Every body type has its 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 half-inch matters.
Pattern, silhouette, and cut are all critical to avoid looking like you're wearing your older brother's clothes.
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 not only specializes on classic lines, but also has a slim silhouette.
Always have the tailor fit the suit snugly. As Americans, we normally wear our clothes too big – this is the worst thing you can do to 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 (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 & 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. 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. Un-cuffed 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. If you're not having your suit custom-made, shopping around for a while before making the final purchase is recommended. 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 S or XS might not not need those 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; 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 wider.
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!