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Alpha M

Smoke and Mirrors | Short Men’s Fashion

alpha_m_image_consultingHello!  My name is Aaron Marino and I’m five feet-six inches tall.  If you’re one of the millions classified as short, I understand the wardrobe challenges we have.  Dressing can be especially frustrating and disappointing – from finding the right clothing to wearing it properly –  so, I’d like to share what I call the “smoke and mirrors” way of dressing to look taller.

This article is packed full of fashion tips that will solve your biggest clothing dilemmas, and turn your wardrobe into one you’ll be proud to wear.  These guidelines will assist you in buying clothes, as well as how to wear them; while eliminating common fashion faux pas we often make.  Although they say you can’t choose your family… you sure can choose your wardrobe, so, let’s get started!

Before I get into giving fashion advice, I want to emphasize the importance of good posture.  It doesn’t matter how well you’re dressed, what body type you have, or how tall you are – standing and sitting up straight is essential in making you look your best.  Slouching is not only unhealthy; it gives a poor message by making you appear insecure and inferior.  To maximize your image, and to exude the confident and proud man you are, exercise good posture.  For us shorter men, there’s the added benefit of it making us appear taller.

In a nut shell, when putting your wardrobe together, keep this simple rule in mind: choose clothing that’s slimming and not bulky, subtle and not flashy, and properly fitted.  So, what does this all mean?  First and foremost, to make the most of our height, it’s critical to wear clothing that fits correctly; avoiding oversized clothes that are baggy, which take away from a sleek, upright appearance.  We want to keep our lines moving upward, emphasizing height; while avoiding oversized clothes that will make us appear square and shorter.

Clothing that’s too tight is not a good choice, either, and applies to all men.  Slimming clothes are styles made of thinner material and not heavy, thick fabric which tends to be hulking - and are, also, clothes that don’t have more material than necessary, such as cargo pants with extra outside pockets.  If your body type is slim, buy any clothing you can find that’s labeled “slim fit”.  Again, this will avoid additional material found in regular fit clothing, which on a slim body will give a broader appearance, taking away from height.

Subtle clothing means prints and patterns that are small and subdued; not overly large and distracting from the vertical line you’re trying to achieve.  We’re going for an overall look that will draw people’s eyes to your face and upper body, promoting height through clothing that gives an uninterrupted visual streamline.

Let’s break it down a little more.

Pants and Jeans:  Always wear a low rise pant.  This will eliminate any extra material in the crotch area, which hangs down and causes our legs to appear shorter.  Choose flat front pants, which give a more streamline look, uninterrupted by pleats, which tend to cut us in half.  If your body type requires a more relaxed pant in the hip area, choose shallow pleats, which are less noticeable.  Cuffs will also interfere with the flow, and will rob inches from your appearance.  Avoid cargo pants and shorts, which add bulk and girth, causing us to appear shorter.  Trimmer styles of jeans, straight or boot cut, are the best choices.  As comfortable as baggy jeans are, they make us appear wider, and take away from an elongated look.  Also, steer clear of stovepipe or skinny jeans.  They cause the eye to move downward, pulling your height down with them.  Always have your pants hemmed to the proper length.  If it requires a tailor’s touch, by all means do it.  The benefit far outweighs the cost.

Shirts:  Find button up shirts that are either tailored or fitted.  This eliminates excess material, which can make the shirt look too big.  Pay attention to sleeve length, and if layering under a sweater, blazer or suit jacket, cuffs should only be visible by a half inch.  If wearing the shirt untucked, make sure the hemline does not go past the crouch.  If the shirt is too long, it will cut down on visible leg length.  A shorter collar will elongate the neck, in addition to being more comfortable.  Choosing collars one and a quarter inches high will achieve this.  Straight- point collars and lapels draw the focus to the face, and are a great choice for everyone.

Blazers and Suit Jackets:  Two button jackets are your best bet.  They’ll give you a balanced look, without making your torso appear too long.  A double breasted jacket is not a good choice.  Short cut, vent less blazers that sit at, or just above the top of your butt, are great for showing more leg length.  If possible, buy jackets with trimmer bodies and sleeves.  Again, straight-point collars are very flattering for us.

Sweaters:  No reason we can’t indulge in warm, comfortable, trendy sweaters.  Just be sure to choose light weight sweaters, with a trimmer style, as opposed to the bulky, heavier ones.  You don’t want to be overpowered or swallowed up by your sweaters.  This applies to sweater vests, as well.

Shoes:  We want to avoid anything that will draw attention downward, which is exactly what an ornate, clunky, shoe or boot will do.  Instead, choose styles that are simple and sleek with thin soles, which will add to a taller appearance, rather than detract from it.  Surprisingly, a thick soled shoe makes us look shorter not taller.  There are shoes of varying heel heights, and it’s totally acceptable to wear shoes with heels from one to two inches high. Be sure to wear the appropriate shoes when measuring pants to be hemmed. I’m often asked about heel lifts, and whether they’re acceptable or not.  That’s a personal choice, and I’ve chosen not to wear them.

Patterns and Prints:  Solid colors are always safe to wear, especially if an outfit is coordinated with colors within the same color family.  They keep the lines flowing, instead of causing obvious breaks, which segment the body.  Darker colors are more slimming, and give the illusion of being taller.  Patterns, prints and pinstripes add variety to a wardrobe; however, choose subtle, smaller prints, and keep stripes below three quarters of an inch wide, going in a vertical direction.  Always choose vertical lines because they elongate.  Horizontal lines are our enemy!  I recommend as thin a pinstripe as possible on suits.

Shorts:  Shorts without outside pockets, and above the knee are most beneficial in achieving a longer leg and taller look.  Shorts, no longer than mid-knee, are acceptable, as well.

Coats:  Opt for shorter styles that don’t go below the waist.  Bomber jackets and hipster cuts work well, and come in a variety of styles.  Avoid three quarter and full length coats, if possible.  They hide too much leg and make us look squatty.  I appreciate the need for a longer coat – formal occasions, funerals, etc. – just aim to wear it only when you have to.

Accessories:  “Simple” is the word to keep in mind when using accessories.  Less is definitely more when it comes to jewelry, belts and ties.  Don’t overdo the amount you wear, and just as important, don’t wear large pieces – be it belt buckles, rings and bracelets, or even cuff links.  They will overwhelm you and emphasize your size.  For the same reason, ties should be thin and narrow, not the wide, broad style.  Don’t forget to buy ties that are shorter, and if you can’t find them, learn how to properly tie a tie to make it shorter.  Wide belts are a no-no for us.  They draw too much attention to our middle by cutting us in half, breaking the line and undermining our attempt to elongate our look.  Hats are definitely a great idea.  They’re in style again, and actually make us appear taller because hats extend our vertical line.  Check out my article on hats for some great ideas!  In general, downplay accessories and you won’t go wrong.

A few more tips

  • Get to know your tailor.  He will become your best friend!  I realize it can get costly buying custom made clothing, or using a tailor for lots of alterations.  So, if you need to watch you budget, use a tailor for your more important clothing.  Also, check out some of the new online custom made clothing companies.  Their prices are less expensive and their quality is usually excellent.
  • If all else fails, don’t forget to shop the boy’s department.  I know this hits hard, but the truth is there are some great styles, which won’t need alterations, in these departments.  Shop the finer department stores, and you’ll have great choices of quality clothing.
  • Choose shorter hairstyles.  Longer hair covers up the neck, making it appear short, and tends to make the neck and head appear to be one body part.  Instead, aim to open this area of the body up with a short haircut, which will add inches to your appearance.
  • Keep yourself fit and trim.  Weight has a way of stealing inches from our height by making us wider and square shaped.  Ultimately, we should all strive for a look that accentuates our shoulders, making them look broad, tapering down to our toes, in an inverted V or upside down triangle shape.  Clothing has the ability to do this; however, being your ideal weight will ensure this.


Looking good comes in all sizes.  It’s not about how tall we are, but how we make the most of who we are.  Pay attention to details and take the time to apply these tips to maximize your wardrobe and image.  Soon, you’ll be enjoying your new level of confidence and all the compliments you’ll receive!

by Aaron Marino

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