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Peter Manning, who’s not much shorter than the average 5’10” American man, describes buying clothes as such: “Shopping was a dispiriting and unhappy experience. Simply put, I couldn't find a pair of pants that fit.”
It’s a problem that plagues any guy who doesn’t meet the lofty heights that the fashion industry expects of them. “Clothes are generally designed for guys that are 6-foot,” says Steven Mazur, cofounder of Ash & Anvil, a brand that makes clothing designed specifically for men under 5’8”.
“If you go to most major retailers’ websites and see the photos of the models, it often says ‘Model is wearing a small and he’s 5'11"' or ‘Model is wearing a medium and he's 6'1”,” says Mazur. Fitting clothing around 6-foot-tall men just doesn't make a ton of sense. In reality, the guys reaching for a small aren't beanstalks.
Like Manning, Mazur and his cofounder Eric Huang couldn’t find clothes that properly fit their bodies, so they started making their own. Both note that about a third of the population in the US — or 30 million men — are under 5’8” and without many good clothing options for their height. When sizing clothes down, it takes more than just going from a medium to small at your local retailer, Manning says. “We rethink everything: pocket placement, pocket size, button stance, sleeve width, cuff lengths,” he explains. “A small from another brand could be a 6-foot-tall skinny guy, so that small can be quite long in the sleeve and the length.”
Mazur points out that at traditional retailers, sleeves and body length may jump two or three inches with each size. But brands like Ash & Anvil and Manning’s eponymous label make much more precise changes; shirts at Ash & Anvil move only a half-inch in body and sleeve length from size to size to cater to dudes who aren’t as tall.
Manning and Mazur say that for men their size, the limited methods for finding clothes that fit are either expensive or embarrassing. They can shop at the kid’s section — “but what 34-year-old man wants to go to the kid’s section?” Mazur asks, fairly — or they can get custom or tailored clothes. “No one is walking around the street naked. [Smaller guys] figure it out and they get their pants cuffed and they tuck their shirt in. But it's not fun,” Manning says.
Here’s a list of brands that are designing clothes specifically for men under 5’8” (unless otherwise noted) and hopefully making dressing a lot more enjoyable in the process.
Manning offers what he calls “casual classic American clothing,” and you’ll find all your standard basics on the brand’s website — suits, shirts, activewear, pants, and even accessories like ties that are designed specifically for the “not-so-tall guy.” Peter Manning plans to expand into additional categories to make it a one-stop shop.
Ash & Anvil has fussed over its shirts to make them perfect for shorter guys. The brand considered big things like sleeves and shirt length as well as smaller details like collar size, armholes, cuff length, and tail drop. Mazur says that the brand has tested the fit on more than 100 guys, but he and Huang had to get crafty since they weren’t dealing with clothes that would fit the typical model. “Really, meeting guys on the street and saying, ‘Do you want to come to our apartment, have a beer, and try on some clothes?’”
The resulting button-down shirts come in classic styles and patterns — like blue oxfords and gingham prints — as well as a “limited selection” of funkier pieces that includes a colorful plaid and a shirt with an all-over anvil print, a nod to the brand’s name. Mazur says Ash & Anvil plans to roll out several new products this year, starting with jeans.
Jax Everett is shirting for the short guy who wants a bit more personality and designed for men who are 5’9” or shorter. If you’re the kind of dude who likes an unconventional trim — like a paisley pattern on the inside of a cuff — Jax Everett’s got it. The label also has a selection of solid and graphic tees and sweaters available as well.
The button-downs are pricey — they start at $128 — and some people around the web have noted it might be cheaper to just get a made-to-measure shirt from a place like Proper Cloth (where button-downs start at $85). But if you don’t want to go through the minor hassle of figuring out your exact measurements, you can shop here.
While some of these other labels offer shirts and not much else, Silas Jackson has a wider selection of clothing that includes polos, basic T-shirts, khaki pants, blazers, and, yes, button-down shirts as well. So if you’re looking for a one-stop shop, this is probably where you want to start. The prices are reasonable, too: tees are only $24, classic polos are under $30, and shirts start at $46.
This OG short-guy brand has been in business since 1982 — so kindly excuse the not-so-user-friendly online shop. Jimmy Au’s offers more tailored clothing and the stock focuses on suits, dress pants, and shirts, as well as blazers and sport coats (there’s also a small section of leather jackets.) Do note: Jimmy Au’s is definitely for a more sophisticated customer with the wallet to handle shirts that start at $125 and $500 blazers.
Yes, the mall brand known for “going out” clothes also caters to short guys, too. According to shoppers, Express’s sweaters are said to be particularly good for shorter men. The product selection is pretty similar to everything else on this list — button-down shirts, suit separates, jeans, and tees — but the big bonus here is accessibility, both in terms of price and the fact that there’s probably one inside your local mall.