Blogger Roger Ma Talks Clothes, Money and Confidence
Here at The Modest Man, I like to profile famous short men to figure out how us svelte gents should (and shouldn't) dress. Well, Roger Ma may not be a rockstar or famous actor, but he's one dapper gent, and he wants to help lay out your life.
Mr. Ma runs a blog called lifelaidout that's all about helping you get the most out of your money and live life to the fullest. He writes about things like how to save money on cabs and deciding whether to buy or rent your home.
Roger is a bright fellow. He's successful and stylish, and he happens to be on the shorter side. Which is why I wanted to pick his brain here on TheModestMan.com. Let see what he has to say:
The Modest Man: For the record, how tall are you?
Roger Ma: My driver's license says I'm 5'6″ and I'm sticking to that.
TMM: Now that we've got that out of the way, who are you, and what do you do?
RM: I'm a 30-something NYC-based entrepreneur that works in digital media by day, blogs in my free time, and occasionally writes for DailyFinance.
TMM: You went from banking to tech. Why the change?
RM: I learned an incredible amount working in investment banking and made some great friends. But after 7 years in the industry, I was looking for a change that brought my personal and professional interests a little closer together.
For me, I've always been interested in startups and technology, so switching to tech seemed like a logical next step. It's been a great change for me and I definitely feel like what I do in my personal time meshes more closely with my professional life.
TMM: Like most people, I assume that working at a tech company is awesome and that you probably spend most of your days playing ping pong. Please tell me this is true…?
RM: Working at a tech company is awesome. We have ping pong tables, comfy chairs, and free food! While those perks are amazing, I think the best part about working at a tech company is that everyone is smart, driven, and always thinking about new and interesting ideas. It's refreshing to work for an organization where everyone who works at the company truly wants to be there.
TMM: Let's talk about clothes. Tell us about your favorite stores/brands for casual and dressy clothes.
RM: These are my current favorite stores and brands:
- T-Shirts/Polos: Banana Republic, Burberry
- Jeans: Nudie Slim Jim
- Khakis/Chinos: Bonobos
- Shirts/Pants/Suits: Custom via Nita Fashions
- Ties: Ferragamo (not the ones with animal prints on them though), Burberry, Boss
- Shoes: Allen Edmonds
TMM: You have a post called Clothing Tips for My 22-Year-Old Self where you talk about the importance of tailoring. What sort of alterations do you usually have done?
RM: Before I converted to getting most of my dress clothes custom, I kept my tailor pretty busy. For shirts, I'd have the sleeves and length of the shirt shortened while also getting the width of the shirt tightened. For pants, I'd get them hemmed/shortened, taken in near the seat, and tapered along the sides to make the legs slimmer.
After doing that for a couple years, I realized that getting most of my dress clothes custom would be better because:
- I'd get better fitting clothes
- I'd actually save money in the process
So now, instead of buying my dress clothes first off the rack and then getting them tailored, I just get them custom from the beginning. The only tailoring I need now is hemming jeans or pants.
TMM: Do you always go to the same tailor? How did you find them?
RM: Because I mostly only get my pants hemmed these days, I can really go to any tailor. If I have a lot of stuff, I'll go to my preferred tailor, which is a couple blocks away. Otherwise, I'll just hit up the dry cleaners next door.
TMM: You write a lot about spending wisely and being a thrifty consumer. Any clothing-specific tips?
RM: My three main tips for saving money on clothes are:
- Try to buy clothes on sale
- Utilize cash back shopping to get discounts
- Capitalize on free shipping (preferably both ways)
For getting clothes on sale, I use sites like Nifti and Hukkster to save items I want and receive alerts when those items go on sale. Those sites save me both time and money because I don't have to waste time going back to the various sites I shop at to do price checks – I just figure out initially whether I'd be interested in buying an item and Nifti and Hukkster do the rest.
When I'm ready to buy an item, I usually click through a cash back shopping portal first to capitalize on cash back shopping. For those unfamiliar with cash back shopping sites, they're basically portals with a listing of any site you'd ever want to shop at. These portals have affiliate relationships with every store listed and if you click through from a cash back shopping site to a merchant and then buy something, they get a commission. The beauty of cash back shopping is these portal sites are allowing you to share in those commissions, typically ranging from 1-30%. Getting this benefit on top of any sale and coupon savings is amazing!
Lastly, I only shop at stores that offer at least free shipping to me and typically free shipping both ways. That way, if I don't end up liking a product, there's no risk to me monetarily. If a store doesn't offer free returns, I make sure they have a physical store near my apartment so I can return the merchandise free of charge.
TMM: Shifting gears a little bit…it seems like, every few years, there's a study about height and success. We've all heard that the taller man gets paid more, etc. Obviously, your height hasn't stopped you from achieving great things. Has it ever been a source of insecurity?
RM: Sure it was, especially when I was younger. Growing up, there aren't many factors you can use to differentiate yourself from others. One factor, which is totally out of your control, is height. Taller kids were better at sports, picked first for gym teams, etc. As a shorter person, you've got to figure out how to differentiate yourself in other ways. For me, over time, I realized that though I couldn't control my height, I could control a number of other factors including my physical fitness, dress, and general presence/confidence.
TMM: Do you have any words of wisdom for those who may feel constrained by their height (for example, when it comes to work or dating)?
RM: The best advice I can give is to work to build your confidence and other competitive advantages. Ask yourself what you can do to make yourself feel confident and as a result, allow you to have strong presence beyond just height.
For me, that was making sure, physically, I was the best I could be in terms of fitness and dress. Professionally, that meant building skill sets that my employer, co-workers, and clients valued. It meant working a little bit harder to prove to key stakeholders that they could trust and rely on me.
TMM: You've got a great job and an awesome blog. What's next for you?
RM: I've been blogging at lifelaidout for a little over two years now and it's been a great outlet for me. There are a lot of things that I'd love to do with the site if I had the time. What you can expect from me for the rest of the year are small incremental changes. Maybe a new logo and website design, an ebook if I get some free time, and perhaps some new consulting services.
There are some great tips in here, especially about buying clothes that fit without breaking the bank. I also like how Roger has dealt with insecurity by focusing on improving himself in ways that he can control. He has become a talented, confident person, regardless of any genetically-determined factors like height.