5 Suit Buying Tips for Short, Skinny, and Small Men

Every body type has it’s challenges.

Short, thin, and petite men however have the challenge in that they have less room for error as their proportions have to be balanced just right.

Tailoring and fitting to the 1/2 inch matters – and pattern, silhouette, and cut are all critical to avoid looking like you’re wearing your older brothers clothing.

Short man suit tips

4 Tips to pay attention to when buying a suit for the short man.

5 Men’s Suit Buying Tips for Short, Thin, and Small Men

1. Get a Close Fitted Suit

A custom made men’s suit is your best option if you can afford it – next to that you’ll want to go with a designer brand that emphasis classic lines but also has a slim silhouette.

Always have the tailor fit the suit fairly snugly – as Americans we normally wear our clothing too big – this is the worst thing you can do with your body type.  You want as streamlined a profile as you can get with no extra cloth billowing or hanging.

If you’re shopping off the rack, focus on getting a close fit in the shoulders, chest, waist and crotch, even if the sleeves or trouser legs are a little too long or short.  Those can be adjusted much more easily than the fit on the body.  Any local tailor’s shop (and some of the better dry cleaners as well) should be able to do the small adjustments for you quite cheaply.

2. Wear Longer Sleeves and Legs

Most men want their suit sleeve to end a little high on their wrist, exposing about a half-inch of shirt cuff beneath it.  A shorter man can go a little bit longer, leaving just a small band of cloth visible; this makes the arm appear longer and makes the visual impact of that band of cloth less distracting.  Don’t, however, let the sleeve hide the shirt entirely — that makes the suit look too big for you. The key is proportion – more than any body type you want to nail this on the head.

Trousers should sit high on your waist to make your body appear as long as possible.  Avoid a belt, and wear suspenders instead; that way there’s one less horizontal line dividing your body up into shorter segments.  The trouser legs should be long enough to form a “break” on the tops of your shoes:  this is where the cuff rests on the shoe leather and pushes out very slightly.

Anything that bunches up on the shoe is too long and should be shortened; anything that doesn’t make it to the shoe at all will look badly-fitted and draw attention downward rather than letting it sweep up your body for a better impression of height.  Similarly, avoid any excess detailing on your trousers.  Uncuffed hems will make your legs look longer than cuffed, and close-fitted plain fronts will look better than pleats.

3. Get the Details Proportional to Your Size

This one can be a bit tricky, and if you’re not having your suit custom-made this will shopping around for a while before making the final purchase.  You want the little details that adorn the suit to look like they’re in the right place on your body.  Generic off-the-rack suits in a S or XS might not bother to make those needed adjustments — if you’re having trouble, look for brands that cater specifically to smaller men.  Some key details to watch for:

  • The lower pockets on the jacket should sit above the hips, not down where the coat widens over them.  Shorter men will want a slit pocket with no flaps — less distracting.
  • The upper breast pocket should be firmly over the front of your chest and not wrapped around the side of your body at all.
  • Lapels should match the width of your torso — if you have a slender chest, you need skinnier lapels.
  • If the back is vented, the vent should not rise significantly higher than your waist.  You don’t want a split all the way up the back of your coat.
  • The front of the coat should button directly at your waist.  On a two-button, single-breasted jacket that’s with the top button; on a three-button it’s the middle.

4. Wear a Vertically-Oriented Pattern

If the suit has a pattern it should be a minimal one, and one that orients the viewer’s eye upward.  Small stripes are ideal, and solid monochrome works well too, especially in a fabric that has some up-and-down weaving of its own.  Narrow herringbone is very good on short men; so is a corduroy suit for more casual settings.  Avoid any kind of check — the horizontal lines will just draw the viewer’s attention to the sides and make you look shorter and stouter.

5. Draw the Eye Upward

Smaller men will in general want their look to be less cluttered with details — the smoother the path for the eye up your body is, the taller you’ll seem.  But don’t shy away from helping draw the eye upward with a splash of bright color on the upper body.  A pocket square that really stands out against the jacket can help keep people’s attention up toward your face.  Keep their eyes moving with a crisp, peaked fold making a triangle pointing up!