Max from Brooklyn writes: I’m a really small guy (like really small – 5’0 and 130 pounds). I’ve never found a pair of pants that naturally fit. I cuff my jeans and chinos and get dress pants tailored. For the fall, I’m considering getting my chinos tailored to be slimmer and shorter. I don’t make much money so most of my pants are from The Gap’s sales rack. Is it worth dropping $20 at a tailor for a pair of pants from a store like that?
No matter what your body sizes, clothes that fit will flatter you and make you look better.
For someone who’s both short and slight, as you are, there are some ways you can flatter your body. You want clothes that fit well, and you will want some shape in the body. You can emphasize your shoulders and hips slightly with a bit of waist suppression in the jacket to give your body some form. Generally, you want to support a vertical line, so a small break in the trousers, single-breasted jackets (or double-breasted with a narrow button setting) and vertical patterns are all a good idea. Slightly shorter jackets can make your legs look a bit longer if you’re relatively long-torsoed. Some warn against cuffs, but I think that with a very small break, even a larger cuff can look just fine.
You will have to be careful when buying clothes. Clothes are generally patterned for a fit model, then altered from there to fit a variety of men, and the further you are from the fit model, the more trouble you can get into. You’ll want a good tailor’s help in adjusting clothes to fit your body, even if the off-the-rack size is correct. My friend Jimmy Pardo, who’s a brilliant comedian and short in stature, always makes sure to alter the rise of his pants, as he finds that it’s usually about the same length no matter what size the suit is. You can also consider buying boys’ clothes: retailers like Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers have full boys lines, and they’re often much cheaper than the men’s equivalent.
There are some great resources for short men on the internet. Matthew, who runs Tweed in the City (pictured above), is one of the best-dressed guys in the country, if you ask me. He wears bespoke, but has some great advice on his blog with regard to proportions for a small man. I’ve also enjoyed reading the blog Short Shrifted, which is specifically for short men.
With regard to your specific question: there are plenty of $20 pants that are good and plenty that aren’t. The Gap, specifically, has certainly improved their offerings over the past year or two in an effort to compete with J. Crew. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the $20 garment + $20 in alterations equation in my book.