This in-depth guide covers everything you need to know about dress shirts for shorter men.
We’ll talk about how dress shirts should fit, common fit problems shorter men run into, where to buy dress shirts that fit well, and what makes a dress shirt different than other button up shirts.
Let's start with the differences between dress shirts and more casual button ups.
Dress Shirts vs. Button Up Shirts (or “Button Downs”)
Any shirt that you can wear open (unbuttoned) or closed (buttoned) is a button up shirt. These shirts have a placket that runs down the middle in the front and a column of buttons down one side of the placket.
These are often called “button downs” even though button down is technically a type of collar. In other words, a button up shirt can have a regular collar or a button down collar.
These shirts come in all different styles. Some are meant to be worn tucked in, and some are meant to be worn untucked. Some are more casual than others.
Dress shirts are a specific kind of button up shirt that are, well, dressier. They have certain characteristics that make them more look more formal than other types of button ups.
This makes them great for business casual and business formal outfits.
If you’re wearing a suit and tie, for example, a dress shirt is usually your best choice. If you’re attending a formal event or wearing a tuxedo, a dress shirt is required.
Here’s what makes dress shirts more formal:
Granted, there are different types of dress shirts, but the standard, quintessential dress shirt will have the following characteristics:
- High quality, fine fabric
- Structured collar and cuffs
- Non button down collar
- No chest pocket (usually)
- Longer length (to tuck in)
Whether you’re a suit-and-tie-everyday kind of guy, or you only dress up for the occasional wedding, all men will wear a dress shirt every now and then.
So it’s a good idea to have a couple of nice ones in your closet, especially in white and light blue.
Just remember, now matter how premium your dress shirts are, they won’t look good if they don’t fit well!
How Dress Shirts Should Fit
Just like suits, dress shirts need to fit well. If they’re too tight or baggy or the sleeves are way too long, it’s going to totally ruin your look.
Starting from the top, let’s talk about how a dress shirt should fit.
You will often (but not always) wear a tie with your dress shirt, so you have to be able to button it all the way to the top without any discomfort.
Ideally, you should be able to fit one or two fingers between your neck and shirt collar, but otherwise there shouldn’t be any visible gap.
If there is a gap between your neck and shirt collar, the shirt is probably too big for you.
If you can’t button the top button without cutting off your circulation, the shirt is too small.
It’s really important that the shoulders fit well, as this can’t be fixed at the tailor.
Ideally, the shoulder seams will sit right on top of your acromion, that pointy bone at the top of your shoulder blade.
There’s no need to bust out your old anatomy textbooks. Just make sure the shoulder seams aren’t hanging past your shoulder and sitting on your upper arms.
On the other hand, if the shoulders are too tight, you’ll feel like your movement is inhibited. Swing your arms across your body a few times to make sure the shoulders aren’t too tight.
This is where things can get a bit subjective. Some guys prefer a slimmer fit, while others like a bit more breathing room.
We recommend splitting the difference here. A contemporary slim-but-not-skinny shirt flatters almost any body type.
If you notice any pulling or tightness across your chest, chances are your shirt is too small.
On the other hand, if you can pinch more than two inches of excess fabric on either side of your chest, the shirt is likely too big for your frame.
Just like with the chest, we think a modern, tailored fit is the best option. If you have a flat stomach or washboard abs, you’ll need a slimmer fit shirt.
On the other hand, if you’re rocking a dad bod or carrying around a few extra pounds, a more traditional fit will work well for you.
Either way, you want to avoid any noticeable pulling around the widest part of your belly. Bigger guys should be careful to avoid the “belly wink” (where the placket opens up, revealing your undershirt or skin).
Chances are you’ll be wearing a jacket over your dress shirt, but you still want to pay attention to two things: sleeve width and sleeve length.
Your jacket will likely come off at one point, whether to dance at a wedding or toward the end of a long day at the office, so your shirt needs to fit well on its own.
You want to avoid sleeves that are too wide and baggy, which will create the dreaded “pirate arms” look.
You also want to avoid sleeves that are too long. This will result in too much shirt cuff poking out from under your jacket sleeves.
If your shirt and jacket fit perfectly, roughly ¼” of shirt cuff will extend beyond your jacket sleeve.
As is often the case with men’s style, less is more!
Dress shirts are designed to be worn tucked in, so they’re typically a little longer than other types of button ups.
It’s okay if they look too long untucked. The extra length will help them stay tucked in for long periods of time.
There isn’t a universal “ideal length” for dress shirts. Just make sure they’re not too short to tuck in. A good rule of thumb is: if it comes completely untucked when you lift your arms up, it’s probably too short.
Common Fit Problems for Shorter Men
Shorter men often have trouble finding clothes that fit properly off the rack, and the dress shirt is no exception. Unfortunately, many not-so-tall guys just settle for ill-fitting shirts.
Here are some of the most common fit problems shorter gents run into with dress shirts:
Sleeves Too Long
This is definitely the most common problem men of modest height encounter when wearing dress shirts. The sleeves are just too long.
Yes, the excess length can be semi-hidden under a jacket, but your jacket eventually comes off, and sleeves that are too long make it hard to show the right amount of cuff.
Yes, you can get sleeves shortened at the tailor if you’re willing to spend the extra time and money.
Sleeves Too Baggy
Even if you’re a bigger guy (for example, if you’re short and stocky), excess sleeve length will create a baggy look.
Yes, we’re talking about the notorious pirate arm effect. This is a surefire way to ruin an otherwise sharp getup.
If you’re short and thin, you’ve probably worn dress shirts with baggy sleeves. We feel your pain!
Shirt Too Long
Even though you wear dress shirts tucked in, they can still be too long.
When untucked, the shirt shouldn’t look like a cocktail dress. This leads to way too much fabric around your hips after you tuck.
It’s uncomfortable and causes visible lumps under your pants. Not a good look!
Details Too Big
Formal style is all about the details. Shirts that are made for bigger guys are often too big in scale for smaller gents.
For example, the collar point length is too long. The cuffs and plackets are too wide. The chest pocket is too low.
Unfortunately, these problems with scale can’t be fixed at the tailor.
Peter Manning NYC Dress Shirts
Peter Manning NYC dress shirts are made specifically for guys who aren’t built like 6’2” fitness models. Our typical customer might be 5’8” and 170 lbs, or 5’4” and 130 lbs.
These ‘not-so-tall’ guys are used to dealing with dress shirts that are are too long and too baggy. They’re used to shirts with ill-fitting collars and sleeves.
That’s why, for many of our customers, trying on one of our dress shirts is such an amazing experience.
Whether you wear our dress shirts with a suit and tie, or just with trousers in a business casual environment, you’re going to look great. Here’s what makes our shirts different.
PMNYC dress shirts are designed in the same cut as our Everyday Shirts, but they’re a little bit longer, as they’re meant to be worn tucked in.
→ Click here to see the differences is between our Everyday Shirts, Weekend Shirts and Dress Shirts.
Our dress shirts have a medium spread collar - perfect for any occasion - and no chest pocket for a clean look.
Compared to most off the rack dress shirts, ours have scaled down collars, slimmer arms, a gently tapered body and proper sleeve length.
Like all of our shirts, our dress shirts are sized using our proprietary sizing system. Since most men are used to collar/sleeve measurements, you can use this size chart to see how our sizes compare to traditional dress shirt sizes:
Of course, our shirts don’t just fit well. They also feel amazing, as they’re made from luxurious European fabrics, such as 100% ‘Glory’ cotton from Somelos.
If you’re sick of dress shirts that don’t fit and flatter your build (especially if you’re a shorter man), check out Peter Manning NYC.
Shop PMNYC Dress Shirts // Shop Non-Iron Dress Shirts