Let's hear it for the little guy: Philip Statman wants a designer suit. He is short, but determined. He has to be

'HE MAY be small but he is perfectly formed,' announced my mother. Standing 4ft 1in and weighing five stone, I was being surveyed by Morry Levenberg, late of the Whitechapel Road, and with a reputation for making a nobody look like a somebody. 'The secret lies in padding the shoulders,' he said.

Three weeks later it arrived, dark-blue, with long trousers, and oh, those shoulders. With pride, at 13 I had become, well in advance of my time, the first bionic bar mitzvah boy.

Still perfectly formed but now 5ft 4in and size 36 short, I felt it was time for a foray to the sales, as a treat to myself and to celebrate my 40th birthday, another coming of age.

This was to be my year for an Armani, a Cerutti, a Valentino. I would no longer be intimidated by the large cut of Hugo Boss nor of sales assistants who in past years had described me in mock French accents as 'mince' or, even more unhelpfully, stared with an expression of disbelief ('Of all the clothes shops in all the world he has chosen ours and expects to be fitted]')

Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Austin Reed - there would be a suit out there on the peg just waiting to leap on to my back and be taken for a spin to the Cantina del Ponte on Friday night. At the first grand store I pass rows of designer suits.

'Show me a 36 short, please.'

'They all go on the first day, sir. Those you are looking at now are not for you, you are far too small.'

'But today is the first day,' I protest, my resolve showing signs of erosion.

Next stop, the shop next door: a logo on the front announces it specialises in the long and the tall. My mind, playing tricks, or perhaps simply overburdened by years in darkened auditoriums watching Sergio Leone movies, registers The Long, the Short and the Tall.

'Can you advise me?' I ask the salesman.

'Have you tried shopping at Newmarket?' he snorts. The Man with No Name takes out his revolver and plugs this wise-ass between the eyes.

Me? I shrug off the slight and head for Liberty, where I am confronted by rack after rack of designer wear.

'I'm small,' I say.

'I can see that,' replies the assistant.

'You do realise that this is the year of the small man?' I protest.

Try telling that to Kenzo. Eventually I find the rack for shorties: a row of rather traditional charcoal-grey suits.

Tired and dejected, I return to my office with thoughts veering wildly between the spectre of the Harrods children's department (again) and the hitherto unappealing charms of grunge.

But there is a third option: a trip to Milan. To Valentino, to sit in a comfy chair, to be pampered, fawned over, and yes (at last]), to be fitted out in designer made-to-measure - or as near as dammit. Me with my memories of Morry Levenberg, late of the Whitechapel Road.

Valentino. What a shop, what an experience. A small man walks in, a tall man walks out.