- "Clothier Stands Tall for Diminutive,” By: Sharon Laidlaw, The Mirror
- “Outfitting for the Shorter Man,” By: Tanya Enberg, Metro Today.
- “Brown’s Celebrates 80 Years!” Snap Downtown Toronto.
“I’ll talk to you shortly.” Lou Brown ended his conversation, no pun intended. Brown is the owner of Shortman Brown’s, a specialty clothing store providing clothing for men five feet eight inches tall and under. “Our unique clothing patterns are exclusively designed to pay particular attention to proportion where it’s essential like garment and sleeve length, pocket and elbow location and correct waist silhouettes,” he said. Brown, a North York resident standing five-foot seven, inherited the company from his father Willie, who started the business in 1928 as a second hand clothing store located at 545 Queen St. West. The Brown family recently celebrated 73 years at that location.We are the only original store with the same owner to still be here on Queen Street. In fact, we’re on the fourth generation now. “The business has evolved a great deal since that time,” Brown said. He joined his father in 1944 after quitting school at the age of 16. “The decision to quit school was based on need. Our family was very poor, so I quit to make money instead. We had to make a living.” At the time, shopping on Queen Street was a very multicultural experience. “People could go into any Queen Street store and haggle. It was the era we were living in.”
To his embarrassment, Brown’s reputation of selling second hand clothing was costing him points in the social department. “When girls found out that I was working for my father in a second hand store, they wouldn’t want to go out with me, so I suggested to my father that he replace the used clothing with updated, trendy, new fashions,” Brown said. “My father thought I was crazy, but he went along with it anyway and believe it or not, he never looked back. The business took off and we were quite successful.”
Having established a loyal clientele over the next 30 years, Brown decided it was time for another change. He saw a need in the market to provide short men with well made, tailored clothing, designed to fit their unique proportions. The original name for his new concept was The Short Man’s Loft, a 500 square foot facility located on the second floor of the Queen Street store. When it opened in 1972, it “took off phenomenally,” according to Brown.
“When we decided to change our merchandise to cater to short people, we lost all of our regular customers that we had built over the last 30 years. So we had to build the business all over again.” In the same year, Brown decided to buy the business from his father, who died in 1995. “My father remained very active in the business until the end.”
But one store was not enough for Brown though, and in 1982 he decided to open another location at 1975 Avenue road, also two floors. “I’m proud to say that we are the largest specialty store that we know of in North America that caters to this market.”
And the concept keeps getting bigger: when shorted men said they could not identify with the Hugo Boss chain of clothing, it was Brown who eventually convinced Boss, after many discussions, to supply a perfectly proportioned garment for the shorter man. Today, Brown’s carries the largest selection of Hugo Boss clothing in “shorts” in Canada. Brown’s also features labels from Bugatti, Tiger of Sweden, and Samuelsohn,for business and weekend wear in a wide selection of styles and fashions. “Our clothes have a number of key feature, for instance our longest sleeve length is 33 inches, so your elbow is where your elbow should be and our pants pickets are sown in a little higher, so when you sit, you’re not sitting on your wallet,” Brown said. “It’s these small details that make the difference for the shorter man.”
Always looking for a challenge, Brown decided to venture into new areas for the business, spawning a line of short men’s shoes, manufactured in Europe and North America, as well as a section of socks designed to fit the heel of a size six foot or smaller. “Short men often feel they have to prove themselves. They feel as if they’ve got a strike against them,” Brown said. “We wanted to create an atmosphere that wasn’t intimidating for the short man. Our layout features shelves and racks that are a bit lower and our pictures hang a bit lower on the walls and most importantly, all of our staff are short themselves. Short men don’t want to feel as if they’re coming into a kid’s store shopping for clothes.”
The Toronto retailer is a little on the shorter side at 5 foot 7, but he’s always big on wit. When Brown noticed a shortage of clothing designed for shorter men, his business mind started brewing. Brown’s golden egg idea? High-end clothing tailored to men who stand between 5-foot 1 to 5-foot 8. Brown says that trying to find stylish clothing fitting his body size had always been impossible for him. So the outgoing businessman decided he would change all that.
Brown was literally born into the world of clothing. His mother gave birth to him in the attic above his father Willie’s second hand clothing shop on Queen St. W. He worked with his dad until taking over the shop in the 1960’s. That’s when Brown’s Short Man was created. It’s not immediately obvious that the entranceway at Brown’s second location on Avenue Rd. is slightly lower than an average door, as are the ceilings. The sales people, they too are a bit short. It’s all-apart of Brown’s concept.
“When they (customers) come into Brown’s, it is a short man’s world,” beams the 73 year old. But one thing Brown isn’t trying to do is make a man look taller then he is. That is not the point, he says. Instead, he wants his customers to stand tall and proud in clothing that fits properly. No more shirt cuffs draping over the wrists, pant legs that hang too long, or pajamas that are just too big. Brown will have none of that. “We’re an image maker,” He says. “I am trying to make the word short gorgeous.” Brown’s can’t make you look taller, but we can make you look as tall as you are,” says the entrepreneur.
He’s got smaller suits, ties, pants, jackets, and who would have thought shoes and socks for smaller feet. Brown’s added a new market- clothing for the short and stout. But all Lou truly wants to be remembered for is improving the life of the short man.
In 1928, Lou Brown was born, and as soon as he entered the family business, Brown’s decided to transform from a second-hand clothing store, to new clothing only, and they have never looked back. For years, Browns has been serving shorter men who often have had difficulty acquiring great quality clothing without having to pay a fortune in alterations. Since 1978, when they changed their name to “A Short Mans World,” they’ve been catering exclusively to men 5’8 tall and under. At that time, and using his vast knowledge in the industry, Lou went to many of the best manufacturers and provided all they needed to make perfectly proportioned and stylish clothes for the ‘shorter guy’.
From Hugo Boss to Versace, short and beautiful are always in style. Continuing this great tradition are the fabulous brother and sister tea of Pia and Jeffrey Brown. Congratulations! And now with two locations, the original at 545 Queen St. West, and their newest one, 1975 Avenue Road, it really is a ‘Short Man’s World’.