Short guy needs clothes that fit.
September 5, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Where can a short guy buy clothes that fit?

I'm 5 ft 6 and slim, and I can never seem to find clothes that fit me properly, even in small sizes. Everything winds up being too big on me, particularly shirts; the sleeves on short-sleeve shirts (whether polo, t-shirt, or button-down) go almost to my elbows instead of ending around my biceps or triceps, and when the shirts are untucked, they go halfway down my thighs. As for long-sleeve button-downs, the cuffs inevitably slip down past my wrists.

It's very frustrating.

Where can I buy clothes that will fit me properly -- for example (but not exclusively), short-sleeve buttons downs that look like these? I just ordered a few of those in small, which is the smallest size they have, and it turns out they're too big for me.

But not just those types of shirts. Anything, really.

If it helps, I'm in my late 30s, and I'm also gay -- which is only relevant because gay guys tend to dress a little more trimly than straight guys. But I don't need "fabulous" or flashy clothes or skinny jeans; I just want nice, neat clothes that fit me trimly, something smart and casual that I could maybe also wear to work. And I live in New York City, so it doesn't necessarily have to be from an online store.

Oh -- and I'd rather not shop in the kids' department.

posted by Tin Man to Shopping (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Find a good tailor. Seriously. Sleeve-shortening is an easy thing for tailors. Yes, it will cost slightly more, but your clothes will actually fit. The hem can be brought up too. Clothes come in very few sizes, and people come in very many sizes, so they just can't make off-the-rack stuff that fits everyone. Tailors fix this!
posted by brainmouse at 4:39 PM on September 5, 2012

Oh, I forgot Express has nice short-sleeve button downs in the not-too-expensive way, Banana Republic has some too -- basically most menswear places will have those. And Old Navy has ridiculous vanity sizes -- their sizes are huge (and the quality is terrible). Buy better clothes that you like, get them tailored to fit, and it will be good.
posted by brainmouse at 4:42 PM on September 5, 2012

Ditto on tailoring. I'm 5'8 and finally went to a tailor for t-shirts, polo-shirts, and a dress shirt. It's an added expense but fits better. Taking in sleeves, bottoms, sides.

The only downside is that the shop I tried couldn't accommodate some of the details—for example they didn't want to reinstall the ribbing on a shirt sleeve, and didn't want to replicate the splitting on a bottom. And a button popped off the week after. So yeah, also find a *good* tailor.
posted by polymodus at 5:11 PM on September 5, 2012

Uniqlo and Ben Sherman are go-to options for the short men in my life, including my 5'6", skinny, 30-something boyfriend, and several friends (gay and straight). Uniqlo does free alterations, and there's a great flagship store in NYC! They also consistently carry XS and S sizes.
posted by soleiluna at 5:12 PM on September 5, 2012

I'm a fan of Uniqlo. It's a Japanese brand.
posted by just.good.enough at 5:13 PM on September 5, 2012

You know there are speciality clothing stores that cater to short men, right?

FWIW, my father used to run a small regional chain of short mens clothing stores on the west coast, so I know a bit about this business by osmosis. He's since closed his business and retired, but I know he worked with various suit, shirt, and pants manufacturers to have clothing specially cut for his stores, e.g., suit coats sized specifically for shorter men, low rise pants in shorter lengths, sleeve lengths that ran 27-29 inches, shirts with shorter bodies, etc. He was not alone -- each region generally has one or more short mens specialty clothing retailers. I don't know who to recommend in NYC, but I am certain there are short mens retailers in NYC.
posted by mosk at 5:15 PM on September 5, 2012

Also, here are short-sleeved shirts from Ben Sherman that seem to match what you are looking for.

(They seem to have different sizing for their more formal shirts, fyi.)
posted by soleiluna at 5:16 PM on September 5, 2012

Best answer: Hey Tin Man, just be glad you're not 5'4" -- it's even harder. First, a few words of validation: Yes, it's really hard to find smaller clothes. Size Small in most stores is way, way too large for people who are actually small. And stores are willing to have oodles of XXL shirts leftover without bothering to stock a single XS, ever (see my previous question. And although you might maybe find something smaller in the boys' section, the styles are way less grownup and refined.

brainmouse is on the money with the tailor suggestion, but tailoring is limited to some very basic alterations unless you're willing to pay far more than the cost of the garment (more on this later). First, you need to find clothes that are the closest to your size.

Express sure looks nice, but you'll notice they don't carry XS shirts. Disqualified.
Banana Republic is a more traditional, boxy cut. They have a few slimmer pieces, but you'll notice they don't carry XS in their stores so you can't even try them on to see if they are, in fact, small. Lame. You'll notice that in the Banana Republic stores they pin the shirts behind the mannequins to make their shirts look slimmer. Why they don't sell shirts made to look like that in the first place I cannot understand. So.

Uniqlo - Great selection of XS shirts in all varieties. Look for the slim fit varieties. If I had to limit myself to one store forever, this would be it. Although I recall they lack pants in 28 waist. What is your waist size?

Top Shop / Top Man - They carry pants down to 26" waist and shirts down to XXS! Amazing! Their styles never quite aligned with my taste, but I really appreciated that they offered them.

Club Monaco - You'll need to hunt down the slim-fit varietals, but they carry shirts in XS and pants in 28 waist.

Ben Sherman - Great looking XS shirts. Find the cut that you like. The SOHO fit is the slimmest.

Gap - Mostly oversized, but I had great luck with shorts there a year ago so thought I'd mention it.

H&M - Sizes at H&M are wildly inconsistent, but check out their XS "Fine Cotton Stretch" T-shirts.

ZARA - The occasional small-enough dress shirt. ZARA gets more credit than deserved for small sizes, but they have the occasional find.

Bonobos - Online pants-focused store. I seek out their slim-fit pants which are few and far between, but their stuff is slimmer than average.

(Jeans) - You didn't mention problems finding slim pants, but just in case:Lucky, Seven andDiesel make slim fits in waist sizes down to 28. These are way overpriced, but if you want the fit...

As I mentioned, tailors can only fix certain things cost-effecvtively. Hemming pants is an obvious one. I found that Dejavu Tailoring did what is called an Original Hem or California Hem: they sew the factory Jean hem back onto the shortened jeans so that you don't lose the worn hem. They also shorten dress shirt sleeves from the shoulders which allows you to maintain the placket and buttons at the appropriate wrist position. Many tailors will just attach the cuffs a few inches up, this is disappointing.

Hope this helps!
posted by reeddavid at 5:18 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think I heard about your father's store, perhaps in Seattle's Pioneer Square? I didn't get to experience it before it was closed. If you know of any other such stores still operating, I'd love to piggyback on here and know what they're called.
posted by reeddavid at 5:23 PM on September 5, 2012

Also re: 28" pants - Uniqlo does carry them (as of ~1 year ago.) Two other sources for 28" jeans - Urban Outfitters sometimes carries them. American Eagle does as well, although I feel a bit old shopping there.
posted by soleiluna at 5:26 PM on September 5, 2012

reeddavid -- Actually, my dad's stores were primarily in the SF Bay Area (and for a time in San Diego and Scottsdale, AZ). His business was called The Short Shop, but he closed his last store and sold the name about a dozen years ago or so, as he tired of the grind of running his own retail business; any business currently operating under that name has no connection to him or anyone in our family. If such a store is open it may still be a good resource for short mens clothing, but I just want to make plain that I am not connected with it in any way.

I know the store you mention in Seattle -- Mitch's Clothing, perhaps? -- and recall that the owner was friendly with my dad. But I don't know if that store is still open.

One store that I know is still in business is Jockey Club, Ltd., but I don't know anything about it today, and (again) am not connected with it in any way. I just know that when my dad was running his business he put together a group (the Short Men's Clothing Association -- which may no longer be around) to negotiate with manufacturers to have short men's clothing specially made, and this store was also a member of that group, IIRC.
posted by mosk at 5:43 PM on September 5, 2012

Lacoste makes polos (and other things) that are properly sized. If you buy them directly from a Lacoste shop instead of from a big department store, you'll probably find a better choice of sizes. Look for the polos in Lacoste's own "number" sizes, maybe a 4 or a 5.

In theory, Hollister has stuff in smaller, better-fitting sizes and cuts, but shopping at Hollister comes very close to shopping in the "kids department". Also, quality there can be pretty disappointing sometimes.
posted by gimonca at 5:44 PM on September 5, 2012

My brother is about that height and build, and buys most of his "sharp casual" stuff at Express.
posted by hishtafel at 5:46 PM on September 5, 2012

Another resource I forgot to mention, particularly useful if you're looking for dress clothes is the Short Shrifted blog. Looks like the author abandoned it, but there was some good stuff there.
posted by reeddavid at 5:47 PM on September 5, 2012

I am a small dude (5'6", 130lbs) and I basically only shop at Uniqlo anymore, although part of that is me getting fed up trying to find clothes that fit and giving up.
posted by griphus at 5:58 PM on September 5, 2012

(NB: Only buy the pants which aren't pre-hemmed and get them hemmed to where you like. The pre-hemmed ones always run a little too long for my taste.)
posted by griphus at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2012

5'2" here. I've found that Gap Outlet stores have a decent selection of small pants and shorts, and, to a lesser extent, shirts. Even then, the pants run a little long for me, but they might work for someone a little taller.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:04 PM on September 5, 2012

Mrbubbaclees is about your size, and his go-to sources are Banana Republic (there's a slim and extra slim line, I believe, though he always has to have long sleeve shirts tailored to get the sleeve length right), Uniqlo, and sometimes even Muji. He also likes the John Varvatos brand (he typically gets it at Nordstorm). Also, you could try consignment--he's gotten some finds in Ina Men for example.
posted by msbubbaclees at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2012

I am 5 foot 7 and 135 pounds, I have had good luck with Gap Slim Fit XS
posted by Pantalaimon at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2012

I'm 5'8" and it's a toss-up whether a small fits me. Gap slim fit shirts fit me. LL Bean and Lands End have both recently started doing "trim fit" button up shirts. Boring, but if you need office shirts...

Old Navy sizing is all over the place. It's almost too frustrating to bother with. Their polo shirts do fit me. They've started doing slim fit shirts, but I haven't tried one on. H&M definitely makes small clothes, but I feel the quality is too low to bother with for the price (and I shop at Old Navy!).

Trousers are just a nightmare and I hate buying them, even though everyone stocks 30in waists.
posted by hoyland at 9:01 PM on September 5, 2012

Nthing Uniqlo and H&M. Another money option that I'm surprised nobody mentioned:

Urban Outfitters

They stock lots of XS shirts and jackets. I just bought a nice blazer there last week. (Per Mefi recommendation!)
posted by vecchio at 9:22 PM on September 5, 2012

How about custom-made?

Carl at CEGO Shirtmaker on 28th Street makes my shirts, and they fit perfectly. He will make you two shirts, and once you've worn them and had them washed a few times, he adjusts the fit for future orders. The shirts cost $100-$200 depending on the cloth you choose and are well worth it.

Mr. Ned on 5th Avenue makes custom suits starting at $850, again depending on the fabric you choose. He can make trousers to fit also, but at $200 and up it's harder to justify than the custom shirts.
posted by nicwolff at 9:57 PM on September 5, 2012

My 5'3" friend often shops at Patagonia, then has some tailoring done.
posted by slidell at 2:17 AM on September 6, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, these answers give me some great places to look. Thanks all.
posted by Tin Man at 8:48 AM on September 6, 2012

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