Why Is It So Hard To Find Clothing as a Short Gay Man?

Written by | Lifestyle

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When it comes to finding fabulous fashions that fit, gay men of diminutive stature have got no reason to live.

With a 5’7’’ father and a 4’10’’ mother, height was never really in the cards for me. When I had my growth spurt in sixth grade, I reached a towering 5’4’’. Today, as an adult, I’m… still 5’4’’. The average height of an American male (5’9’’) is approximately 3.5 inches greater than it was 100 years ago. The cruel fact of the matter is that, though the population continues to get taller, I never will.

The worst part of being diminutive, for me, is finding clothes that fit. I am one of the many gay men who feel obliged to dress well. I enjoy looking good, and it makes me feel better about having to use a stepstool to get cereal down from my cabinets.

But here’s an amusing experiment: The next time you’re feeling like life is unfair, find someone my height and take him to, say, Banana Republic. Grab a size small shirt and have your friend try it on. Oh, how you’ll both laugh as the bottom of that supposedly small shirt ends down around his thighs. All he’ll need is a chic belt and leggings to look like Lindsay Lohan out on the town. You can have this same fun in nearly every other well-known clothing store: low-end to high-end. For further hilarity, try the experiment with an extra-small if you can find one. (Hint: You probably can’t.)

At one point, Banana Republic seems to have stopped selling extra small men’s clothing altogether. According to my ex-boyfriend who worked for Gap Inc. (its parent company), the head of Banana Republic at the time allegedly eliminated the size because he was afraid the the brand’s clothes had started to appear too gay. Apparently he had seen average-sized men buying the extra-small items because of their tight (read: gay) fit on average-sized bodies. As a result, not only do men who like a snug fit lose the option but so do those of us who are actually sized extra small.

When massive Japanese retailer Uniqlo opened a flagship store in New York City, I jumped for joy because the clothes that traditionally fit me best are those that friends have picked up for me in Asia. Unfortunately, though Uniqlo does carry extra-smalls, the Japanese sizes have been — shall we say — lost in translation. While I appreciate Uniqlo’s extra-small (but still too large) sweaters and jackets, I’m disappointed that their cute button-down shirts do not seem to exist in a size that fits me. Apparently, I’m supposed to just throw on a jacket and face the day shirtless. That might be an edgy look for certain trend-setting men-about-town, but I personally like something under my outerwear — especially when the temperature gets under 50 degrees or so. I can always go looking at Club Monaco or Zara, which do carry extra-small men’s shirts, but (again) these Americanized shirts are based on the 5’9’’ model, which means I must bring them to my tailor, whose operation I may be single-handedly funding at this point.

The only other legit options for me, should I want truly fitted shirt, is to seek them out at upscale boutiques or have them custom made – both which can be time-consuming and expensive. Still, on the off chance that I receive a last-minute invite to a fancy party, it would be nice to be able to walk into Paul Smith or J. Crew and grab a ready-to-wear shirt that’s actually ready to wear. It seems like most brands are making clothes to fit models, who tend to be – in my experience – freakishly tall. But how else can we explain the discrepancy?

I can’t change who I am. Would I like to be 5’9’’? Sweet Mariah Carey, yes! But for me, it looks as if 5’4’’ is here to stay. And let it be known to all the clothing designers and manufacturers of the world that there are, in fact, many of us. (I know because it’s easier for me to see them down here.) So if you’ve yet to notice us, please take a moment to look down. We’ll the ones who look like elves desperately trying to be fashionable in a country catering to giants.

Want more insight into being a gay person of a certain height? See what they won’t stop calling Sebastian.

Last modified: August 10, 2018