Being above average in any aspect of our society can draw attention to you and sometimes not in a good way.  When the reason you are above average is your height, then the attention is sometimes not a good thing.  From references to beanpoles right through to far more unpleasant comments, the tall man has a lot to deal with.  But perhaps one of the most insulting and irritating things are the problems with tall men’s clothing – more precisely, that they rarely fit.  So is there a solution?  Can you solve the tall men’s clothing problems somehow?


tall people problems


Define tall

Firstly, what do we mean when we talk about tall men?  Perspective can be a little confusing here – if you are a five foot two inch lady, then even a six foot man can seem tall!  The best way to see what is defined as tall is to look at the average height of men around the world. 

According to, the tallest men on Earth come from the Netherlands, where the average height is 6 feet exactly or 184.8cm, if you prefer.  At the other end of the scale are the guys from Indonesia who have an average height of 5 feet 2 inches.  So tall can vary depending where in the world you come from.  Around Europe, most of the countries have an average height that is quite similar.  For example, the average heights are:

  • Belgium – 5 feet 10 inches
  • Denmark – 6 feet
  • Hungary – 5 feet 9 inches
  • Russia – 5 feet 9 inches
  • Spain – 5 feet 10 inches
  • UK – 5 feet 9 inches

Around the world, the US has an average height of 5 feet 9 inches while in South Africa, the average is 5 feet 6 inches.  Japan has an average height of 5 feet 7 inches, as does China while in Brazil, the figure is 5 feet 8 inches.

As you can see from this, there is some variation around the world as to what is considered as tall.  At one time, a few generations ago, 6 feet would have been considered tall but as mankind becomes progressively taller, this is now more of the average. 

The other problem with tall is that there isn’t really a consistent definition of when you are ‘officially’ tall.  In the US, it is generally said that when you are more than two inches above the male average, you are classed as tall.  This would currently be 5 feet 11 inches based on the figures above.  This is still then below 6 feet!

In a 2014 study by the British government, it was found that 94% of the population fell into the range of between 5 feet 4 inches and six feet 3 inches.  So by this, would this mean that over 6 feet 3 inches would be classified as tall?

Tall stories

The reason we highlight this confusion is this – if the governments of the countries in question don’t really know what the definition of a tall person is, then how are clothing manufacturers expected to manage it?

The answer is that they don’t because the high street is a confusing place when it comes to defining tall and plus sized men’s clothing.  And this confusion is at the heart of the tall man’s clothing problem.

How many tall guys have gone into a shop to buy a shirt and found the tall range?  You try it on, it looks okay then you stretch up and half your stomach is on show.  Or you bend over and half of your back is showing.  The shirt may be categorised as tall but the reality is that it is a normal shirt with an inch or two added on to create a new ‘tall’ range.  It doesn’t really do the job and leaves you feeling poorly dressed and forgotten.

The same problem occurs when you look at jackets or trousers.  Sleeves that don’t reach where they should or pants legs that show more of the ankle than a smartly dressed man would ever require to flash.  Even jeans can be a trial with too much material in the wrong areas and not enough in the right ones.

For the tall guy who also happens to be a plus size, things can be just as complicated.  It often ends up being an either/or solution – either it fits you around the stomach or it has the right length.  Because again, many plus ranges involve simply adding an inch or two on the circumference of the top to accommodate the extra size.

The other category of tall guy is the athletic build.  You aren’t quite a plus size but you are bigger than a normal tall guy – so you fall between these two rare categories.  You need a little more space than a tall size but a plus size hangs in all the wrong places.



Clothes basics

Yet there are tall guys out there who look amazing, who’s clothes fit perfectly and who can be really tall without looking awkward or gangly.  So how do they do it?

Firstly, they know their own body measurements and use them to get the right clothes.  By this, we mean your individual sizes not some generic ‘tall man’ sizes that most of the stores have online.  You need to get the tape measure out and probably call on someone who you don’t mind standing in your underpants in front of!


Let’s start with the collar of the shirt and this means your neck size.  One of the main measurements on the shirt after the chest and arm length is the size of the neck, sometimes even before these other measurements.  So the first item on your checklist is the size of your neck.  This one’s pretty easy – stand relaxed and put the tape measure around your neck where the collar would sit, usually just below the Adam’s apple.  Let the tape rest lightly without squeezing it or you’ll end up with a shirt that chokes you.  Hold one of your fingers under the tape measure to allow for natural room then take a note of the figure.


Next comes the sleeve length and your friend will come in here.  Raise your arm slightly and bend the elbow, a bit like you would if you were looking at your watch.  Put the tape in the centre of the back of your neck just under the collar and measure to the peak of the shoulder, the point where a sleeve normally starts (when it fits perfectly!).  for the second part, measure from this shoulder spot to the elbow then finally from the elbow to the point on the wrist or hand where you prefer the cuff to sit.  It might be a little longer if you want to wear a jacket over the shirt, versus a casual shirt worn on its own.  Add the three numbers together to get your sleeve length.

For the athletic tall guy, you may also want to measure your bicep as this is likely the widest part of your arm.  To do this, measure around the bicep at the fullest part, usually up near the armpit.  Don’t flex those muscles until the tape measure is in place then flex away and take the measurement.

You can also measure your wrist if you feel this might be an issue, such as with the athletic guy.  Measure around the wrist bone, tight to the skin but without squeezing.  Round the figure up to the nearest quarter of an inch for your measurement, though a shirt will normally be around two inches bigger than this for comfort.


The chest is an easy one but crucial in getting the right shirt.  Run the tape measure around the fullest part of your chest, keeping it tight under the armpits and over the shoulders.  Make sure your arms are relaxed and natural and that your posture is also normal.

Body length

One of the biggest problems for tall men with shirts is the length – too short and you have exposed flesh but too long and it accents your height.  So measuring the ideal shirt length on your own body is crucial.  The end of the tape measure needs to be at the back of the base of your neck.  Then measure down to the point you would want the shirt to finish.  Some guys like this to be around the bottom of the rear pocket on trousers or slightly shorter if the shirt isn’t getting tucked in.


The waist is key for the trousers fit, especially if you don’t want to wear a belt or would at least like the option.  The waist is a tricky thing to define but most experts recommend measuring around 2.5 inches down from the belly button for the perfect fit.  Alternatively, measure 8 inches down from the line that runs under your arms if this feels a more natural position.

Leg length

The majority of trousers are measured by the inside leg so to find out yours, simply measure from the crotch to the ankle bone.  This should give you the right length trousers so that they don’t ride up too much when you sit down.  If you prefer, stand in the shoes you would wear with the trousers and measure to the point that you would want the trousers to sit.

Secret tips

So now you understand how to get the right sizes for your shape.  You can get the right length trousers, the sleeves that sit in the right place on your shirt and a length of shirt that doesn’t leave you with embarrassing gaping areas.  All you need to finish the look are a few insider tips from those who know best – the tall guys.

First tip is to avoid vertical stripes.  On a shorter guy, stripes can give a sense of extra height but when you are tall and slim, this is the last thing you need.  Instead, you want to make yourself seem a little wider and wearing shirts or t-shirts with horizontal stripes can work for this.  Chest pockets can also help with this aim, though perhaps not in the most formal occasions. 

The belt is your friend when you are tall and slim and for more reasons than just to keep your pants up.  By adding a nice belt to the outfit, you break up the line from head to toe and this can serve to de-emphasise your height.  Even a pocket handkerchief for those formal occasions can work to stop the eye.

Finally, when choosing that formal shirt, consider long tail shirts.  These have the longer back length and therefore when you are taller, you can be certain these shirts will stay tucked into your pants.  Long tail shirts can also be worn outside the pants and again, ensure no gaping occurs.

What about the guy who is both tall and a plus size?  Here the tips change a little.  While you want to take a little emphasis off your height, you also want to look a little slenderer.  Firstly, avoid wearing an outfit that separates your body into two halves starkly.  For example, a white shirt with dark trousers will emphasise your shape while adding a dark jacket, blazer or cardigan over the white shirt will ease this.

Don’t worry too much about the choice between horizontal and vertical stripes but instead look at the size of the pattern.  Opt for thin stripes or minimal patterns as anything thick and bold will only highlight that which you want to draw the eye away from.

Horizontal features catch the eye and this isn’t the best for this size and shape so resist the urge to have large belt buckles, patches or rips in your casual clothes or shirts with large pockets.  When someone looks at you, you want their eye to flow smoothly across your body without getting caught up on anything.


The best tip is simple – make sure you are comfortable in what you wear, feel that you look good and this will carry into your demeanour.  If you think you look good, you will give this vibe to others.  Don’t try to hide your shape beneath large, shapeless clothes but instead embrace what you are and use a few tips to highlight your best features.