This in-depth guide covers everything you need to know about sweaters for short men, including how your sweaters should fit.
You’ll learn how a sweater should fit, common fit problems that shorter men run into, and where to buy sweaters that look great on you.
Types of Sweaters
From cotton crew necks to wool quarter zips, sweaters are one of those classic wardrobe essentials that every man needs in his closet.
Sweaters are typically made from organic materials like cotton or wool. The most common types of sweaters are crew neck, v-neck and quarter zip.
You don’t have to own every kind of sweater in every color (although we won’t judge you if you do), but it’s a good idea to have a couple of go-to, versatile sweaters for the cooler months during fall and winter.
While sweaters can be worn on their own, they’re often worn as outer or middle layers. They look great layered over button up shirts.
Of course, it doesn't matter how impressive your layering game is if your sweater doesn't fit properly. After all, fit is the most important aspect of style, and shorter men often have a hard time finding sweaters that fit properly off the rack.
How a Sweater Should Fit
When a sweater fits properly, it can be very flattering garment on any build, regardless of height.
So, no matter what type of sweater or which colors you prefer, it’s crucial that it fits properly. Let’s take a close look at how your sweaters should fit, starting from the top.
Since sweaters are often layered over shirts, it’s important that the neck opening isn’t too wide. If it is, too much of your shirt will be exposed underneath the sweater.
A well-fitted sweater will have a neck opening that’s large enough to fit over your head comfortably and to let the collar of a button up shirt poke through.
It won’t be so wide that the shoulders or back panel of your shirt are visible. For v-neck sweaters, you just want to make sure the “V” doesn’t go too deep (a common problem for smaller guys).
Since most sweaters are designed for men of average height, the “V” sometimes looks strange on not-so-tall guys (not the case with Peter Manning NYC sweaters).
Note: It’s best to store sweaters in a drawer, folded up neatly. If you keep them on a hanger, this can lead to stretching or warping around the neck and shoulders.
Speaking of shoulders…
Just like with shirts and jackets, sweaters should fit properly in the shoulders, as it’s almost impossible to get this part of the garment tailored, especially with knitwear.
The shoulder seams should sit right on top of your actual shoulder (the acromion bone). In other words, they shouldn’t hang off your shoulders over your upper arms.
On the other hand, if the shoulders are too tight, you’ll definitely feel it. Your mobility will be limited, especially when you reach your arms forward or cross them in front of your body.
There’s a bit of wiggle room here (pun intended), since some guys prefer slim vs. traditional fit. But we think a fitted-but-not-skin-tight sweater looks good on pretty much everyone.
Since sweaters are often worn over button up shirts, they may have a bit more room through the chest than your shirts. But if you find excess fabric bunching up under your armpits and biceps, the sweaters is likely too wide in the chest.
If your sweater fits properly, you won’t notice much excess fabric at all through through chest and torso. You also won’t notice any pulling or tension lines across the chest, between your pecs (have you been working out, by the way?).
A well-fitted sweater looks clean and feels comfy. If you prefer a slim fit, it’s okay if you feel just a little compression from your sweater.
On the other hand, if you like a little extra room, that's okay too. Despite what fashion magazines tell us, your sweater doesn't have to look like it's painted on!
Just like with the chest, your sweater shouldn't be too tight or loose around the stomach. If it’s too loose, this will lead to a “muffin top” effect, especially if there’s a stretchy waistband.
But if it’s too tight, your shirt buttons (or worse, your belly button) will show through the sweater. This is especially true for fine wool or cashmere sweaters.
Go for a contemporary fit: slim but not skin tight. Remember, your sweaters will be slightly roomier in the stomach than your shirts since they’re often worn as a second layer.
Most sweaters have a slightly stretchy waistband around the bottom (the hem) of the garment. This is usually a tiny bit more tapered than the rest of the torso.
This waistband shouldn’t be skin tight like a compression shirt. You should just feel a very subtle squeeze (barely noticeable).
On the other hand, it shouldn’t be so loose than the hem sits away from your body, causing a noticeable gap.
Since sweaters are pretty much always worn untucked, the length is very important.
Your sweater needs to go past your waistband or belt. Ideally, it would end right around mid-fly. It definitely shouldn’t go past the bottom of your fly.
Remember, though, sweaters are usually a bit stretchy, so even if you pull them down taught, they’ll adjust themselves and settle naturally as you move around.
You want to make sure that, as you’re moving around throughout the day, your sweater isn’t riding up above your waistband. If this happens, it means your sweater is too short - usually not a problem for men under 5'9".
The sleeves should be roomy enough to wear over a long-sleeve button up shirt, but they shouldn't be baggy.
They should end right around your wrist bone. It’s okay if they go past it a little bit, but you really want to avoid sleeves that are too long for your arms.
If they go past your wrist onto your hands, they’re too long. If you have to fold your sleeves to make them the right length, they’re definitely too long.
On the other hand, if your sleeves don’t reach your wrist bone (if they don’t cover up your watch), they’re probably too short. However, the vast majority of men never have this problem.
Bonus points if you show a little shirt cuff and wrist watch underneath the end of your sweater sleeves!
Common Fit Problems for Shorter Men
Every major men’s clothing brand makes sweaters, and they’re almost all designed around the average man’s build. In America, the average build is roughly 5’10” and 190 lbs.
This means that men under 5’10” - especially smaller guys - have a very hard time finding sweaters that fit properly off the rack.
Brock McGoff of The Modest Man wearing "Small" sized sweaters from popular clothing retailers.
Since most guys don’t get their clothes tailored, and tailoring knitwear is very tricky, shorter gents usually settle for ill-fitting sweaters. Here are the most common fit problems shorter men run into with sweaters:
Sleeves Are Too Long
By far, this is the most common and annoying fit problem with sweaters for short men. The sleeves are simply too long.
Lots of men don’t seem to notice this, but here’s the thing: sleeves that are too long make your arms look shorter, creating a “kid playing dress up” effect. It looks as if you’re wearing your older brother’s hand-me-down sweater. Not a great look!
Some tailors can shorten sweater sleeves, but this is a difficult and costly alteration.
Sweater Is Too Long
If the sleeves are too long, chances are the whole sweater is also too long for your build.
Again, many guys simply ignore this and let their sweater bunch up around the waist, but a well-fitting sweater looks so much better.
Sweater length is tough to change. Most tailors won’t even touch it, so it’s best to buy sweaters that are the right length to begin with.
Shoulders Too Wide
This is another common fit problem that shorter men run into, especially svelte gents (guys who are below average weight for their height).
When the shoulders are too wide, the seams hang off your shoulders and over your arms. Just like with too long sleeves, this creates a “borrowed from my dad’s closet” effect, which isn’t good if you want to be taken seriously at work or on date night!
Peter Manning NYC Sweaters
Here at PMNYC, we specialize in high quality, stylish clothing for shorter men. We were frustrated with how most sweaters fit on our not-so-tall frames, so we created our own sweaters, from scratch, specifically for men under 5’9”.
Our sweaters have proper sleeve and body length. The shoulders fit perfectly, and there’s enough room through the chest and torso to layer up, without being baggy.
But we don’t just care about fit. We wanted to make high quality sweaters that would look and feel great for years.
That’s why we use the best fabrics we can find, such as Zegna-Buraffa Italian merino wool. If you haven't worn a sweater made from this wool, you're missing out!
If you’re sick of sweaters that are too long and don’t make you feel like a million dollars, we think you should give Peter Manning NYC sweaters a shot.