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The long and short of it


Stitched Up

Benjamen Judd looks at how clothes can make or break the modern day man.

View more entries from Stitched Up

Standard sizing is the enemy for the very short and very tall.

Standard sizing is the enemy for the very short and very tall.

Tips on how to dress when you fall either side of average.

Let’s get one thing clear from the get-go: I have no qualms about being on the shorter side. Though standing at roughly five-and-a-bit foot, I have the idiot self-assuredness of a Chihuahua placed next to a Rottweiler and often forget that I’m usually one of the shortest guys in the room.

I don’t compensate or feel the need to act out in a naked bid for respect. No, the only time I suffer from anything vaguely resembling short man’s syndrome is when it comes to clothes.

I first came to the realisation that I was a couple of inches shorter than the average human male when I noticed I’d never purchased a pair of jeans that didn’t require some cuffing or the hem to be taken up. This was never much of a problem during the ’90s because every man and his dog liked to roll things up and it just gave me more room to move. Thankfully, this has also extended to chinos in recent years so I can stop my half-assed safety-pinning that’s a direct result of my being too lazy to visit the tailor. But other times it can be a real pain.

And it’s not just us wee nubbins that face a world of woe in the change room, our freakishly tall cousins have it even tougher. All we have to do is take something up or in but it’s decidedly harder for a taller gent to add an extra yard of fabric to a dress shirt.

With that in mind, here are some handy tips for guys who defy standard sizing.

Short end of the stick
I don’t see it as a big deal one way or the other but it’s understandable that some guys wish they had a bit more to work with. The first key to dressing taller is to avoid anything that will clutter or break up your frame. This means no big watches, clunky jewellery or busy patterns. When it comes to both casual clothes and dress shirts, stick with monochromatic colours or vertical prints and avoid horizontal anything or small checks.

Don’t be afraid to wear close-fitting clothing. I’m not saying you should shoehorn yourself into a pair of skinny jeans - but swamping yourself only serves to make you look shorter. Especially when it comes to business wear, which will make you look like you’re wearing your dad’s clothes.

Lastly, steer clear of the boy’s section and don’t wear a Cuban heel to add height. People will know on both fronts. Buy online and look towards Japanese retailers, who have an eye for adult style but cater mainly for smaller guys.

Long Johns
For friendly giants, the opposite of almost everything you just read rings true. Except for the Cuban heels part.

The object here is to break up your sizeable body with patterns and colour. Feel free to wear the biggest, manliest watches you can find and go nuts when it comes to wearing check shirts – the smaller the better.

When it comes to pants, avoid tapered, boot-cut or high waisted. The last two are sage advice for any man, but especially true for our tall brothers. Straight-leg is best and when it comes to jeans you want to opt for mid-to-low rise.

On the upper half, you must make sure that your shirt can be tucked in even if you don’t wear it that way. Cropped jackets are out as they’ll make your legs look even taller, and something that reaches to your hip is a safe bet.

Those who have to duck walking through a doorway and don’t like what’s on offer at the big and tall stores might have to go the way of tailor made. It can be as expensive as hell but worth it if you can scrape together the cash. In this instance, stick with classic cuts and looks that will last you a long time. Maybe even go halves with a shorter friend so we can fashion a full-length muumuu from your off-cuts.

What are your favourite workarounds for a deficiency or an excess of height?


18 comments so far

  • I went to Myer's stocktake a few years ago as they had business shirts for half price. Awesome.
    Only thing is I'm 6.3 and although the had my size (42), all the shirts on sale were standard arm lengths whereas I need a slightly longer arm.
    When I asked do they have any of those on sale, they said no, you'll have to purchase one of these non sale priced ($70) shirts. Grrrr...

    My workaround for this is when in Asia find a tailor and get lots of shirts made for 1/10th the price of Australia.

    Dustin Fletchers arms
    Extending from his shoulders
    Date and time
    March 16, 2012, 1:06PM
    • One size doesn't fit all. Shopping online is a nightmare as you can never really tell if the clothes will be the right length.

      While jeans can come in different lengths shirt tails can be very annoying (when I was thinner than now many of my business shirts would pull out of my trousers because they were cut too short for my frame).

      My advice, next time you visit a country with cheap tailers, get measured and get your perfect clothes mailed to you every year.

      Date and time
      March 16, 2012, 1:10PM
      • Okay, sort of unrelated...but why do suit pants on guys always look to long, all crumpled at the ankles? (ankle fold) I went to a wedding on the weekend and every chap, including mine (who had his pants taken up) all had ankle fold - why? why?

        Date and time
        March 16, 2012, 1:11PM
        • Long suit trousers should rest on the top of the shoes, with a slight fold at the ankle. They'd be too short otherwise, and look ridiculous when you sit down, hitched halfway up your calf.

          Date and time
          March 19, 2012, 1:57PM
      • Great advice. At 6'7" and 90kgs I think I fit in the category of normal build for a tall person. Problem is ALL clothing makers think ALL men above 6'4" are European weight lifters with the shoulders, arms and chest to match.

        Can people please post stores in Melbourne that sell long and slim cut shirts, jeans, suits, slacks and jackets.

        Note for clothing designers/manufacturers. Check how many tall, slim and fashionable men exist is comparison to tall, HUGE and fashionable.

        Date and time
        March 16, 2012, 2:37PM
        • TALL guys should try places like TMLewin or Hawes & Curtis. They stock longer sleeve lengths but the trick is ask the retailer or an alteration place to dart the back so you get a slim figure shirt. I have done this for many of my shirts with excellent success, it will cost extra but you will no be swimming in your shirt. For suits travel to asia(for a tailored cut) or try an online place like, good prices and highly customisable.

          Date and time
          March 19, 2012, 10:58AM
        • My 6'2 son is a weight lifter (dead lift 250kg) and it is really hard to find clothes broad enough in the shoulder, wide enough in the thigh and long enough in the leg - without being huge in the torso area too.

          Date and time
          March 20, 2012, 8:25AM
      • Being 6'5 and broad shoulders and small waist I find it extremely hard to find shirt that I can wear that doesn't un tuck itself every time I sit down. Any recommendations for business shirts for tall guys that don't fit like a smock??

        Port Melbourne
        Date and time
        March 16, 2012, 3:31PM
        • I'm a shortie (165cm), and yes, I've never bought a pair of trousers that haven't needed taking up. My tip is to go for shirts that have a shorter hem. It's sooo easy to buy shirts that finish somewhere at the bottom of my crotch. Not a good look. It simply accentuates my lack of height. Discovered great shirts that fit well when I was visiting Singapore.

          Date and time
          March 16, 2012, 3:33PM
          • I too am on the shorter side of being overly tall and have often had to roll up my cuffs and have the hems of pants taken down just to look uncomfortable. Can you suggest anywhere in particular that you might shop that doesnt stock brands that would be perfect for someone of my considerable unstature?

            Potts Point
            Date and time
            March 17, 2012, 7:30AM

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