Dressing Your Body: Short and Broad

Menswear and suits for the short, stout man.

All about fashion choices for men built shorter and heavier than average — no advertisements, no bogus links; just solid advice on finding a good men’s suit and other clothing for the small and sturdy.

A passing examination of most department store menswear racks shows the widely-shaped assumption that anyone shorter or taller than a certain point is always shaped the same — and no shortage of both short men and tall have had cause to curse it. Shorter men in particular are plagued by the tendency to cut all small-sized clothing down to something suited for large children more than short men, and the man built both short and stout is often the most frustrating to dress of all. However, choices exist that can flatter a stout man’s frame even in the 5’6″-and-under range — and the effect is worth the added effort of finding the rare pieces of well-suited clothing.

Short man and tall man in suits

Clothing Needs of the Short, Stocky Man

Vertical Presence for Shorter Men

A shorter man isn’t disadvantaged by his stature, generally speaking — in some ways, it often works to his advantage — but clothing that gives a shortening effect will look awkward and cramped on a short man in a way that it would not on a larger frame. A smooth, unbroken vertical presence flatters most men (except the excessively tall, who will follow the opposite advice), and short men should particularly seek a simple, uncluttered up-and-down presence that draws the viewer’s gaze to the face and the space above it.

Balancing the Broad Man’s Width

Stocky men are poorly-served by clothing that attempts to constrict or disguise their breadth of body; rather, styles that draw the eye upward (a benefit to short men as well) and present even proportions make the most flattering options. Simple styles in thin fabrics, styles that direct attention upward and outward, and detailing cut to size are all crucial elements of the stocky man’s clothing.

Style and Presence

A shorter man always benefits from standing out in a crowd, while a broad man wants to offer the viewer a strong stylistic impression to focus on. Stark simplicity serves the short, stocky man best — excessive detailing will clutter the appearance and prevent the viewer’s eye from moving naturally upward and outward. By keeping his lines as clear and understated as possible, a stout man can distinguish himself from others with more detail-oriented (and ultimately distracting) fashions.

Menswear for the Short, Heavyset Man: Heel to Head

Patterning Styles for Short, Broad Men

As a stout man, your wardrobe should primarily feature dark, solid colors. Removing the visual clutter of patterns allows well-fitted clothing to move the viewer’s gaze quickly along, sending it up (for height) and out (away from your width). Vertical stripes spaced close together add the most height, if patterns are desired, but dark colors are still imperative; bright dyes pull the eye in and invite it to linger, which is the opposite of your needs. Heavily textured weaves like herringbone or houndstooth are likewise undesirable — as much as possible, err on the side of smooth simplicity.

Shoes for Short Men

Footwear that provides a physical boost, either in the heel or within the shoe’s interior, may or may not add a few extra centimeters to a man’s height. More important is footwear that presents a clean visual line — avoid anything with unnecessary detailing or decorative seams. A plain-toed oxford serves best, and has the added benefit of being acceptable in even the most formal situations; an unadorned loafer will serve well on occasions when an oxford is too dressy. Resist the temptation to add height with a chunky heel, as it will add an unwanted feeling of solidness and breadth to your body (as well as looking like you’re trying too hard).

The Stocky Man’s Trousers

Trousers should be worn as high as possible on the waist, allowing the pants to drape comfortably over your stomach rather than forcing the flesh to hang over a low-slung waistband. A close fit in the crotch will help prevent a shapeless, saggy appearance, and helps create the impression of longer legs and extra height as well.

Cuffs at the bottom of the trouser legs add little to your appearance and break the smooth, vertical line, and should therefore be avoided. Pleats, on the other hand, will loosen the pants about the waist and hips and add a subtle vertical element as well. Fasten your trousers with a pair of suspenders, not a belt — the belt breaks your vertical shape in half and draws the eye directly to your middle, and the suspenders will be more comfortable besides.

A Suit Coat for the Short, Stocky Man

Men's brown suit with golden tie

A deep, narrow V-shape lengthens your chest and slims your torso.

Jackets for shorter men are always better-off cut short in the back, ending at or just above the curve of the buttocks to extend the line of your legs. A deep “V” in the front lengthens and narrows your chest, so opt for low-slung, two-button coats over the alternatives. Detailing should be kept to an absolute minimum — two slit pockets set at angles is all the coat needs.

Some men opt out of even that much, wearing a smooth-fronted jacket, but beware of keeping too many bulky items in your trouser pockets. A bulge in the side of your pants ruins the vertical line more than a pair of slits, so wear a suit with pockets if you carry enough items to need them.

Whenever possible, choose coats with peak lapels; these help guide the eye upward and have the added advantage of standing out as somewhat unusual in today’s fashions.

Shirts and Ties for Heavyset Men

Most of your shirt concerns will be pattern- and color-related, and the same advice holds here: select bold, solid colors that suit your complexion, and avoid weaves that add unnecessary texture to the fabric. A very narrow straight-point collar helps direct attention upward and slims your face out somewhat, so seek them out — if nothing else is available, even a more modestly-cut straight-point collar will top your chest with an upward-pointing “arrow” shape that directs the gaze.


Straight-point collars live up to their name, pointing the viewer’s gaze upward.

Broad men will want to avoid broad ties, and ties with flat ends. Try for narrow ties in simple colors or very understated patterns, and tie them with simple knots tightened down to a small size. Let the tie hang low enough, all the way down to just above the top of the trousers; a tie that falls too short will give the unappealing impression of draping flat over your stomach.

Completing the Short, Broad Man

Since the heavyset man’s style is defined by simplicity, there are few finishing details. Clean lines and well-matched colors will go further than any fussing with ornamentation, so avoid the temptation to dress a plain-seeming suit up with watches and pins. Trust in the cut of your clothes and offer a refined picture for people to remember — the odds are that most people will be more struck by the simplicity of a cleanly-dressed man than they would be by a busier look that flatters your body less.