The average height for US men is 5’9″.  So let’s say the “average range” is between 5’9″ and 6’1″.  Being shorter, or taller, than average can be a challenge.  But let’s focus on the challenges of being shorter.

Numerous studies have shown that in the business world taller men make more money, are more respected and tend to have higher positions of authority.   There are always exceptions but it seems to be that shorter men tend to be at more of a disadvantage than taller men.  Since nobody will feel sorry for shorter men, let’s talk about some strategies to increase our “stature” in others eyes.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this because I realize there’s not much I can do about my height but the issue came up during a recent conversation.  While speaking with a couple of friends, the woman asked me, “how tall are you?”  Her husband said, “you’re about 5’11” or 6’0″.” After accepting the “compliment” I replied, “I’m 5’8″.”  They both replied, “really!  That’s all?!”  Instead of defending myself by making the point “I’m only an inch shorter than normal.”  The wife replied, “you appear much taller.”

My response was “yes, I know. It’s because I dress taller.”  This really got their attention because he wanted to know how I could make myself appear taller.  So I decided to share my tips via this post.

Before sharing the tips let me add one disclaimer…nothing I share with you will make you appear tall if you are Kevin Hart’s height and stand next to Shaq and Yao.  I’m just saying.  Ok, so here are my tips on what to wear when you are vertically challenged aka shorter than average.

kevin hart shaq and yao

1) Wear shorter length sport coats


Fortunately, shorter jackets are more stylish now so it’s not hard to find.  As much as we hate the “S” (short) word, embrace it when it comes to clothing.  I see far too many guys under 5’9″ wearing regular length sport coats.  If you are less than 5’9″, buy the S version e.g. 40S.  It may hurt your ego but you’ll look taller.  This works because it makes your legs look longer.

The old rule of thumb was that the bottom of your jacket should fall into your curled fingers when held by your side.  Forget that!  Just ensure that your jacket is long enough to cover your butt.  No longer and no shorter than that.

2) Make sure your shirt sleeve cuffs are showing under your jacket

Stylish men have always shown some 3/4″ or 1/2″ inch of shirt cuff under their jacket sleeve.  This is especially important for shorter men.  Showing this sleeve cuff makes your arms look longer.  Again, giving the appearance of being taller.  This is one of the easiest fixes and yet so many men, regardless of height ignore this rule.

3) Have pants altered with a slight break

Ever seen guys with lots of pants material pooling at their ankles?  These are guys who are not getting the correct break.  That pooling effect creates the illusion of shorter legs.


Here is the source of the problem…when most men get their pants altered for length, they pull their pants up around their belly button before taking the length measurement. The problem with this is most men don’t wear their pants that high. Instead, pants are usually worn around the hips.  So when the pants are actually worn, they are an inch or two lower on the body than when measured.

The resulting effect is an additional inch or two of material pooling around the ankles.  The easy fix…when getting your pants altered, make sure they are positioned where you will actually wear them, not where you think they should be.  (This will help prevent pooling, regardless of height.)

Have your pants hemmed shorter to create the image of longer legs.

If it fits your style, and you’re wearing slim cut, ankle tapered pants, you can even go with no break.  But you have to be wearing the right pants or these will look like high waters.

4) Avoid cuffs or make them small

Just as shorter guys should avoid wearing their pants too long, they should also avoid cuffs. Most people don’t know that cuffs in pants have a practical purpose.  They are designed to help the pleats in pants lay flatter.  The heavier weight at the bottom of the pants forces the pleats to lay closer to the body.  That’s a good thing when wearing pleated pants but the downside for shorter men is that the extra fabric at the shoe creates an illusion of being shorter.

Just as the previous tip suggested no extra fabric at the bottom of the pants, cuffs add extra fabric.  So avoid cuffing dress pants.

If a shorter man chooses to wear cuffs, just make sure it’s on 1-1 1/2″ wide.  A small cuff can add a nice touch to jeans and chinos.  Personally, I would avoid cuffing dress pants but it’s a matter of preference.  Regardless of pants type, if you cuff, make it small.

5) Chose the right color combinations

Opt for either monochromatic (different shades of the same color) or analogous (closely related) color schemes.

If you are wearing a dark shirt, opt for dark pants. Likewise, when wearing light pants, opt for a light shirt.  Also, ensure that your belt is the same tone.  You don’t want to wear dark colors on top and bottom and a light belt.  The belt will appear to break you in half.

Using the same color combination on the top and bottom elongates your frame.

Here’s an example using Mark Wahlberg who is 5’8″.  First with the contrasting top and bottom…

The lighter top and darker bottom seem to cut him in half and make him appear shorter.  Now take a look with a monochromatic option…

The similar colors don’t cut him in half.  Two things about Mark in these pics…

1) He could definitely up his style game

2) No criticism about those guns

6) Wear vertical lines

When choosing shirts, pants or sport coats with lines, opt for vertical lines.  Pinstripes are a good example of vertical lines.  Vertical lines draw the eye up and down, which causes the eye to take in more height than width.

Horizontal lines, on the other hand, draw the eye side to side, causing the eye to take in more width and less height.  Horizontal lines should especially be avoided for shorter men who are also carrying a few extra pounds.  This creates a double whammy of depressing your height and increasing your weight.

7) Wear slimmer fitting clothes

Looser fitting clothing may feel more comfortable, but it will also make you look shorter.  A slimmer silhouette helps to elongate the body.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this only applies to thin men. The same holds true for heavier guys.  When I say “slim”, that doesn’t necessarily mean “skinny” fit. It’s true, only slim men can get away with the skinny fit but any man can wear slim fit.  Slim fit is not a body type.  Slim fit is a clothing cut meaning that the piece fits closer to the body.  If you wear a 42 jacket.  A 42 classic fit just means it’s roomier.  For an average size guy, a 42 slim cut will also fit. It just will not be as “full” in the chest and mid-section.  This is a good thing.

You’ll need to play around with fits because designers will use different standards so use this as only a guide.  Find the trimmest fit that doesn’t make you appear to be busting out of your clothes and wear it.  Don’t avoid an item just because it’s labeled “skinny.”


8) Follow mom’s advice…Stand up straight!


Most moms have never steered us wrong.  This is one piece of advice you can certainly take to the bank…” stand up straight!”

This simple piece of advice can add inches to your appearance.  Not only will this make you appear taller, but it will also make you appear more confident.  Make no mistake, confidence can cover a lot of weaknesses.

My final point is one of encouragement…nobody is perfect!  This article is meant for shorter guys.  Believe me, I talk to friends who are over 6’5″ and they face their own set of challenges.  (I bet Shaq and Yao wish they were Kevin Hart every time they step on a plane.)  There are guys who carry too much weight, guys who can’t gain weight, guys losing their hair and more importantly guys with serious health issues.

So everyone has something.  Be thankful for what you have and do the best you can to play down the lesser points and play up your strengths.  Being well dressed, confident and happy in your own skin will make up for a lot of challenges.

Every day, give thanks for what you do have because there are a lot worse things than being shorter than average!


Dressed Club is a member-based appearance advisory service.  Our Professional Appearance Advisers provide affordable, expert coaching in the areas of clothing, grooming, health and body language.  Dressed Club members make memorable impressions so they don’t miss opportunities.

Book a session here.

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