Having trouble finding the best dress shirts for short men? This guide covers all of your best options.
Formal dress codes are increasingly rare, but some guys still need to suit up for work. If you’re wearing a tie, getting the collar right is crucial.
Even if you ditch the tie, getting the right sleeve length and showing a bit of cuff under your jacket makes a strong first impression.
We know that if you want to dress taller your clothes need to fit properly. In this post, we’ll focus on great fit for the first thing people see below your face: your shirt.
Specifically, let’s chat about the dress shirt.
We’ll look at two parts of your dress shirts:
- Collar: Brock’s collar above looks comfortable, but with no visible gap between shirt and neck (a gap makes you look like you’ve borrowed your shirt from a bigger friend).
- Sleeves: Like James Bond in Casino Royale, he’s showing ~1/2″ of cuff beyond his jacket.
These seemingly insignificant details can make or break your outfit, but it’s not necessarily easy to get them right…
As Brock has pointed out in his post about 6’2″ models wearing size medium, the “off the rack” apparel industry does a lousy job of serving guys under 5’8″.
To see where this really breaks down, we took a look at data the U.S. military uses to make sure apparel and equipment fits actual guys.
Out of 4,000 guys they measured in the survey, about 1/4 were under 5’8″. When we zoom in on the ideal collar size for guys under 5’8″, they actually aren’t that bad off.
Less than 10% of short men have collar sizes that are below the 14.5″ minimum that most men’s dress shirt brands offer.
For sleeve length, though, it’s a different story.
About 30% of shorter men need a sleeve length less than the 32″ off-the-rack minimum. Ouch!
Fortunately, there are a number of options to get sleeve length that will look good with a jacket.
If you’re a shorter guy, many dress shirts are too big all around, from the neck and shoulders to overall body length.
But the biggest problem is often the sleeve length.
The fact is, many men of modest height have trouble finding dress shirts with proper sleeve length. If that’s the only problem you have, you could try sleeve garters.
Sleeve garters are an old school accessory that you really don’t see much anymore, but they actually work well, especially if you’re wearing a jacket.
These retro accessories are a legacy from the early days of mass-produced dress shirts when they made shirts with just one sleeve length: too long for just about everybody.
If you never take off your jacket, you can use them without making a fashion statement. If you’d like to have the option of leaving the jacket on your chair, you might not want to run the risk of being mistaken for the casino card dealer.
Of course, it’s probably best just to buy shirts with the right sleeve length, or get them tailored for a proper fit.
Where to Buy Dress Shirts for Short Men
Brands like Ash & Erie, Under 510 and Peter Manning focus specifically on the needs of shorter men, and you may find your perfect fit in one of their sizes.
These brands use proprietary sizing systems, but their sizes match up to standard collar/sleeve dress shirt sizes in a way that flatters most short men nicely.
You could also try other speciality brands that tend to work better for shorter men, including Nimble Made or Napoleon & Company.
Try Going Custom
The ultimate solution to get a perfect-fitting dress shirt is to go custom. Brock has previously recommended brands like Black Lapel and Indochino.
One thing to keep in mind: fabric makes up most of the cost of making a shirt. When you see a price from a custom shirt makers that seems too good to be true, they’re probably using really cheap fabric.
While it may fit you perfectly, a shirt made of cheap fabric won’t create the professional appearance you’re trying to project with jacket and tie.
When you compare prices for custom shirts with equivalent fabric quality to better off-the-rack brands like J. Crew or Brooks Brothers, you’ll usually end up paying ~20% more than the list price of an off-the-rack shirt.
That said, the apparel retail industry has become addicted to promotions where you can often find products at 40-50% off. This means that a custom shirt may cost ~2X the price of an on-sale off-the-rack shirt plus the cost of tailoring.
Buy Off-the-Rack, Get It Tailored
You may already have solved this problem by following Brock’s advice on how to find a tailor.
This gives you maximum flexibility to buy off-the-rack shirts when they’re on sale either in stores or online, and have them dialed in for your perfect fit.
The typical price to adjust sleeves is pretty reasonable: $15-25. The downside: the time and effort of finding a tailor you can trust, and the hassle of dropping off and picking up your shirt.
Best “Off-the-Rack” Dress Shirts for Shorter Guys
If you don’t want to go custom or try dress shirts for shorter men from one of the specialty brands, there are two other ready-to-wear brands you should consider.
There are two dress shirt brands you’ve never seen in the mall, but they’re major players in the UK. T.M. Lewin invented the button-up shirt in 1898 and has 100 stores in the UK. They get 4.5 out of 5 stars for product quality from independent Feefo rating service.
About a century after T.M. Lewin got started, Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler founded a shirt company while he was a student at Bristol University. His Charles Tyrwhitt company is now the UK’s largest purveyor of fine shirts, with Feefo ratings of 4.7.
Both companies have an interesting option: custom sleeve alteration for a reasonable fee, so that your shirt arrives ready-to-wear.
This shows a shirt that’s usually $69.00, on sale for $29.95. Clicking on the “Adjust your sleeve length” link lets you dial in your ideal length for $15.
Bottom line: your shirt that will arrive ready-to-wear, no tailoring required for $44.95 with free delivery. This option is also available for the guy wants to take 1/2″ off his sleeve length for the perfect amount of cuff showing beyond his jacket.
Similar story from Charles Tyrwhitt: here’s a shirt on sale for $39.50, plus $13.95 alteration fee for a total of $53.45. Their standard shipping charge is $12.95, but you can usually find a coupon code for free shipping.
When you’re “off duty” and going casual, there’s a much simpler option: just roll up the sleeves that are too long.
When it’s time to suit up, you’ve now got a range of tactics to make a great first impression with a well-fitting dress shirt.
At least in Europe brands like Olymp, Eterna or Boss have shirt options with shorter sleeves. I still let my tayler take the shirt in at the belly area. But it is cheaper than going completely custom
If you ever get around to shirts for that 10% of small men needing collard below the 14.5″ minimum.. Beyond a Tailor or custom options so far I’ve only found Moss Bros (they have 14” and 13 1/2” in a few shirt choices)
I like your site.
I DO feel like you look more comfortables and relaxed in the oversized suit. With just a TINY bit of alteration you’d look like a you were on your way to something fun if you weren’t slouching. The fitted suit looks like it’s “strangling” you–like you wouldn’t be able to raise your arms three inches without the whole outfit turning into a parasol. You don’t look comfortable. You’re good-looking guy. No reason to look and feel stuffy (though you might felt comfy, IDK).
TBH, I like the vest look the best. Probably because your shoulders look square and you look confident. You have a youthful face and I find slim men in suits who aren’t tall with older, hypermasculine features look like cosplayers in suit jackets.
Just me two cents – to each their own. Good post, though.
Is Napoleon & Company still up and running? I can’t access their website.
Looks like they’re defunct 😔
Where can I buy garters for my husband . He wears a 22/30 shirt and I am having a trrrible time finding shirts and liked your idea about gaters.
Hi Brock , another well researched article by you on this subject, yes, this an ongoing challenge I have with some of my customers in my shop. Thanks to this article I can now sound more educated and confident in sharing with them these options,
Mark Hill says
Shahid makes a great point: if your travels ever take you to Asia, make some time to find a local tailor. Do some homework before the trip to find someone with a solid reputation, and don’t skimp on fabric quality: people may notice the cheap fabric first and miss the fact that it’s perfectly tailored.
Shahid Chowdhury says
I love this post BTW, its my pet peeve to see un-tailored look. I am not the most stylish but I pride myself of fit more then fashion, pants for sure but shirts a must since I am 5’4″.
Option are great but here are my comments:
Off the Rack: this is for most men, so best to find a brand that is suited to your style (for me this was Zara & H&M higher end shirts). Find a decent tailor and have sleeves and darts (back) done and pro tip don’t go too tight when you add the holiday weight that awesome shirt will look too tight. Budget wise the $30 short will end up $50 but it will be an item that you will always go to because of fit. So choose decent fabric and work them.
Custom: costly but worth it but I found hack. I am from South Asia and travel to Bangladesh every few years there I visit Mens Fabric shops and pickout my fabric and find a good tailor. Each custom shirts costs around $18 and they last a long time. However the other route by Brock is not an option for me.
At the end of the day I agree with Brock and rest of the followers, fit is super important and once you get in the habit un-tailored shirt will feel like you are eating pancake without syrups….it just does go…
Stay well all…and love the nuggets of knowledge.
I appreciate the content Brock, but please focus occasionally on stuff for the shorter guy that isn’t SMALL. Short doesn’t always mean small. It’s a nightmare trying to find a 17.5 or 18 shirt to find one that fits broad shoulders and then find the shirt maker assumes the wearer is > 6’2″ instead of barely 5’8″.
Have you tried Peter Manning 2x and 4x sizes? How about made-to-measure?
Mark Hill says
You’re right that most brands assume collar size scales with height. They play a game of averages and restrict the range of sleeve lengths for guys with bigger necks.
In addition to Peter Manning, I’d definitely recommend checking out the two London brands in the article, who have a wider range of size options that you will find in any US store. They both offer free returns, so it’s low-risk to give them a try.