When designing clothes for petite men, what height is considered short? The clothing industry makes the fit of clothing for various heights based on roughly 3” increments.  They could have called each category, fit 1, fit 2, fit 3, etc. but words like tall, regular, short, prevailed.

In each category, every part of a garment is proportioned differently.The length of the jacket (nape of neck to bottom of jacket), neck to waist (for proper shaping at the waist area), elbow position (so the bend of the sleeve is correctly appropriate), the lapel length/strap (which affects button placement, and so much more), and so on.The measurement/size of a person’s chest has nothing to do with the length of a jacket.  A man can be 5’4”, 5’6”, 5’9” or 6’1” and still be a size 40. The same fit proportion is accounted for in pants – with knee notch, rise, pocket seam placement, etc., all adjusted to fit the various heights of men, correctly.

If a man that is 5’7” tries on a” regular” and a “short”, he will find that the “short” is definitely more appropriate.  Once one sees and feels the difference, the correct proportions become so much more apparent.As guys don’t like to talk about their height, a man that is 5’6” may not ask the salesperson to show him a “short”, but he should.  If the salesperson tries to sell him a “regular” size, they should be fired!.For the man that is 5’4”, he is often given a “short” to try on, but should be given an “extra short”. No one wants to say “extra short”, but as a category in clothing, this is the fit, that is best for the person of this height.

In stores, the salespeople can only show you what they have to sell, so unfortunately men that should wear a shorter size, are talked into a bad fitting garment (as a lot of stores don’t stock short sizes).  This is not just relevant to suits and sport jackets. All men’s clothing – coats, dress shirts, sport shirts, jeans, casual pants, etc. – should all be worn with the proper proportions, properly designed at the manufacturing stage for the appropriate height of the end user.  Unfortunately, for many reasons, this is not done.

The following is a basic guide to what category of garment you should be wearing based on your height (and this is assuming that the manufacture/designer has chosen the correct back length/measurements, in the first place.

Extra short, 5’1 – 5’4”

Short, 5’5” to 5’8”

Regular, 5’9” to 6’

Tall, 6’1” to 6’4”

Extra tall, 6’5” to 6’8”

Dress shirts for small guys follow the same basic principle.  At ROBBIE BROWN, my assumption is that if a man is 5’4” (regardless of his neck size), he is going to be a 31” sleeve length. Similarly, the man who is 5’6” is most likely going to be a 32” sleeve length.  Obviously our shirt lengths are shorter for each, as I don’t want the shirt to be too long.And yes, you guessed it, short man pants follow the same design/fit rules.  Which is why we pay attention to appropriate rise and inseam measurements.  When a pant is designed with a shorter inseam, the thigh and knee position is changed to properly fit the shorter guy that is going to wear it.  And yes, you guessed it, pants follow the same design/fit rules. Which is why we pay attention to appropriate rise and inseam measurements. When a pant is designed with a shorter inseam, the thigh and knee position is changed to properly fit the shorter guy that is going to wear it. 

Finding good short and stout men’s clothing

Remember, a good fitting garment has nothing to do with how tight something fits (wearing an item tight or loose is a style preference).  Good fit, comes from a garment having the right proportions for the height of the person wearing it. Because a shorter man tends to stand more erect, we balance our garment to better fit this stance.  If a shorter man buys a short “styled” jacket, the length may seem o.k., but the waist, elbow position, balance, etc., was made for a guy 5’9”, and simply cannot fit correctly. A garment can be made looser or tighter with alterations, but the location of vital shaping cannot.  This is why a garment that is not made with the right proportion for your height will never fit (regardless of how many times it is altered, or how good the tailor is).

My advice to people is, never settle for second best.  You must know which category of fit, is proper for you. You should care a lot about the way your clothing fits you.  The better if fits, the better you are going to feel, and feeling good in your clothing enhances your self-esteem and self-confidence.  If you don’t believe me, do yourself a favor, get fit and experience the difference.

Let me know if I can help.


Robbie Brown is a retail entrepreneur and fashion innovator.  He is currently building a retail concept called, ROBBIE BROWN, clothing for men up to 5’8” (a fashionable and better quality store for shorter men).

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