The story behind the company determined to change the mass-production of “average” sized menswear.
It has long been the norm for clothing companies to mass produce their products in minimal, restrictive sizes, failing to consider just how vast the differences are from body to body. This issue is slowly being remedied, as clothing companies expand their sizing options and provide shoppers with more efficient means of selecting the right fit. However, there seems to be a void in the market for one particular group of people: men 5’9” and under.
Otero Menswear aims to serve this demographic, with a specific mission not only to make form-fitting clothing more accessible to shorter men, but to do so with precision. Fashion Mannuscript sat down with Otero Menswear CEO Steve Villanueva to discuss how the clothing line got its start, how they’ve found success in such a specific market, and where the company plans to go next.
Fashion Mannuscript: What is Otero’s origin story? How and when did the company identify the gap in the marketplace for men of a certain height?
Steve Villanueva: For roughly 75 years, clothes have been mass-produced based on “average” sizes. While cost effective, the “average” male body was deemed to be roughly 5’10” to 5’11,” and so the clothes designed for that imaginary guy were simply scaled up and down for larger or smaller men, while the garment details like collars and plackets were all produced in exactly the same dimensions for each different size, not because they looked good, but because it’s cheaper to produce items with minimal variation.
The result is that modern clothes tend to look alright on guys who are 5’10”-5’11,” but increasingly disproportionate on the 40 percent of men who stand 5’9” and under.
I had experienced a lifetime of frustration searching for high-quality, fashion-forward menswear that fit. So, I decided I would solve the problem myself. And, being something of “better-way” guy, I decided to take the whole concept of “fit” further than anyone else and created a better way for a shorter man to dress.
It turns out that simply making clothes shorter or smaller doesn’t really solve the problem of fit, because data shows that 93 percent of men come in two primary body types, which are defined by each man’s baseline musculoskeletal structure: a rectangle or an upside-down triangle. Unlike height and size, a man’s body type does not change once he physically matures. And, clearly, those two differing body structures each require a fundamentally different fit.
In effect, each Otero shirt is uniquely designed to account for height, size, and body type, and all of the key detailing features (collars, cuffs, plackets, and pockets) are perfectly proportioned for each garment. By giving every Otero shirt a custom-made look and feel without the hassle and expense of actual custom-tailoring, Otero offers the best off-the-rack fit a man can find.
FM: How does Otero determine someone’s perfect size?
SV: Otero is defined by its 3D Proportional Sizing System, which was scientifically designed to perfectly fit garments to a man’s height, size, and body type. Our shirts are designed in three strategic height increments—5’4” to 5’5”, 5”6” to 5’7”, and 5’8” to 5’9”—to ensure the perfect garment length. Most men know their size on a scale of small to extra-large, so the truly unique metric is your specific body type: rectangle or upside-down triangle.
There are a few quick and easy ways to determine your body type. First, a man can judge by the athletic endeavors they naturally pursue. Men with a rectangle body type have longer, leaner muscles that are perfect for endurance sports (distance running, biking, tennis, rowing, swimming, water polo, rock climbing, etc.); in contrast, men with triangle builds tend to orient themselves towards impact sports requiring great speed, bursts of strength, and sheer stopping power (body building, sprinting, wrestling, martial arts, football, rugby).
Second, if your chest is 0-4” larger than your waist measurement, then you are probably a rectangle, whereas men with triangle builds tend to have a 5”-12” difference.
Third, you can determine your body type by how “average” clothing sizes fit on you. If you can never find a shirt that fits comfortably at the shoulders without being horrifically baggy at the waist and riding up your underarms, you’re definitely a triangle. And if you can find shirts that fit at the waist, but seem to have arm holes that come halfway down your torso and collars that never lie properly, you’re definitely a rectangle.
FM: Tell me more about your partnership with Perfitly.
Perfitly is a cutting-edge tech startup that recently launched an innovative new Virtual Dressing Room. If you enter just five measurements into Otero’s Virtual Fit Room system, Perfitly’s computer algorithms will create an avatar of your body, and then drape the avatar in real Otero clothing using high end CAD technology.
Perfitly founder Dave Sharma says,“It’s the closest thing there is to trying it on yourself,” but we at Otero think that it’s even better, because you can try on dozens of garments in minutes—without the hassle of actually changing your clothes. And the digital rendering is so detailed that you can even see how a particular fabric will stretch against your muscle and mass. The Virtual Fitting Room takes the risk out of online shopping, because you can see exactly how every garment shirt will fit you before you click “buy.”
FM: I can imagine that men under 5’9” appreciate what Otero has provided them; what kind of reviews have you received from your customers?
SV: The two comments that we see most frequently are: “I didn’t know that this is how a shirt could fit!” and “Everyone thinks I lost ten pounds!”
From the beginning, our goal has always been to empower men through their fashion choices, because when you walk into the day with total confidence, it impacts every part of your life.
Otero garments not only provide a perfect fit; they’re very meticulously designed to lean and lengthen a man’s profile. Vertical lines, shading techniques, and strategic paneling all draw the eye up—adding visual height that gives the shorter man an instant advantage.
FM: When did you expand into accessories?
SV: We actually launched Otero with a full line of accessories because we have always felt that well-crafted accessories serve to accentuate and complete a man’s look. A powerful speaker can draw attention to his gestures with a well-placed bracelet. A trendy businessman can confidently keep his accessories together with a classy messenger bag or a sleek slimline backpack. Treating your colleagues to lunch? You need a wallet that looks as good as you do.
Every accessory produced by Otero Menswear is handcrafted in the highest-quality full-grain leather by a family of artisans based in Greece. And because each piece has a unique cut and texture, no one else in the world will have your exact style.
Science shows that dressing for success isn’t just a cliché. When you look outstanding, it bumps up your brain chemistry and reduces cortisol levels—life is full of stress, but your wardrobe shouldn’t be.
FM: Are you working to expand the Otero Menswear fashion line? If so, where do you see the company going from here?
SV: Absolutely! Our first phase will be to add a very high-end Italian selfedge denim jean with precise inseams and waist sizes that make hemming a nightmare of the past. The garment samples we have on hand are stunning, and we cannot wait to launch them.
In addition, we have been working on designs for a high-end cotton Italian-made dress shirt, some sweaters, and other long sleeve knits that are gorgeous.
We also intend to develop limited-edition specialty items—the “wardrobe wants” to complement our wardrobe staples. We have early designs for a jean jacket and a pair of winter-weight wool slacks. But since these are limited edition items, once they are gone, they are gone, and we will be moving on to the next “wardrobe want.”
There are a few other amazing plans simmering on the back burner that we aren’t ready to mention just yet, but we are confident that they will do wonders for the attire of shorter men, because innovation has always been Otero’s defining feature.
FM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Otero Menswear?
SV: At the heart of our company is the idea that an effortlessly outstanding wardrobe makes a meaningful difference in the lives of men everywhere. I was determined that Otero be able to produce elegant, fashion-forward clothing that is simple to purchase and inspiring to wear without the bother and expense of custom-tailoring. Thus, Otero offers exceptional clothing and accessories that are fashion-forward, smart, and impressive, while also being sophisticated and professional.
It’s also important for us to know that Otero is making a positive impact in the world. We believe in slow fashion, and emphasizing quality and fit rather than disposable trends and mass consumption. We incorporate forward-thinking processes and technologies with the goal of exceeding environmental impact standards at every opportunity. As part of our core ethic and business practice, we will always personally see and approve of each manufacturing facility to ensure the highest standards of worker safety and compensation. And we work closely with our suppliers to assure compliance with all environmental regulations and best practices. Being a responsible and sustainable business matters to us, and we know it matters to our customer.
Because mediocrity has never been our thing.