When it comes to male height, conventional wisdom has it that the only way is up - taller men are perceived to be more masculine and successful, while smaller men are often accorded distinctly less automatic respect, even being seen as figures of fun. However, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that it's the shorter guy who has the last laugh in life, enjoying many health and social benefits that can be put down to being of a more compact stature, some of which may surprise you. Nowadays, there are even clothes specifically for short men, so the’re no longer left behind in fashion.
The first advantage smaller men have is one that runs counter to accepted expectations, and it's a badge that shorter men can wear with pride. A 2014 report in the Journal of Sexual Medicine presented anecdotal evidence that shorter men enjoy a more active sex life than their taller peers. The study quizzed 531 straight men between the ages of 20 and 54 about their bedroom activities, and while the main finding was not much of a surprise - that good looking men of slim build between the ages of 25 and 29 are the most active overall - the spread across height showed that being under 5ft 9in appears to be a positive when it comes to success with the ladies, with these busy men averaging 2.69 encounters per week.
Basketball may not be our thing, but that's not where it counts, is it?
This success could well be down to the simple fact that shorter guys will often be better lovers, as they have had to work harder to be noticed in the dating game than their more elongated rivals. They need to be more attentive and sensitive, make extra effort in finding clothes that the unique proportions of shorter men, and another study shows that this also translates into marital success. The University of New York, again in 2014, found that men of height 5'7" or lower were 32% less likely to go through a divorce than men of average height, a fact that the researchers speculated could be linked to smaller men tending to get hitched later in life, and so approaching married life with greater maturity and experience.
Shorter men also tend to have more years to enjoy their active love lives too, with scientific evidence showing that every extra inch of height on average reduces life expectancy by just over a year. One possible explanation for this has been offered by Dr Armand Leroi, a professor of evolutionary developmental biology at the Imperial College, London. Dr Leroi found that the growth hormone known as Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF) was also responsible for many of the health problems encountered in later life, and so the very substance that increased a person's height also leads to earlier ageing. It seems that where nature gives height with one hand, it takes away years with the other.
And the health benefits don't end there.
Diminutive guys are less likely to suffer from cancer, with every four inches of height adding an estimated 11% of risk according to a study of 585,000 Europeans conducted in 2014. Again, it's thought that the hormones responsible for growth in height can also misfire and prompt tumorous growths.
Men over 5'8" also have a higher risk of blood clots, estimated at as much as 250% greater risk compared to shorter men. The reason appears to be that the heart needs to work harder to pump blood up to the higher brain, and overcompensates, leaving the lower legs prone to thrombosis.
Shorter men are better able to cope with extremes of heat and cold. Their smaller bodies have more skin area as a proportion to body mass, making temperature control more efficient, leading to less risk of heat stroke and associated problems.
Probably the greatest benefits of a smaller stature are, however, mental. While taller men can seem to sail through life, their extra height smoothing their path before them, smaller men often face more of a struggle to be taken seriously in a society that sets so much store by loftiness. This can however be a blessing in disguise, and to see why you only need to consider how many comedians and entertainers are shorter than the average.
One area where shorter men used to fall short (pun intended) is in fashion; shorter men were rarely seen as viable male models, something that is gradually changing. What’s more, the fashion industry is starting to focus specifically on shorter men, from custom clothiers to specialty online shops that make quality clothes for short men such as Silas Jackson, a brand that offers shirts for short men starting at just $28. No longer are short men relegated to the young boy’s department when shopping for clothes.
No more boy's department...
Living in a world often stacked against him, the shorter guy can come to rely on wit and intelligence to make his mark and to escape from the all-too-common bullying situations that are a feature of lower height in youth. Smaller guys have had to learn to be more self assured and comfortable in their own skins, nimble in the mind rather than relying on sheer physical presence to have an effect, and this of course is a quality that is immensely attractive to women.
Shorter men also often lead a life less filled with confrontation and aggression. While there can occasionally be some truth in the stereotype of the small man having a Napoleon complex, overcompensating for his lack of height with an aggressive manner, most compact males are happy to avoid the posturing and display that so many larger men feel compelled to indulge in. Smaller men can easily slip under the 'alpha male' radar: while the bigger specimens are slugging it out in a testosterone-fueled fight for dominance and status, the shorter guy can move in and claim the rewards unnoticed, as demonstrated with the sex life survey mentioned above.
Height is one of the few physical attributes that can't really be altered. No amount of gym work or dieting will change the situation if nature has drawn you the short straw, but the clever smaller man knows that appearances can be very deceptive, and that life is often better lived in a smaller body.