Kevin Alexander from Nice Guy Dating approached us asking about some style tips for guys who are, well, short. He's been getting a lot of questions from his clients about height, so we decided to share what we've seen with our clients and offer style advice for dressing up when you feel your height is getting you down.
Why worry about height?
There is a social bias against short men, as the 2008 documentary S&M: Short and Male demonstrates. And if you are a male who is of below average height, you may relate to the stories of being bullied, and the general feeling that you have to work harder to get the attention, respect, and recognition you want.
Studies show that height can affect your income, and over a lifetime the extra dollars from those inches can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you look up studies about what women find attractive, height is consistently mentioned. Women express valuing height above other attributes, and associate height with feelings of comfort and security.
But when you start really looking into issues of height and attractiveness, while women may ideally identify taller than average guys for ideal attractiveness, in real-life they are very willing to compromise. And, height is only one variable in attractiveness. There are also things like shoulder-to-waist ratios, muscle, BMI, facial hair, fashion sense, humour, charisma, intelligence, career, income, social intelligence, and yes - even penis size - that various studies suggest impact a man's potential attractiveness with women. All these things can add up to factors that create your total attractiveness, even if you have some strikes against you.
Instead of getting lost in a rabbit hole of studies however, the thing to keep in mind is that objectively, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING SHORT. While there may be a social bias, and even unstated discrimination, day-to-day life can include experiences that disprove theories, studies and statistics. Like with many things in life, you have to play the cards you're dealt to the best of your ability.
While your height is not something that you can change easily, the strategy we'll talk about here involves acceptance and emphasizing other strengths as much as you can - many of which ARE in your control.
That leads us to clothes.
The Clothes Make The Man
Unlike height, your sense of style is something that you can consciously control, which says a lot more about you than your height does. For the man concerned about his height, clothes can be the easiest and most effective way to communicate that he is a cool, strong, confident guy that deserves to be listened to and respected.
And it turns out that while there may be some clothing considerations specific to guys on the shorter side - the advice really isn't much different then advice we'd offer any guy.
So here's 6 tips you can use to take advantage of personal style in your life - especially if your stature is less than the North American average of 5'9".
Tip #1: Focus on looking good, rather than trying to look "taller".
The worst thing you can do for yourself and your style - or dating in general - is to come off as insecure about yourself. If you try too hard, or look like you're trying to mask something about yourself that you don't like, everybody sees that. You actually draw attention to the thing you're trying to hide.
Insecurity and over-compensation are definitely not things that studies show women find attractive.
Instead, you want to emphasize your strengths so that you just look really good, and your height is almost something that other people don't really notice. A man who is sure of himself and who presents himself well is very attractive at any height.
While clothing can help you appear taller, your overall style strategy should be to deflect attention away from appearing short to other attributes: specifically confidence, maturity, sophistication, and strength. Those are the things that people may grant to taller people by default (but not necessarily correctly).
Ideally, when a woman does notice your height, she will think "He's shorter than the guys I usually date...but there's just something about him."
Tip #2: Get your fit right.
This is advice that goes for all people, everywhere.
But as a guy who is shorter and feels that his height may work against him, you definitely need to get this down.
A tall guy whose clothes don't fit right risks looking like a lumbering oaf - and he might get away with it because of the social bias towards height. As a short guy, if your clothes don't fit, you risk looking child-like, immature and inexperienced. And you can't risk that impression by overlooking the fit of your clothes.
The problem will be finding the right clothes for you. It's no secret that people who fall outside of standard sizing of the fashion industry have a lot harder time finding the right clothes for them - and short men are no exception.
While it may be harder to find the right sized clothes for you, the search is worth it. Look online, or in your city for stores that may cater specifically to shorter men's needs. (Here in Toronto, we have Short Man Brown's which has been serving men less than 5'8" since the 1970s). You can also look into tailoring and custom-made clothes as an option.
Tip #3: Draw attention upwards towards your face and shoulders.
One of the most important things about you is your face. And your face is on the top of your body - so make sure that you draw attention upwards. Having people look you in the eye is a sign of respect - and no matter your height, you deserve it.
When the eyes scan up and down the body, they register the height - so by ensuring you don't break your body up with jarring colours, or horizontal patterns AND encouraging the eye to stay up around your face and shoulders, you minimize other people from noticing your height as much.
Tricks you can use include:
- Using accessories such as a ties, bow-tie, pocket squares, lapel pins, or necklaces to bring attention upward.
- Dress in monochromatic colour schemes to let the eye move easily up and down the body.
- Keep darker colours on your lower body, and lighter colours on your upper body.
- Avoid wearing brightly coloured socks or shoes - the last thing you want is for people's attention continually drawn to your ankles and feet.
- Never split your body in half by wearing strongly contrasting colours top and bottom.
The gentleman in the picture on the left breaks all of these suggestions. Notice how the eye is drawn DOWN to the legs and ankles, and that the body is split into 4 parts (feet/ankles, legs, torso, head) breaking the vertical flow of the eye.
Tip #4: Draw attention to yourself through brighter colours and patterns.
Height does have one obvious social advantage: It's much easier for people to see you. When you stand above others, it's hard to be missed.
But what can you do to get noticed if you don't stand head and shoulders above your peers?
Use colours and patterns.
By wearing clothes that are interesting - brighter and with more detail that capture the eye - people won't help but notice you. A lot of times, people are dressed in bland, boring colours without much pattern. By adding even a dash of pattern and colour to your wardrobe, you can catch people's eye - and tell them that you're more memorable and intriguing than the average joe.
Just remember, like we said in tip #4, keep the attention on the upper part of the body, and don't overdo it making yourself look like a clown.
Tip #5: Stand Tall.
Make sure you get your posture working for you. Standing tall is one of the few things you can do to ACTUALLY give yourself the maximum height you can.
If you are going to the gym, work on your back and shoulders to properly set your muscles to hold yourself straight and tall.
But clothes can also help.
As shown in the photo above, a well fitted suit that follows the shape of your back can coax you into standing taller with your shoulders back physically - and mentally. When clothes fit properly, then give you a feeling of pride, and that feeling can subconsciously affect your posture for the better.
Clothes that don't fit properly will droop and hang off of you causing you to feel pulled to the ground making your more likely to stoop.
Tip #6: Elevate.
There are shoes that are designed specifically to give you extra height - invisibly. If you're height is a strong concern for you, then that is definitely an option to look at.
But more generally, especially in the fall/winter season here in the north, get chunky boots that have thick soles and/or a heal. Boots are very stylish, and manly, and the extra bit of height you get with a good looking boot will give you a nice boost, without looking too obvious.