In short, who stands up for the little guy? | Stu Bykofsky

In ATK’s Kensington factory, founder/president Scott Savett measures fabric for his short athletic shorts

You might say this is a short column, but not as short as Scott Savett, 38, who just leaped into the unknown by launching a business selling gym shorts — shorter gym shorts.

His Radnor-based ATK Apparel — it stands for “Above The Knee” — opened last month as a manufacturer of gym shorts for men who are under 5-foot-8. That is thinking small … with a purpose.

I asked founder/president Savett, a Lower Merion native, where he got such a crazy idea.

From within, it turns out. Savett stands 5-foot-7 and was unhappy with athletic shorts, designed for taller men, that hung beneath his knee, making him look like a schlump.

Camera icon Rusty Kennedy
Even the short shorts worn by all teams of that era couldn’t help the Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird gain control of the ball from the 76ers’ Julius Erving in a 1982 NBA playoff game in Philadelphia.

I get it. I didn’t like it when the NBA migrated from snug shorts to hip-hop droopy drawers. I have a mental picture of Dr. J battling the Celtics’ Larry Bird in shorts so tight that they almost cut off circulation. Not that I want to run Savett’s business, but for a celebrity endorser how about 5-foot-6 Eagles running back Darren Sproles?

“Barely anyone makes clothes for me, under 5-8,” says Savett, who unloosed what he calls his “entrepreneurial spirit” to resolve his stylistic issues.

He parked his two degrees — an undergraduate degree in history and politics from Drexel, and a master’s in public administration from Villanova — as well as his job in SEPTA’s government affairs office and took a dive into a business with which he had zero experience.

You’ve got a wife, a house, and three kids. Are you crazy? I ask.

“Yes, I would say,” he tells me.

There’s so much risk.

“Absolutely, no question about it,” Savett says. “I kind of thought I will give this a year, and if this doesn’t work, I will go back to finding a job,” he says.

I ask if he ordered the apparel from China, like everyone else.

Camera icon Rachel Dukeman, R&R Creative
Factory owner Bart DeGele (left) and company founder/president Scott Savett check a pair of ATK performance shorts

Nope. He uses a plant in Kensington owned by Bart DeGele, and another in Maryland. The fabric is produced by a Hatboro company. Made in the USA, baby. He gets props for that.

Domestic production is more expensive, he admits, “but there are other aspects.” He is able to get quickly to the factories if problems develop. “It took me a couple of attempts to get the fit right, so I went in and showed them what I wanted,” he says.

He also knows that workers are making a fair wage. “When you manufacture in Asia, you don’t have any control over it,” he says.

What he wanted — and got — were shorts that hit above the knee, which provided the ATK name for his start-up.

Making shorter shorts is “not as easy as just cutting off the bottom. The rise was made shorter, along with the inseam,” he says.

Being short of stature was never a problem for him, but Savett says there is “somewhat of a stigma” about being short.

His own savings are financing his dive into capitalism, but he declines to talk about the size of his bankroll. He has the support of his wife, Shani, and their three sons, who range in age from almost 2 to 12.

“Initially I was a little hesitant,” says Shani, a lawyer. “But if it’s something he wants to do and he thinks it will work, then  he has my support.” And she will give him more than a year.

As to the potential market, Savett cites the Census Bureau: One-third of American men are 5-foot-8 or under. He has two products — flow shorts and performance shorts, available through his website. Each has pockets, but the performance shorts have zippers. All are made of a high-quality polyester blend, are hand-sewn, and retail for $54.

If the shorts click, Savett plans to expand into athletic T-shirts, also tailored for shorter men.

Savett may be height-challenged, but his spirit is standing tall.