A few days ago, I was scouring the web to find stores like Jimmy Au's that make clothing specifically for short men. Not just any stores – good ones. I was thinking that Jimmy Au can't be the only person out there making high quality, classic clothing for men of modest height.
Luckily, I came across a New York Times article about a man named Peter Manning, a designer who recently launched a clothing line for men who are 5'8″ and under.
Reading through the article, I learned that Peter is not just some wannabe clothier. He's an award-winning producer and successful real estate developer who is breaking into a largely untapped market by solving a serious problem for short men – finding clothes that fit perfectly off the rack.
Check out his brand launch video:
After browsing through his collection, I sent Peter an email to say hello and tell him about this blog. We got to know each other, and he happily agreed to do an interview for The Modest Man. Enjoy!
The Modest Man: You describe your customer as “a man 5″8″ or under who cares about how he looks and is probably frustrated that he is never been able to buy a pair of pants that fit off the rack”. This is the exact description of my audience. Why are short men so under-served when it comes to clothing?
Peter Manning: I think it's because we don't speak up. Also, we make do and go to the tailor, so retailers have not had to pay attention to us, because we are buying clothes even if they don't fit. Also, there is the “stigma” issue and that drives me crazy. Dressing in ill fitting clothes is much worse than being short.
TMM: I love your innovative sizing system. How did you come up with that?
PM: Well, I knew it could not be Small, Medium etc. because it would get confusing with traditional men's sizing. Also, I made five sizes because I want to really micro-fit this customer, so it was just right. As long as we explained what the size meant we could have used anything but I like 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
TMM: There are a handful of articles out there explaining how shorter men can “dress taller”. Do you agree that dressing taller is the goal?
PM: I think its important to know what will help but I don't think men have to dress taller. For example, horizontal stripes and pleated pants don't help. If they dress well in clothes that fit, they'll feel great and they'll look great.
TMM: Your clothing/style has been called preppy or nautical. Is that what you're going for?
PM: Not really. It's really timeless classic American sportwear. All men wear variations on the same things. I try to make what men will want to wear and feel comfortable in. I think all different guys can wear these clothes and style them the way that best fits their own look.
TMM: Clothing is far from your “first act”. You're an award-winning producer, architect and designer. Clearly, not being tall didn't hold you back. Any words of encouragement for those who feel insecure or handicapped because of their modest height?
PM: Be brave, take risks and smile. It's better to be small and shine than big and cast a shadow.
PM: Fall is coming and I cannot wait. Sweaters, a blazer, cargo pants, more chinos in great colors, a buttondown everyday shirt, flannel weekend shirts, more t-shirts and polos, a weekend sweatpant and sweatshirt.
Ties! Finally, we wont' have to tie our tie 3 times to get it exactly right so it doesn't hang down way past our belt.
TMM: For men of any height, it seems tough to find a balance between trendiness and timeless style. How do you find balance, or do you avoid trends altogether?
PM: I tend to stay pretty classic and I work with trends through accessories. Lately, I have been wearing a “summer” scarf. It's really light weight scarf that you can wear on warm days. It really takes a humdrum outfit, say jeans and a white oxford, and transforms into something great.
It's not a big investment and if the trend goes off I don't have some crazy thing hanging in the closet that I never wore. Pocket squares are fun and staying on top of shoe trends can really make an outfit.
TMM: Can we expect a brick and mortar store anytime in the near future?
PM: Not sure. Right now it is so satisfying to reach people all over the country. Someday I'll do a store, just not sure when.
TMM: I often profile famous, successful or inspiring short men on The Modest Man. You met Paul Newman. How awesome was that? What was he like?
PM: Paul Newman was great. Totally cool, laid back and fun. I did not know him well so we did not get to talk about clothes but I will tell you that his sweater was way too big. I'll never forget it.
TMM: The million dollar question – Will you be tackling jeans anytime soon?
PM: They are coming for fall! So excited.
I'm grateful to Peter for answering our questions, and I'm looking forward to trying on some Peter Manning / Five Eight clothes very soon. I will make sure to write another post reviewing the actual clothing after I get a chance to wear it.
Check out the full line of Peter Manning clothing at PeterManningNYC.com.