Where do short trans men shop?
November 30, 2018 11:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 5'2" AFAB person who is exploring my masculine side and considering what transition would mean to me. I've just started shopping in the men's section, which is like being a kid in a candy store, but alas, usually ends in sadness as I realize I hardly fit into anything there! What stores and tricks am I missing?

I'm of slender to average build, and the one advantage I have when it comes to menswear is that I'm flat-chested enough to wear men's button-downs without binding (though I still look miles better with a binder on). My hips are 4" wider than my chest, and combined with my height, they're my biggest block to wearing menswear well. Honestly, I know that many cis men are my height, and I have no idea how they do this even with narrower hips. Things are just cut so long!

I know that a lot of trans guys just get things tailored (but I'm not rich and don't know how to find an LGBT-friendly tailor -- having said that, I live in the Bay Area, so, like, presumably one exists?). I also know that a lot of short men and butch lesbians shop in the boys' department, but I have limited success there. I'm in my late thirties and want to dress like a mature, fashionable man. My height, assigned gender, and youthful face have always made people treat me like a child. The last thing I want is to double down on that, especially while considering transition, which I know will immediately recast me as a 14-year-old boy for the first year or two.

Are there tricks? Is there anything I'm missing -- names of cuts I should Google, ways of finding tailors, news that tailoring is cheaper than I think, specific types of shirts that tend to be cut short? Bonus points if you can advise me about men's pants, which I haven't even attempted yet. I'm looking with longing at all the ASOS goodies featured in Autostraddle's Find Your Fit column, but when I see them on a male model, I know the tops will go down to my butt and cling tightly to my hips.

I'd give notes on my particular style, but right now my menswear style is "anything that fits," and in retrospect I've realized that my womenswear style was "layered and whimsical, the better to disguise my body completely." I've always loved fashion, but in a way that was really disconnected from the body underneath, so I feel like I'm starting from zero. I will say that I love button-downs and v-neck sweaters and warm, interesting colors, and I'm not averse to a pattern so long as it isn't childlike.

Thanks. Anonymous question because my real account is pretty linked to my real identity and I'm not confident enough about this to come out to MeFi yet.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I was in Uniqlo yesterday for the first time and instantsy went home and told all my friends like you to get over there. Sizes start at XS and I, a 5’6” woman wear a mens large there. Very worth giving a try, the style is kinda plain but classy and pretty unisex on both sides i would say.
posted by Iteki at 1:00 AM on December 1, 2018

If there are trousers which are just too long but otherwise fit, you can try iron-on hemming tape (brand chosen randomly as an example, I don't have a particular one to reccomend) to take them up without needing sewing.

I've had a decent pair of trousers from Make Your Own Jeans, but from other people they seem very hit or miss (it seems like you either end up with exactly what you wanted or the exact opposite, and never anything in between). It might be worth trying something cheap from them to see how it works out for you.
posted by Vortisaur at 2:00 AM on December 1, 2018

I'm transmasculine, but 5'8", so this is more information I've absorbed over the years rather than coming from experience.

Express used to be the name you heard a lot. (No idea why you hear it less now.) I've been hearing Uniqlo more recently. American Eagle, too, but I'm assuming it's too young for us both. The smallest inseam you find in stores is 28, but only some stores. Slim fit shirts were my saving grace for a number of years. I tend to shop at Old Navy, but I think the Gap and Banana Republic have a similar size range and more "adult" clothes. LL Bean has started doing slim fit, but their sizes tend to run large (and who they think they're making trousers for, I don't know, but it is most definitely not me). Unfortunately, for dress clothes, the answer seems to be "spend more money".

Since you've asked here, I'm guessing you perhaps don't know of some of the more trans-specific resources. This question does appear fairly regularly on r/ftm.* There are subreddits for short men, but my understanding is that they are quite toxic. Hudson's Guide has a page on clothing for short men. (I can honestly never tell how up-to-date Hudson's guide is.) There used to be guides/tutorials on altering (dress) shirts yourself. (I mean, they're surely still out there, but I haven't seen one linked in a trans space in years. They'll be in the old LJ Community, which remains the trove of transmasculine knowledge online.)

Do feel free to me-mail me about gender stuff.

*There's quite a bit about r/ftm I don't like, but it's where the hivemind is these days.
posted by hoyland at 3:20 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Peter Manning is a menswear brand in NY that specializes in clothing sized for those under 5'8".
posted by bcwinters at 4:57 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another point for Uniqlo is that they hem pants for free when you buy them.
posted by permiechickie at 5:05 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you part of the Bay Area Queer Exchange on Facebook? A while back someone there was offering tailoring services as a side gig and IIRC there was enough response that she ended up making it into a full-time business. (I’m not on FB anymore so I can’t look it up for you.)

Also, consider doing more thrifting to buy clothes for less money, and then spend more on tailoring if needed. When I lived in Oakland I had particularly good luck thrifting small-size menswear (especially buttondown shirts) at Out of The Closet (Lake Merritt) and decent luck at Crossroads in Rockridge and Berkeley.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:15 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'd check around on the hemming. I had a dry cleaner do really inexpensive hemming work for me - the cheapness showed on the inside but from the outside, no one else would know. If you mark the hem yourself before dropping them off, you don't have to try them on in the shop (if that's a concern for you).

I'd also ask your friends. A lot of random people know how to hem and personally if any of my friends asked me to hem something for them, I'd be really happy to help. Couldn't hurt if they brought me cookies, but I'd do it for no cookies.

Finally, if for some reason no other options are available - hemming is the kind of thing you can teach yourself without too much fuss.
posted by bunderful at 5:46 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

N'thing Uniqlo, but ASOS also tends to have menswear in a wide range of sizes, going down quite small.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:50 AM on December 1, 2018

Yeah, when I went through a similar phase of exploring men’s fashion a few years ago, I was delighted to see that ASOS often has stuff that goes down to XXS in the men’s department, which meant there were many shirts that fit me. I am just under 5’2” with small boobs but prominent hips, so I am feeling you here. I did have luck getting staples like jeans in the boy’s department (if you go for “husky” size or whatever they call it these days, it often allows for hips).
posted by diffuse at 6:37 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m about your size. I am also a big fan of Uniqlo. Lots of sizes, free hemming, plenty of room to experiment. Great value.

Wildfang makes stylish clothes in menswear styles that actually fit. I’ve been very happy with everything I’ve ordered from them. They often run good sales.
posted by faineg at 7:35 AM on December 1, 2018

I am 5'3", genderqueer/trans masc/whatever and was pleasantly surprised by the blazers and tops at H&M in the men's section. Judging from your description, I'm probably curvier and bustier than you are (an EE cup, and I don't bind) but still found plenty that fit me. I've heard Old Navy's boy's section is good if you're slender, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on December 1, 2018

Talk to Kipper Clothiers in Hayes Valley about tailoring -- they are fantastic. True, they are a bit spendy if you want something custom-made, but I have two shirts from there that I wear every week and they are holding up remarkably well.
posted by vickyverky at 9:27 AM on December 1, 2018

Short cis guy here. Every pair of pants I buy is cut too long for me. Getting them hemmed is like $10 at practically any dry cleaner. I also for a while bought specifically boys’ husky slacks because though I wasn’t particularly husky, in smaller sizes the waist to inseam ratio was right.

Bay Area Queer Exchange, above, is also a good idea but tread lightl if you’re unfamiliar with it. (The politics are extremely Bay Area. I was on it and left after watching one too many person posting an ad for a room perceived as too expensive be accused of genocide.)
posted by Smearcase at 10:05 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I will say that I love button-downs and v-neck sweaters and warm, interesting colors

Uniqlo is, like, button-down central -- their linen shirts, especially, are often a good value and hold up very well over time. And they are also V-Neck Valhalla. This time of year, they often have an entire wall of cashmere and blended options in a rainbow of colours (and they're often on a good sale). A+ do recommend.

Zara and H&M, depending on the season, can be a good source for tops, button-downs, and jackets/blazers. Occasionally dress pants, too, at Zara Men. Look for button-downs and blazers marked 'slim-fit' or 'slim' -- these will likely fit you better than regular-cut. (Your build sounds similar to my partner's and I swear like 90% of things in the closet are slim-fit things from Zara Men/Zara Youth, and they all fit well with no tailoring.) This current season's offerings at both of those stores has seemed to trend more toward boxy-cut/athleisure/oversize, though, unfortunately. But it's not been that way in the past, so don't get too discouraged if you don't find anything there that you like presently. Just check again in spring.
posted by halation at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2018

Here is a question I asked about flannel shirts that should be helpful.

There is so much info about tailoring on a budget and getting things to fit on DapperQ.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:14 PM on December 1, 2018

I also know that a lot of short men and butch lesbians shop in the boys' department, but I have limited success there. I'm in my late thirties and want to dress like a mature, fashionable man.

If the things in the boy's department fit you, but your problem is with the too-casual style, have you tried to shop in the boy's department at more upscale stores? I (cis, female, 5'4", small-to-medium build) buy half of my clothes in the boys department, but in places like Zara rather than Target. I find that Zara's clothes tend to run much more toward the child-being-taken-to-the-symphony-by-his-parents look rather than the Junior Motocross Championships look .
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:54 AM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I suggest, as a short person of any gender identity, that you get a cheap or used sewing machine and learn to hem your pants yourself. It’s easy and usually pretty forgiving. Even $10 is a lot to pay someone to hem your pj’s or gym pants. I’m a short cis lady and I regularly get tops from the boys department of jcrew outlet- they have a lot of stuff that’s pretty classic, good quality and less expensive than the adults.
posted by genmonster at 7:20 AM on December 2, 2018

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