This in-depth guide to sweaters for short men will show you how to wear sweaters in a way that flatters your build and makes you feel amazing.
The right sweater can help you layer up for fall, stay warm during winter, and keep it stylish in spring.
If you're reading this during fall or winter, it's probably getting cold out there. That means you're reaching for your favorite sweater all the time.
But does it fit right?
In our in-depth guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to rock a sweater with confidence and style.
Types of Sweaters
Whether it’s a wool quarter zip, a cotton crew, or a knitted cardigan, a great sweater is a secret weapon in a well-dressed man’s closet.
Typically made from wool and cotton, the most common sweaters are v-neck, quarter zips, and crew neck.
There’s no need to have a full stable of sweaters at your disposal. Some guys make sweaters their go-to, and if that’s you, pick up a few different colors and different styles.
But even if you’re not a sweater fanatic, you can’t go wrong with a few classic, versatile sweaters to layer in fall, winter, and spring.
One of our favorite things about sweaters is how well they complement other items in your wardrobe. You can wear a sweater on its own, but we think they’re even better as middle and outer layers.
Putting a sweater over a button-up shirt is a classic smart casual look that isn’t going out of style any time soon.
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But no amount of variety in your sweater game is going to make a difference if your sweaters make you look like a swamp-monster. That’s right, they have to fit. Even ugly Christmas sweaters look great when they fit well.
As you know, the hardest thing about finding the right sweater is getting a great fit for us shorter guys. Here’s a breakdown of how things should look when you find the perfect sweater.
How a Sweater Should Fit
When it fits right, a sweater is one of the more flattering items a guy can wear.
When it fits wrong, it’s a disaster.
More important than your favorite style and favorite color is the fit. Nail this critical first step and everything else will go smoothly.
You want the neck of your sweater to be fairly narrow. Not neck-chokingly narrow, but enough so that you won’t be exposing a ton of shirt around the collar.
The neck should fit over your head and leave a little room for the collar of a button-up to pop up and say hello.
If you can see the shoulders or the beginning of the back panel, the neck opening is too wide.
A big issue we’ve seen for shorter gents is the deep v in v-neck sweaters.
When you try on your sweater, make sure you’re not getting something that’s exposing two or three buttons.
Pro tip: Sweaters are delicate creatures. If you hang them, they’ll stretch out along the shoulders and will never fit well again.
Fold them up and keep them in a drawer 😉
Shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. Hopefully, you’re familiar with how shirts and jackets should fit in the shoulders. It’s the same story with sweaters.
Only the best tailors can alter this part of the sweater, and when they do, it’ll cost you probably just as much as what you bought your sweater for. Save your self the time and hassle and do it right the first time.
Make sure the shoulder seam falls right at the tip of your shoulder bone. The seam shouldn’t be ending at the edge of your shoulder muscle. This look is never good, especially for shorter guys.
How do you like your shirts? Slim fit? Traditional?
Whichever route you choose, you want to hit a balance that looks like it was fitted to your body. Not too tight, not too loose.
When you go to try on a sweater, you may find that they’re roomier in the chest. Most sweaters are made to be worn over shirts, so you actually want that extra space (just a little).
If you’re swimming in extra fabric around your arms, wrists, and armpits, you’re fighting a losing battle.
When the fit is right, you won’t find any excess material, and you also won’t see tension lines running horizontally.
Of course, for those of you guys who’ve been pumping iron lately, a few tension lines here and there never hurt anyone.
This is the part that gets most of us guys. You have to pay close attention to how your sweater fits around the torso.
Many sweaters have an elastic waistband that cinches in, and if you have extra fabric, you’re looking at major frump-factor. You’ll get a muffin-top effect that’s not flattering at all.
Go too far in the other direction, and you’re in trouble again. Because sweaters are made with thinner fabrics, especially wool and cashmere, going too tight will cause the button details to show through.
Too much detail coming through the sweater just looks clunky and doesn’t provide that clean, smooth surface that great sweaters provide.
Slim but not skinny is your best best. A bit of extra room around the stomach so you can layer up, but nothing more.
Sweaters are one of our favorite recommendations for building great style for shorter guys because they’re usually cut with a slight taper.
Most sweaters have some sort of elastic toward the hem. This should hug around your hips, but not squeeze at all. If it’s pressing in, you’re risking that muffin effect we mentioned earlier.
If it’s too loose, the hem will be apart from your waist. That’s a hallmark look of an old sweater that’s gone through the wash one too many times or a sweater that just doesn’t fit. Either way, you want to avoid it.
With shirts, if it’s too long you can always tuck it in.
But have you ever seen anyone with a tucked-in sweater?
That’s what we thought. I mean, you can tuck a sweater in if the fabric is very fine (like a extrafine Merino wool turtleneck), but most guys don't do this.
Make sure your sweater falls past the waist of your pants, the hem sitting mid-fly. If your sweater goes below your fly, you’re inventing a new style and we wish you the best of luck. In our opinion, that’s far too long.
Sweaters adjust themselves throughout the day, so if you’re just hitting mid-fly when you pull your sweater all the way down, chances are it’ll rise up above your waistband when you start moving.
If that’s the case, your sweater is too short, though us shorter guys rarely run into that problem.
Keep the sleeves with just enough room to fit over a shirt, but stay away from anything you’d consider baggy.
The best-fitting sleeve will end right at the wrist. An inch either way isn’t a deal-breaker for any sweater, but anything more than that, and you’ve got the wrong fit.
You certainly don’t want the sleeves to fall on your hands, and if you find yourself folding the sleeves, you’re better off finding another fit. Over time, the elastic will wear out and you’ll be left with a sloppy looking garment.
For us watch-fans out there, your sleeves should just cover your timepiece (we know, it’s hard not showing that beauty off).
If you get it just right, the ideal look is showing a bit of shirt cuff and wristwatch, all tucked neatly under the sweater. For this look to work, you have to get your fits down perfectly. When you get it, you’ll know you’ve mastered the art of fit.
Either that or Mercury is in retrograde and the groundhog saw its own shadow.
Common Fit Problems for Shorter Men
When you go into the mall, you’ll see that every major retailer makes men’s sweaters. So what do you do when you’re designing a line of clothing that’s meant to fit over 300 million people. You just take the average.
The average guy in the US is 5’9” and 195lbs. If that sounds like you, then walk into any retail store and pick up as many sweaters as you want. Go crazy.
But if you’re a different build, you’ll have a harder time finding sweaters that fit well right off the rack.
Tailoring knitwear is notoriously difficult to do, so while getting your threads trimmed up is a good option with shirts and pants, your sweater is a different story.
Us short guys usually run into these problems when trying on sweaters:
The Sleeves Are Too Long
There’s no covering this one up. When the sleeves are too long, it looks like you borrowed something out of your dad’s closet and you’re trying to make it work. Yeah, we’ll keep looking.
You can get the sleeves shortened, but it’ll cost a pretty penny. It’s better to get the right fit out of the gate.
The Torso Is Too Long
You can ignore the warning signs all you want, but if the torso is too long, extra fabric will just pool up around your waist. This just adds visual pounds to your frame when a great fit actually slims your profile down.
Many tailors won’t even attempt to hem up a sweater’s length, no matter how much cash you wave at them (well, that’s not true—but it depends on how much cash you’ve got).
The Shoulders Are Too Wide
Again, when the shoulders are too wide, you’re running into that “hand-me-down” territory. Even if people don’t consciously notice, it’s harder to give someone full respect when they’re wearing something that makes them look like a kid.
When the shoulders are too big, the whole fit is off. Go back to the rack and keep hunting.
Some of Our Favorite Sweaters
At The Modest Man, we’ve tried on our fair share of sweaters. Some of our favorites are:
- Uniqlo – some of the best value out there; wide range of sizes (including XXS…sometimes)
- Express – affordable, slim fit merino wool sweaters in crew and v-neck
- Club Monaco – like a high end H&M; they offer a proper slim fit sweater
- ASKET – unique sizing system that offers standard, longer and shorter lengths
- Peter Manning NYC – not slim fit but made specifically for shorter guys (shorter sleeves and body)
Do you have any favorite places to buy sweaters? Let us know in the comments section below!