Having trouble finding the best dress shirts for short men? This guide covers all of your best options.
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
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.
Try Going Custom
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.