Guys who stand 5'9 and under know how important it is to find quality clothes for short men. While having suits altered is standard practice, men who are on the shorter side like to buy everyday attire as well without having to get every single item adjusted. LoveToKnow talked to Consuelo Bova, CEO of ForTheFit, a company that specializes in clothing for the man who's 5'9 and under. Along with her husband and business partner, Jeffrey D. Bova, CFO., they founded the company in May 2005 and went online in January 2006 to meet the needs of an underserved market. Whether you need business wear, casual wear or anything in between, this retailer provides sharp, smart attire for guys who want to wear their clothes right off the rack.
The ForTheFit Customer
What made you decide to found ForTheFit, or specifically, was there a great need for clothes for the shorter customer?
There are 28 million professional men in the U.S. under 5'9". Shopping for my 5'7" husband, Jeff, I quickly learned that options were extremely limited for men under 5'9". Department stores are stocked to serve the middle-of-the-height bell-curve, serving about 60% of the male population (not including Big & Tall stores -- these serve the top 20%). Sizes for men under 5'9" (the lower 20%) are simply not stocked. Instead, shorter men are advised to shop in the boy's department or purchase clothing in the men's departments and have the clothing tailored. Tailoring can get time consuming and expensive, and the results are not always ideal.
For example, dress shirts can be trimmed through the torso and shortened through the sleeves, but overly broad shoulders and voluminous sleeves cannot be narrowed without completely re-making the shirt. The boy's or young men's departments are not realistic options for professionals (or any man past his mid 20's, really!). So, we started ForTheFit.com in 2005 as a store to address the needs of stylish professionals under 5'9" who needed high quality, modern, and most importantly, well-fitting clothing for work and weekend.
What defines a short man in your industry?
Industry definition is men under 5'9". There is a sub-category referred to as "stout," which includes men under 5'9" with waists greater than 36". ForTheFit.com prefers to focus on fit. We carry slim, trim styles as well as "stout." Also, we've learned that many men over 5'9" in height have a longer torso and shorter legs and benefit from the shorter inseam trousers we stock in our store.
Considering some of the feedback you've received from customers, how do the right-fitting garments impact how they feel about getting dressed each day?
Confidence. Knowing that your clothes fit properly, that you own and are wearing appropriate clothes for the occasion, that you look GOOD -- these things inspire confidence. I recently had a customer write saying that for the first time in 20 years, his pants actually fit. Personally, I also witnessed a welcome confidence boost in my own husband as he learned more about clothes, fashion, and some of the latest styles and trends. Having a variety of clothing options (as opposed to exclusively khakis and polos from the young men's department) also brought the fun and excitement back to getting dressed in the morning.
Clothes for Short Men Pointers
What important points do short men need to consider when looking for clothes that make them appear taller?
Fit is key because by necessity (because their size is not sold in most stores), ego, comfort, or other reasons, too many men wear clothing one to two sizes larger than they should. Clothing that is too large, long or loose overwhelms a man's frame and makes him appear shorter and smaller. This is particularly true for men under 5'9". Clothing that is tailored close to the body, pants of proper length, a shorter rise (to eliminate bunching or sagging through the seat and thighs), flat fronts on trousers -- all of these things help a man achieve a better fit, making the most of the body he has.
Pattern and 'color are critical, too. Vertical stripes and a monochromatic color scheme visually lengthen the body. Thinner stripes have a slimming effect. Starkly contrasting colors between a top or jacket and trousers visually chop the body in half, emphasizing shorter legs.
In what key areas do clothes tailored for short men differ from clothes for average sized guys?
They are designed to enhance a shorter man's frame through a better fit. For example, many of our dress shirts and casual button-down shirts offer a proportioned fit. They feature shorter overall length, shorter sleeves and are narrower through the shoulders. In addition, trim fit styles are narrower through the torso (classic full-cut styles are available, too). The average length of trousers, denim or loungewear in retail stores is 32". The average man has an inseam of 30" or less. Therefore, we offer our dress and casual trousers, denim, pajamas and sweatpants in inseams from 26" to 31". Also, trousers in retail stores are offered in regular and sometimes long rise styles (rise being the distance between the crotch seam & waistband). Regular rise is considered 12" or greater based on a 34" waist. Short rise is considered 10" or less. Pants too long in the rise will bunch and sag through the seat and thighs. Shorter rise trousers offer a better fit for men under 5'9".
What You'll Find
Do you offer clothes for work as well as the weekend?
We stock work, weekend and couch! We carry suiting in sizes as low as 36XS, as well as proportioned dress shirts and ties for the work week. We carry chinos, denim, casual shirts, polos and sweaters in smaller and proportioned sizes for weekend. We also happen to stock pajamas, loungewear, and athletic pants and shorts in shorter inseams.
Can you tell us about some of the items For the Fit offers as well as what brands customers can expect to find?
We carry brands ranging from young and hip (Ben Sherman, Alternative Apparel and Silver Jeans) to higher-end men's boutique labels (like trousers from Berle and Ballin brands, and Empire and Calvin Klein suiting).
Some favorites and new arrivals include:
- Men's Proportioned-Fit, long-sleeve casual and dress shirts, available in full-cut and trim fit styles, prints and solids, 31" sleeve lengths, from $30 to $58
- 100% Cotton Corduroy, flat front, short-rise trousers by Berle ($89). Shown with our 70/30 fine gauge silk V-neck sweater, available from men's size XS ($58)
- Calvin Klein 3-Button Wool Suit, prints and solids available from size 36S ($348)
- Champion Men's Open-Bottom Athletic Pants in 80/20 fleece and cotton jersey, short (29") and extra-short (27") inseams, from $20
Because men tend to shop differently than women, are you concerned with providing trendy items or more pieces that are classic and will last season to season?
Both. Men certainly tend to shop for classics and quality that will last, and styles change little from season to season. Therefore, we do very swift business in high quality basics -- chinos, polos, basic dress shirts, suiting, denim, etc. However, half the fun of shopping at ForTheFit.com is that you will also find a few pieces to "spice up" that basic wardrobe in sizes that fit shorter men. When department stores do stock smaller sizes, they tend to carry only the basics. So, we make it a point each season to seek out unique, trendy items to complement a classic wardrobe, in sizes proportioned for under 5'9", or simply stocked in the smaller sizes other stores won't carry. For example, we are so excited to have secured short rise, flat front Berle cords for this fall. This item is hot for fall in menswear and available for shorter men exclusively at ForTheFit.com.
Where can our readers find your clothes?
Our online store, ForTheFit, features our complete catalog of merchandise. The online format allows our customers to shop at their convenience, 24/7. We ship nationwide and internationally, including Canada, the U.K., and Australia.
We'd like to thank Consuelo Bova for providing such useful information for our readers. If you're a man who needs clothes for short men or you're a woman who shops for a man 5'9 and under, we encourage you to check out this retailer, who not only supplies great, affordable attire, but inspires confidence as well.