Magazine article The New Yorker

Deskside

Magazine article The New Yorker

Deskside

Article excerpt

Short men in the United States are, some studies show, paid less than their taller peers. They are less likely to get hired for a job or receive a promotion, less likely to get elected President, and at a severe disadvantage in the height-obsessed world of dating. But perhaps the worst indignity is being forced to shop for clothes in the children's department. The alternative is not much better--the standard adult dress shirt has so much excess fabric that, when a short man wears it tucked in, it creates the impression that he is wearing a diaper under his trousers.

While there are hundreds of stores in the United States specializing in clothes for "big and tall" men, there are very few designer-clothing stores for short men. One is the Beverly Hills clothier Jimmy Au's, whose motto is "For Men 5'8'' and Under." The proprietors of Jimmy Au's were in town recently for their first East Coast trunk show, and they approached this magazine to request a "deskside" chat. Unlike the phoneside, e-mailside, or even fireside chat, a deskside is a face-to-face briefing during which a publicist (or his or her client) pitches a story to a journalist in an intimate setting.

On the day of the chat, a desk was not readily available, but a bare one was apprehended and spruced up with knickknacks, to give the impression of use. At the appointed hour, a miniature delegation arrived: Jimmy Au, the store's designer and founder, and his son, Alan, the firm's client-relations manager. They had brought along a surprise guest: Nora, Jimmy's wife and Alan's mother, as well as six plump garment bags. Jimmy, who is five feet two, wore a black pin-striped suit with a red tie and large seventies-style eyeglasses. Nora, who is five feet one, was dressed in white. Alan straddled a chair between his parents. At five feet six, he is the tallest member of the family. He wore a black pin-striped suit with a yellow tie. His hair had been gelled into stylish spikes that added an inch to his height. "There are more short men in Manhattan than in all of Southern California," Alan said, explaining his family's interest in New York. (Plans for a Manhattan-based Jimmy Au's are in the works.)

Jimmy laid out the highlights of his fifty-year career: He arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1959 and began selling suits while a student at Church College of Hawaii. "The first day, I sold three suits and made sixty dollars," he recalled. …

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