There are a lot of great style blogs out there, full of advice for men who want to step up their style game, but most of them are not written by men under 5'8″. Most style gurus don't focus on style for short men because, well, they aren't short.
Aliotsy Andrianarivo, a fellow man of modest height, is the founder of ThisFits.me. His eye for style has earned praise from GQ and Gilt. He's humble about it, but Aliotsy has a great sense of fit and is far more sartorially-minded than many other guys who write about men's style (myself included).
He doesn't write specifically about style for shorter gents, but he knows where we're coming from because he has experienced the same frustrations first hand.
I recently had the pleasure of asking Aliotsy a few questions about clothing, fit and dressing sharp. Here's what he had to say:
Thanks, Brock. My name is Aliotsy Andrianarivo, and I started This Fits on Tumblr in 2010 as a set of personal visual bookmarks – it was my version of Pinterest before Pinterest existed.
I meant for it to be my private reference file as I started learning the basics of dressing well. Somewhere along the way, other people picked up on it and started following. It eventually reached a point where I realized the site can't just be about me anymore.
I'm grateful for the coverage my site receives, though I'm not always sure why it comes my way. My sense of style isn't all that unique – some would even call it boring.
But I'm genuinely interested and excited about what I write, and from what others tell me, my personality comes through as a result. I make a point of keeping the tone positive, and have no problem acknowledging that I don't know everything. If that makes people gravitate toward my site, I'm happy for it.
It's hard to talk about this without sounding trite, but fit always trumps any other aspect of dress, including price, brand, and quality of construction.
I own chinos and jeans from really pricey brands that the men's blogosphere fawns over, but the ones that I look best in – and that I wear the most – are from more affordable brands that happen to fit me really well.
I think fit is especially tricky for shorter men because our margin of error is much smaller. The difference between something looking right or not is often as little as a half-inch or even a quarter-inch.
Actually, I do. The key is how you phrased the question. I think we run into trouble when we become too prescriptive and turn “avoid wearing” into “never wear”. That is, turning guidelines into rules.
Here’s the deal: those tips don’t exist in a vacuum – they came about because wearing those garments and patterns can visually shorten or widen a man's frame. So I think there’s benefit in making the alternate choices implied by the guidelines; that is, favoring solids or vertical stripes, or choosing 2-button, single-breasted suits.
And you can do just fine sticking to those guidelines. However, if you'd like to experiment with patterns or different styles of suits, I say go for it. Don't let guidelines keep you from trying on clothes and seeing what you like.
A great example is this picture of Matthew Fan, a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man in America contest. Matt is 5'4″, if I remember correctly, but here we see him ignoring at least two guidelines: he's wearing a double-breasted suit, and his pants sport large cuffs. Yet he looks great.
Part of this is because he's exploiting a few visual tricks to lengthen his frame (peak lapels, low button point, shorter jacket), but I think it's mostly because it's clear he's comfortable in his clothes.
All men can benefit from shopping for second-hand clothes online. Once you learn to filter through the junk (and my eBay searches help with that), you've got incredible selection available at your fingertips.
As for tips:
- Know the measurements of garments that fit you well. For sport coats, shoulders, chest, and jacket length are especially important. Don't go off the labeled size of a garment. I'm a 37 Short, usually wear 38 Short, but I've fit comfortably in everything from a 36R to a very-trim 40R. The How To Measure Guide on Ask Andy About Clothes is good for finding your ideal measurements. When a seller doesn't provide measurements, I usually message them that link.
- Have high standards for quality. I've seen people crow about getting a beat-up pair of Allen Edmonds for $10, justifying it by saying “they can always be re-crafted.” I don't get that. Get a like new pair for $50 to $150 instead, take care of them, and have them re-crafted in five to ten years. Don't buy damaged goods, no matter how cheap. Slight defects that you can live with are OK. If the seller doesn't explicitly say there are no rips, tears, or smells, ASK.
- Walk away. Often. Most sellers on eBay don't offer returns, so you're stuck with what you purchase. So be selective. Don't compromise just because something is cheap.
One of the biggest clothing problems for short men is sleeves that are too long on button down shirts. How do you address this? Do you go custom?
This isn't a huge problem for me, since my 32″ sleeve length is pretty widely available. I do avoid shirts that don't offer multiple sleeve lengths, and I find sleeves marked 32/33 usually run a bit long.
I'm getting a lot of wear out of my olive quilted jacket. Mine happens to be from Polo and fits really well on my frame, but many companies carry similar jackets (ranging from JCPenney to Barbour).
I usually wear it with a light blue striped oxford, denim or brown cords, and chocolate brown suede chukkas. On colder days I'll layer a navy or grey sweater, and maybe a grey or brown soporific scarf.
I like to keep things simple.
I'm really enjoying the pair I bought from Peter Manning. The construction and details need work, but I really, really liked the fit when I first tried it on. It's my go-to pair.
Oof, only one?
Well, I've only tried his jeans and chinos, but I really, really like Peter Manning's clothing line. He specifically designed it for men who are 5'8″ or under, and he's absolutely nailed the off-the-rack fit.
Any words of wisdom/inspiration for shorter gents who are frustrated with finding clothes that fit and want to step up their style?
Start by simplifying.
There's a lot of noise in the menswear blogosphere right now, and it's easy to rush off and make a bunch of purchases you'll regret later – especially when some blogger says it's “essential.” So I think it's good to step back, focus on the real basics, and work out the nuances of what you like and how it should fit.
Also, learn to be comfortable with your height. There's a difference between dressing to look taller and dressing to not look shorter – one is trying to be something you're not, the other is making the most of what you have. I think the former can lead to all sorts of regrettable gimmicks, while the latter engenders confidence no matter what you're wearing.
I'd like to thank Aliotsy for sharing his thoughts with us. Check out his blog, This Fits, for more advice, ideas and inspiration.