Peter Manning is 5’8” — only two inches shorter than the average American man.
And yet he found it almost impossible to find clothes that fit well without having to pay what he calls a “tailor tax” — the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars short men spend having their clothing remade to flatter their bodies.
“I happened to run into a few major retailers at a party years back,” the Tony Award-winning producer-turned-designer told Business Insider. “And I told them, ‘I go into your stores and I can’t really buy anything, what do you suggest I do?’ And they both told me to get my clothes tailored, and I was like, ‘That’s not a good enough answer for 25% of American men!'”
So in 2012, Manning launched his own eponymous clothing collection that aims to make flattering clothes exclusively for men 5’8” and under.
Currently online-only — though he hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location soon — PeterManningNYC.com sells everything from well-fitting pants and blazers for the office to shorts, chinos, and t-shirts for the weekend.
But the truly revolutionary aspect of the brand is its size calculator. Guys can input their height and weight, and find out which of the four size categories they fall under.
“We’re really trying to educate guys because they’ve never had an opportunity to buy clothes that actually fit well,” Manning said. “The coolest part of my job is hearing from customers who they have finally felt that feeling of their clothes fitting just right.”
Here are some of his style tips for men of a shorter stature who want to make over their current wardrobe:
Find a good tailor. “A really good tailor can reshape and re-taper a leg, but unfortunately not every tailor at a store or in a laundry shop is actually talented at that,” Manning said. “Of course, the whole reason I started my company was so people don’t have to go to the tailor, but it’s still a good tool to have in one’s arsenal.”
Pants: When shopping for pants, always look for medium or lower-rise cuts with a slim leg. Make sure to keep the leg opening at the ankle narrow.
Also, avoid cuffs and pleats as much as possible, since they make yours legs look short and can give the illusion of wider hips.
“One of the things I’m passionate about is cleaning up the line of the pant for men because a slimmer pant with no pleats makes a man look taller,” Manning said. “Frankly, pleats are a disaster and I wish they would be outlawed.”
Shorts: Like with pants, narrow silhouettes are best. Choose shorts that are cut above the knee to help you look taller. “Never, ever, ever wear shorts longer than your knees,” Manning said.
Blazers: Men under 5’8” need a better proportioned — not just shorter — blazer that fits well across the shoulders and in the arms.
It’s worth investing in a bespoke or specialty blazer — it will last and save money since you won’t have to re-tailor it to fit your body perfectly.
Shirts: Untucked button down shirts are one of Manning’s big no-nos, especially when the shirt is too long. “If you do decide to wear a shirt untucked, it should never go lower than two inches below your hips,” he said.
Shoes: Invest in the best shoes possible that are a classic style and will last for years, and avoid heels or lifts. “My whole company is about bringing dignity and style to shorter men,” Manning said. “I don’t recommend lifts or a heel because I think it ends up being too obvious.”
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