32 Tips & Tricks: A Man’s Guide to Dressing Taller and Leaner
The critical thing to know is that when you catch someone’s eye, they automatically register factors that add horizontal and vertical value to your profile—so to look taller, you want to minimize the horizontals and accentuate all of the vertical lines. Here’s our head-to-toe guide.
Style Tip 1: Tip of the Hat to…Hats.
A stylish hat can add quick and easy inches to your profile, and flair to your polished look. Even better--any splash of color that you wear high on your body draws the eye up, adding further visual height. But for this to work best, you need a really cool hat, not a close-fitting ratty baseball cap or beanie. Think classy and original: Panamas, Fedoras, Bowlers, Driver’s Caps…there are a lot of options to suit your style and mood, and a good milliner will help you find the hat that best suits the shape of your face.
Style Tip 2: Remember Your Posture
This may sound basic, but remember that slumping or stooping will instantly drop your apparent height by 1-3 inches. So, keep those shoulders back and your abdomen straight. Gym lovers--the more that you work on your core, the easier it will be to unconsciously maintain perfect posture whether you’re standing or sitting.
Style Tip 3: Cut Taller, not Longer
Think about your hair cut. Really long hair will generally distract from your neck and make you look shorter (unless you wear it up, braided, or tied back—looks that can be hard to pull off in most professional contexts). But really short hair denies you the extra inch or two that a good cut and some judiciously applied hair gel can offer.
Style Tip 4: Don’t Cut Off Your Head
Horizontal lines are visually distracting and, worn high on the body, will interrupt the line of the neck. Avoid chokers, bowties, and anything else that will distract from that vertical line.
Style Tip 5: Monochromatic
For the tallest, leanest possible look, you want to go almost entirely monochromatic in dark colors. Having said that…unless you’re a cat burglar, a mortician, or Johnny Cash, a wholly monochromatic closet can get kind of redundant over time, but every short guy should have at least a couple of monochromatic outfits in his wardrobe arsenal.
Style Tip 6: Light High, Dark Low
If you want to appear taller and still have some variety in your wardrobe, use your lighter and brighter colors high, and darker colors low. The brighter colors of your shirt will keep the eye up by your face, while the darker colors of your trousers will make your legs look longer and leaner.
Style Tip 7: Fashionable Men Accessorize High
And because bright splashes of color high up on your body will draw the eye up, pairing your hat with some awesome sunglasses (or, more formally, a judicious pocket square and elegant tie), will keep the eye focused tall much more effectively than accessories that draw the eye down like super-flashy shoes, big belt buckles, bulky tie clips, etc. (This is good news for guys who wear glasses!)
Style Tip 8: V-Necks Add Length
If you’re shopping for t-shirts, consider the v-neck, which will add more visual length to your upper body. Leaving the top of your more formal shirts open by a button or two will have a similar effect by lengthening the line of your neck.
Style Tip 9: Slim Turtles are Winners
Like the v-neck, a properly fitted turtle-neck also adds length because it draws the eye to the column of the neck. A note of caution, though: a saggy baggy turtle neck will add horizontal width in a critical location and make you look wider and shorter.
Style Tip 10: Rock the Scarf
A scarf will also draw the eye up and add vertical lines to your profile, which is visually lengthening. Just be sure that the scarf doesn’t hang way past your waist and that you haven’t looped it tightly around your neck (see Tip 3: Don’t Cut Off Your Head.). Again—err on the side of simplicity and try for either solid colors or slim stripes that run the length of the scarf. (And if you do choose a pattern for the scarf, keep the rest of your outfit in solid colors.)
Style Tip 11: Watch the Shoulders
Blazers are great because they bulk up your shoulders, which can add visual height. And if you keep your jacket buttoned, you’ll create a slim silhouette that draws attention to your shoulder/waist ratio. (Unbuttoned jackets add visual width that will distract from your vertical height.) Just remember that it has to be fitted at every point—so check the sleeve length and hem carefully. A shorter hemline will make your legs look longer.
Style Tip 12: Fabrics Matter
Fabrics that have built-in vertical patterning, like corduroy or herringbone, can be a good choice for adding subtle visual length, but be careful of bulky fabrics—while they can be very flattering on guys with very trim builds, they’ tend to be far less flattering on guys with a lot of muscle bulk because they add extra visual width in all the wrong places.
Style Tip 13: Go Easy on the Patterns
Very busy patterns are hard to pull off for shorter guys because they draw the eye horizontally as well as vertically, and make you seem shorter. Even relatively simple patters like a gingham check or plaid will add horizontal lines that distract from the length of your profile. Monochromatic will make you look tallest, but if you really, really love the patterns, save them for your accent pieces—hatbands, ties, scarves, pocket squares.
Style Tip 14: Love the Slim Backpack
Backpacks are great because they draw the eye up, and a slim backpack won’t add a lot of horizontal bulk to your profile like a huge bag or briefcase that you carry by your waist or upper leg.
Style Tip 15: Fitted Clothes are a Must
Baggy clothes add visual width and subtract from your visual height. Too-small clothes will restrict movement and make you look awkwardly proportioned. But clothes that are tailored close to the body will maximize your vertical inches and visually slim your profile, even if your profile isn’t exceptionally slim. The goal of the well-dressed man is to maximize who you are, so be realistic when you’re shopping.
Style Tip 16: Details are Critical
Most off-the-rack clothes are designed for an imaginary “average” guy who is roughly 5’10”, then the big manufacturers simply scale that design up and down. Unfortunately, this means that the proportions tend to be increasingly wonky at the extreme ends of the height scale because the plackets and collars are often mass-produced in the same size. This can make shorter men look clownish, if the collars are too high, and plackets too wide/long. When you’re shopping, don’t forget to look for the details.
Style Tip 17: Short Sleeve Rule
Some people will tell you that short guys should never wear short sleeves, but this isn’t actually true. (Short women have been making short sleeves look cute for decades.) The myth comes from the fact that short sleeves have to be proportional to your arm to work well, and that means that the cuff should hit at least two inches above your elbow. If it hits near or below the elbow, it will visually cut your arm in half and make it (and therefore you) look shorter.
Style Tip 18: Long Sleeve Rule
For long sleeves, you want them to fit exactly at the wrist when you’re standing straight, and slightly above the wrist when your elbow is bent. If you do roll up your cuffs, roll them just a third of the way up your forearm. Sleeves that are too long will make you look like a kid dressing up in his dad’s clothes, and sleeves that are rolled up too high will cut your arm off in the middle and make your arms look shorter. Also—leave the poufy sleeves to the pirates, and make sure that the fabric is properly tailored; slim sleeves will make your arms look distinct from your torso, which will lean and lengthen your profile.
Style Tip 19: Pinstripes are Classic for a Reason
In both shirts and jackets, pinstripes add elegant, subtle visual lines without a lot of visual clutter. Just don’t go overboard. Pinstripes on either the suit or the shirt are great. Pinstripes on both will make people think they need to take a vision test.
Style Tip 20: The Tie’s the Thing
For shorter guys, you want your tie to be proportional to your body. If you have a trim build and lean muscle, a slim tie will add a nice vertical line. If you have a more square, bulky musculature, the super skinny tie will look kind of ridiculous, but you still want to aim on the narrow side. For any short guy, though, you’ll have to tie the knot so that the end of the tie hits right at the bottom of the belt line, and slim ties are an advantage here, because you have more maneuverability when you’re deciding on your knot.
Style Tip 21: Layers Are Tricky
We want to love the three-piece suit, but waistcoats draw attention to your middle body, which can distract from the length of your profile unless you’re very slim. Adding a lot of layers around the waist will also add a disproportional amount of horizontal width for shorter guys. If you really love the waistcoat, be sure to aim for thinner fabrics (more silk, less corduroy), and remember that simple, dark colors will be more flattering than a lot of ostentatious colors around the midriff.
Style Tip 22: Ditch the Overcoat
For similar reasons, overcoats are going to be difficult because they’re naturally bulky, and they’re usually worn over multiple layers. And the bulk of the overcoat will add the same amount of width to a tall guy and a short guy—so the same look that makes a tall man seem elegant can make an already short guy look disproportionately wider and shorter. Instead, consider a fitted jacket that is cropped to fit at your waist. Leather will be sleek and warm.
Style Tip 23: Side Panels are Genius
Women figured this out ages ago, but men’s designs have been slow to catch up with the trend. If a shirt has wide, vertical side panels in a darker color or different fabric, they will visually slim and lengthen the torso to an amazing degree.
Style Tip 24: Fashionable Men Accessorize Simply
For the accessories that you wear below your torso—belts, bracelets, watches, shoes—you’re much better off with smaller accessories that are proportional to your body. Slim belts matched to your outfit won’t cut your waist off like wide belts in striking colors. Smaller watches and bracelets will also draw attention to your hand gestures when you’re speaking without making your arm look shorter. Rule of thumb: when it comes to short guys and accessories, discretion is definitely the better part of valor.
Style Tip 25: Waistline/Legline
This tip depends on whether you have a longer torso or longer legs. If you have a short torso and long legs, you want your trousers to hit just above the hipbone (maybe a centimeter or two), which will add visual length to your torso. But if you have a long torso and short legs, then
high-waisted pants, especially in dark colors, will visually mimic a higher waistline and make your legs look longer; you should be looking for jeans and trousers that button at or just above the navel.
Style Tip 26: Hemming and Hawing
Let the jury be clear on this point—if your shirt hangs below your waist, it will make your legs look shorter and your torso look disproportionate. (It will also draw the eye down, which makes you look doubly short.) If you want to dress taller, your shirt shouldn’t ever hang lower than your hipbone. That means that button-down shirts should be chosen in thinner (tuckable) fabrics and almost always be tucked in, while t-shirts and polos should always be cut proportionally to your height.
Style Tip 27: Ditch the Bulky Wallet
Again, this is a proportion thing. On shorter guys, a bulky wallet shoved in your back pocket will look disproportionately huge, awkward, and lumpy. If you’re wearing jeans, consider opting for an extremely slim-line wallet, or, even better, a durable man bag that will keep your keys, wallet, computer, etc. all together without ruining the line of your clothes.
Style Tip 28: Short Shorts
The trick for shorts is to maximize the visual length of your leg—that means that shorts should fit at least 2-4 inches above the knee. If it hits between the knee and the mid-calf, it will cut the line of your leg, and make you look a lot shorter.
Style Tip 29: Trouser Leg Length
It’s very important that your trousers fit just above the shoe. If your pants bell over your ankle, they’ll look lumpy, and you’ll look like a kid wearing adult clothes. Having your clothes professionally hemmed is a pain, so be very judicious when you’re shopping.
Style Tip 30: A Bit of Flair?
A slight flare at the hem of your trousers (NOT a full-on bell bottom) will work exceptionally well with boots and other shoes that have a thicker sole or heel. But if you’re wearing dress shoes or tennis shoes, aim for the slim cut all the way to the ankle.
Style Tip 31: Subtle Socks
If you match the color of your socks to your trousers, it will help slim the line of your leg and avoid drawing the eye down. So, leave the novelty shark socks to your kids, and go for the blacks, browns, and dark blues.
Style Tip 32: Toe Tip
Shoes that have pointier toes add visual length to your leg line, while shoes with wider, snub cuts will make your leg look shorter. (Within reason. Mexican pointy boots just make everyone look like they need more tequila.)
And that’s your head-to-toe styling from Otero Menswear.
Anything but Average.