants of the right length?? and they freaking spend tons of dollars to attract people into their store by advertisements and creating mobile apps to track their movements in stores, and tracking them on social media through sentiments listening and a bunch of other crap. USA is NOT Sweden and there are a lot of people who need pants that are less than 30 in length. Its an untapped market. Wake up retailers. Spend your money where it makes sense.

    • Rey Rivera says:

      I buy jeans, already precut to my leg length and waist. This store WILL have your size. I have been ordering online for years. Google. Shortstop Jeans. All prices are average.

  10. Hey man how tall were u at age of 18?

  11. I am 5’6″ 250lbs. I am not super fat at all but i do have some belly fat (44″ around my belly button) I have muscular top half of my torso, but struggle finding a good pair of jeans that last and that feel comfortable. I normally buy Levis 527 boot cut 38″x30″ and get the pants hemmed (28.5). The problem is that i wear out pants at the croch and is annoying with my Levis. I am looking for a nice pair of jeans that are not super tight on the legs and I HATE the tapered look (size 11 shoe) and this does not look good, so boot cut tends to look better in my eyes.

    Shirts:For example under armour t shirts I have to buy large because an XL is too long and makes me look even shorter fatter. The large fits snugger on my chest and not too tight around my stomach, but length is perfect..

    Any advice on jean options would be great. Thanks

  12. Evan Eric says:

    I’m about 5’4 in my late 30’s now. I’ve started to finally look for clothes which fit me better. It’s not easy. Besides the height I do weigh about 185 but I’m not fat. I have athletic legs, larger thighs and rear, mid section does need some work (I wear a 36 waist), I have larger arms (Bis and Tris) and large shoulder width. I don’t have exact measurements but I’m sure I need to get them. I found untuckit.com last year and purchased 2 shirts, the first 2 were good, one of the shirts is perfect but I had to get an XLs and the other is so-so. Then I recently purchased 2 more and they are actually longer and tighter (not made in the USA) I have a couple of Merona shirts I got from Target a few years and they are perfect but again when I wanted more they chagned the country and fitting. I have found a 27inch back is what I need. I do like to wear my shirts untucked and really do notice how long things are. Polos and others are just so hard. I’ve been looking around at other sites and some of the quality is just cheap and that is just based on the pictures. I think I will plan on getting a couple of pairs of jeans and a few shirts shortend. My size makes it nearly impossible to buy the right clothes. I’d like to drop down back into the 170’s and if by a chance get into the 160’s. I’ve taken out a lot of the musclebuilding activites and started to tone more, and I have noticed my jeans which are mostly carpenter do appear to be getting slighly baggier (wranglers). I don’t like slim or tight fits, plus I’d probably rip them all. I plan on looking over your site more and would accept any additional comments from you or other readers. I was one of those early bloomers who was short, then tall and then short again all in a year. Most of my friends are 5’8 and way up. I joke about my height and usually don’t let it get to me. I dated many women who were taller than me and married one who is a little taller than me.

  13. brunch brad says:

    now address styles of hem for men [dress] pants

  14. Some juan says:

    You guys are girls guys don’t even notice this

  15. I’m 18 and 5’3…this has been a life saving blog, i can now go out buy jeans that are really good and not worry about them being too long by an inch or two! THANK YOU

  16. Yes I’m quite sick of seeing men in suites with puddling pants. What I really hate, it’s men wearing beautiful expensive suits and carrying BACK PACKS!!! Get a nice brief case or bag to carry to match your brown shoes and belt. What is that? Your not going hiking or on a sporting event!

  17. This blog stresses the importance of keeping the original hem and yet the imbedded you tube video shows her cutting off the original hem! Giving you the “my mom hemmed my pants,” look.

  18. Can you talk about different options for figuring out the amount to hem? I believe you mentioned just to the top of the shoe when standing.

    Also what about tapering the ends?

  19. This is really perfect guide ever. I mean your whole website not only this page. Thank you very much for sharing.

  20. Any advice for how the hem can change the proportion of the pants?

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