Where to find:
Additional Resources about clothing and style for short men
Information on measurements and fit:
Taking your measurements | Fitting a shirt |
Fitting pants and jeans | Fitting a jacket or coat |
Fitting a suit | Finding a tailor
Fitting a Suit
The process of buying a suit is made much easier and more enjoyable if you find a friendly and knowledgeable salesperson to assist you. If you want a suit that looks good and fits comfortably, be prepared to spend a good deal of time with your salesperson (either online, on the telephone, or in person), and don't be afraid to ask questions or speak up when something feels odd or uncomfortable. If you aren't working well with a particular salesperson, don't hesitate to try another store or find someone else to assist you--it is worthwhile to find a person who will really take an interest in helping you.
A good way to find a knowledgeable salesperson is to ask a well-dressed friend or relative where he purchased his suit. You could even ask a well-dressed stranger--many men are happy to give referrals if they have found a store or salesperson they especially like.
For the shorter man, it pays to check short men's specialty shops who specialize in short sizes, or a custom clothier who will make a suit to measure.
Points to consider when buying a suit
When shopping for a suit, consider fabric, style and cut, color, and having the suit fitted properly. You should also consider the accessories you'll need with a suit, such as a dress shirt, a tie, a belt, and a good pair of shoes. Keep those items in mind and mention them to your salesperson when considering your budget.
A note for those on a very strict budget: You might want to visit a menswear store to have your measurements taken and to get a general education on fabric, cut, and how a good suit should look and feel on your body. Then you can take this information and visit a thrift store to find a suit that fits reasonably well, and spend a little money to have it fitted properly by a tailor. Thrift stores may have a decent selection of good wool suits (some worn only a few times) at very reasonable prices.
It is highly recommended that your first suit be made of 100% wool. Wool is a natural fiber that breathes, which means you'll be more comfortable and you'll sweat less than in a suit made of man-made materials. Wool is also durable and travels well.
Fabrics other than wool have their drawbacks, and probably should not be considered for a first suit, unless there is no alternative. Polyester suits should be avoided, as they do not breathe, but if you need to keep costs down, a polyester/wool blend might be a reasonable choice.
Look for suits made of 100% "worsted" wool. The worsting process involves selecting long wool fibers and twisting them into tight and resilient yarns. Worsted wool suits are durable, hard-wearing, and usually fine for wear in all seasons.
As for the weight of the fabric, the mid-weights are best overall for year-round wear, unless you live in a very warm climate. If you do happen to live in a very warm or very cold climate, ask your salesperson about your best options in fabric weight.
For a first suit, it is generally safe to stick with a basic single-breasted style, where the jacket buttons in front in a single row of buttons, rather than a double-breasted suit, where the material folds over itself with two rows of buttons. Single-breasted jackets come in a variety of styles, including the classic two-button and modern three- and four-button styles. For a shorter man, a two-button jacket with a relatively low stance that shows more of the tie will make the upper body appear longer. Always leave the bottom button on a single-breasted jacket undone. A vest is not necessary.
The cut of a suit refers to how the suit sits or hangs on your body. Suits can be broken down into three basic cuts:
1. The American cut. First introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1895, it features a boxy silhouette, straight hanging lines, natural shoulders (no padding), flap pockets, and a single center vent in the jacket. The American cut is a classic cut that is a fine choice for a first suit.
2. The British cut. This cut is more shaped than the American suit with slightly pinched waist, double vents, higher armholes, padded shoulders, and flap pockets.
3. The European cut (Italian). Sleek, modern, with padded shoulders, no vents, flapless pockets, and tapered waist (V-shape) on the jacket.
Of course, these are simply basic descriptions; there are many variations in the way suits are cut and styled. For example, another popular cut variation in recent years is the "executive cut," which allows for more room along the waistline for those men who carry more weight in their belly.
The important thing when considering cut and style is to find a suit that fits and flatters your particular body type, and that is "classic" enough in its styling that it won't go out of style next season. Ask your salesperson to help you find a good, basic cut and style that will wear well for you on many occasions.
For your first suit, it is advisable to stick with dark, solid colors such as charcoal gray, black, or navy blue. If you are buying an additional suit or suits beyond your basic solid colors, subtle patterns such as pinstripes or herringbone may be considered. Try to choose colors and patterns that will stand the test of time and will be appropriate for the settings in which you will wear the suit.
Fitting the suit properly
When you are shopping for a suit, you should expect the salesperson to take all your basic measurements: neck, shoulders, sleeves, chest, waist, and inseam. Your salesperson may request/take additional measurements including shoulder width, overarm, torso length/jacket length, seat, hips, outside leg, thigh and knee measures. Have them measure you first, before you begin looking at suits.
If there is any part of the suit that doesn't fit exactly right, it should be altered by the shop. In some stores, alterations are free, and in some you will pay a fee. Again, it is good to be working with a salesperson who has your best interests in mind when it comes to fitting. Be sure to ask questions if you are not sure how something should feel or fit.
How the suit should look
To follow are some hints on the various parts of the suit, and how they should appear when fitted properly.
The jacket should lie smoothly over your shoulders and across your back, and should look proportional to your physique. The length of the jacket should cover up your entire backside (your butt). The back of the jacket should end where your butt meets your leg.
Jacket sleeves should end at the point where your hands meet your wrists and show 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff. Higher armholes may help your suit to drape better on your body, but they should never feel tight or binding. Make sure that you have free movement of your arms. As a test, bring your arms straight out in front of you.
The collar should hug the back of the neck without buckling or pulling. 1/2 inch of your shirt collar should show from under the suit's collar.
Shoulder pads, if you have them, should help the suit to hang properly and help you achieve more of a "V" shape. For guys with narrow shoulders, pads might improve your overall silhouette, but they should never be too bulky or obvious, nor should they be so wide as to diminish the appearance of the head. The shoulders of a jacket should frame the head for a balanced presentation.
Lapels should lie flat to your chest, and should never bunch up or buckle.
Vents are in the flap of cloth below the waist at the back of the jacket that covers your backside (your butt). You can have one, two, or no vents depending on your body type. If you have a large backside, two vents are advisable; if you have a very flat backside, you can opt for no vents. The idea is to not have the back of the jacket stretching across your butt.
The waistline should be comfortable; make sure that you can stick two fingers into the waist while you're wearing them. Suit pants tend to be worn a bit higher than jeans, which are usually worn on the hip. Usually the waist of suit pants falls at or just below the navel.
Cuffs help the pants provide a little weight at the bottom and help the pants to hang correctly. Stick to a maximum 1.5" cuff, unless you are short, in which case you might want to try a 3/4" cuff, or avoid them altogether, as they tend to make the legs appear shorter.
It is best to have a 100% cotton dress shirt to wear with your suit (like wool, cotton breathes). Plain white, point collar shirts are okay with all styles of suits and on all occasions. There are numerous variations in shirt collars-- you should choose a collar that is both classic and flattering to your face. For example, if you have a narrow face, you might want to consider a spread collar; if you have a round face, consider a straight point collar. As a rule, never wear a button-down collar shirt with a double-breasted suit.
Your shirt should be smooth around the neck and allow for an index finger of breathing room in the collar. You should never feel choked by your collar. Most men who feel choked when wearing a suit and tie often are wearing shirts with an ill-fitting collar. Have a salesperson measure you to fit your shirt and collar properly.
Belt, shoes, and socks
Your belt should be the same color as your shoes, and both belt and shoes should preferably be made of leather. Black is usually a safe choice for both shoes and belt. Wingtips or other traditional lace-up shoes are recommended. Socks should be dress socks and should match your pants. The metal of your belt buckle should match the metal of your watch, if you wear one.
The tie you choose should have subtle patterns and background colors to match the suit. If you are unsure, ask for assistance in a good menswear store. 100% silk ties tend to make the best knots. If you feel choked when wearing a tie, make sure that the collar of your shirt is not too tight--this is often the cause of the discomfort.