The San Francisco Chronicle Style section gives Shortees some love
Dino-Ray Ramos, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday November27, 2011
New Jersey native Seth Levinsky founded Shortees after receiving his MBA from San Jose State University. His company’s shirts, available online, are several inches shorter than typical T-shirts, and the armholes, sleeves and shoulders are adjusted accordingly.
Seth Levinsky, a personal trainer from Campbell, used to spend hours at the mall – not because he was enjoying the sights and sounds but because he was shopping for the perfect T-shirt for his shorter stature.
He would walk away with nothing but a pair of socks and underwear. He was frustrated. Thus, his quest became clear: He needed to create the perfect T-shirt for shorter men so that they could be their best and never have to settle for ill-fitting clothes.
He needed to create Shortees.
“The No. 1 mission of Shortees is to manufacture better-fitting clothes designed specifically for men 5 feet 8 and under,” says Levinsky. “A secondary mission is to empower shorter men to feel proud and comfortable with whom they are. Being short should be seen as a point of pride, an asset. I want to see women writing personal ads that read, ‘looking for a short guy …’ ”
A New Jersey native, Levinsky came to California for an MBA at San Jose State University, then spent two years researching business ideas. He thought about Internet-based businesses, since he was living in Silicon Valley, but didn’t have the skills to write code or to raise boatloads of money.
When the dust settled, the idea for Shortees shone the brightest, so in 2007 he took the idea and ran. He poured 15 years of savings into Shortees, but he had a couple of hurdles to jump. He had no experience or training in the apparel industry, and absolutely no contacts to get his idea off the ground. It was, as he says, a comedy of errors.
“The story about how difficult it actually was to launch Shortees would take a long time to tell,” Levinsky says. “Every time I thought I found someone who could help solve a problem or get something done for us, they turned out to be the wrong person and slowed us down by a few months. What should have been a six-month development took closer to three years.”
Levinsky defines 5 feet 8 and under as “short,” the height of the target Shortees customer. Through his research, Levinsky, who is 5 feet 5 1/2 inches, says that 1 of every 4 men – approximately 35 million men – falls into this category.
That’s a lot of Shortees.
“The solution that other companies give customers is that if they need a shorter length, they should get a smaller size,” Levinsky says. “If you need a large shirt to fit your torso, there is no way you can squeeze into a small, and even then the shirts are still way too long.”
This is why the primary feature of a Shortees shirt is the length. Whereas most T-shirts are 28.5 to 31 inches long, Shortees shirts are cropped at either 25 or 26.5 inches. Shortees also redesigned the average T-shirt so that the shape and size of the armholes, the length of the sleeves, and the angle of the shoulder are adjusted to better fit a shorter body.
Shortees has a large potential customer base, and so far, the shirts have gotten some return customers and positive response. Levinsky’s customers have been giving feedback such as “Wow, a T-shirt that actually fits me. Thank you! I’ll be purchasing all my T-shirts through you from now on” and “The shirts fit me perfectly, and I would like to replace my entire shirt lineup with them.”
Needless to say, his online-only company has only scratched the surface of an expansive market that includes solid-colored and graphic T-shirts, the latter being fairly new for Shortees.
“I can go online and find new T-shirt companies every day. There is no shortage of them, and everyone thinks it’s an easy business to go into,” Levinsky says. “What I really hope is that one day these other companies will print their designs on Shortees shirts and make a properly fitting version of their designs available to the 25 percent of the male population they are ignoring. They are missing a lot of potential business.”
Levinsky would like to have a brick-and-mortar storefront eventually. He thinks it would be ideal for someone to be able to have the choice to shop online or go into a local boutique to pick up a supply of shirts.
The primary focus for their first year was launching the company and doing the best possible job serving customers. Now that that has been established, Levinsky says he’s ready to partner with retailers that want to tap into this segment of customers that they have been missing.
“Amazing things are in the future for Shortees,” Levinsky says. “(I want to) make sure more people learn about Shortees and that they can finally have a great-looking shirt that fits.”
For more information on Shortees, go to http://www.originalshortees.com.