I’m 5’11”. I’m about 2 inches taller than the average American male. And yet, I’m insecure about my height.
It’s all my roommate’s fault. She’s 6’1”, inconsiderately, and she likes to wear heels. Her friends are tall, too. They’re all showgirls and former showgirls, and, like my roommate, they don’t shy away from pumps, stilettos, and platforms. So when we go out as a group, I’m the short one.
There’s nothing wrong with being the short one—just ask Beethoven (5’3”), Ghandi (5’3”) or Spike Lee (5’5”)—but being tall sure has its perks. Particularly for men; tall guys are more likely to get responses to their personal ads; tall guys are more likely to get married; tall guys have more children on average.
According to author Arianne Cohen, (who is 6’3” and clearly biased), “Talls annually earn $789 more per inch than our average-height counterparts, racking up $1.5 million in extra assets over 40 years.”
But why is that? Why does the taller candidate usually win the election? Why is the average Fortune 500 CEO six feet tall? Why are taller people so successful in life? Are they more intimidating? Or is it all about confidence?
I set out to investigate…
Itallershoes.com sells elevator shoes. Not the monster mash boots used by the guy who plays Frankenstein at Universal Studios, but shoes that secretly boost their wearer’s height by 2-4”. The boost comes from a hidden, extra-thick sole.
Shoes like these are generally marketed to shorter guys, but there’s no rule that says average-sized guys like me can’t wear them too. I was mildly embarrassed about placing an order, but itallershoes.com assured me, “The plain package has no words such as ‘elevator shoes’ and ‘instant height increasing shoes.’”
So I ordered two pairs. The first, a pair of brown dress shoes with tailored trim and perforated toecaps, made me 3.2” taller. The second, a pair of casual brown leather walking shoes with tri-colored racing stripes and elastic laces, boosted my height by 2.8”. I was worried that the walking shoes would look odd and obvious—insecurities abound—but they didn’t. Actually, they looked more stylish than all my normal shoes.
On Friday, I slipped on the 3.2” dress shoes and met my roommate and her also-tall friends at The Griffin. They were drinking wine, wearing heels, and standing around the bar like they owned the place. As tall people tend to do.
I stood right next to them and ordered a merlot. Fifteen minutes passed, and none of them commented on my growth spurt.
Why hasn’t anybody saying anything? Do they even notice a difference? Are they so used to hanging out with extra-tall guys (6’3” and up), that my height increase hasn’t even registered with them? Or worse: maybe they know I’m wearing elevator shoes, but aren’t saying anything because they’re embarrassed on my behalf.
The second glass of merlot loosed me up. And for a while, I didn’t think about height. After all, we were all standing at the same level, and height observations usually only surface when there’s a disparity. But when some average-sized people walked in the bar and stood right next to us, I began to appreciate how physically domineering our group was.
I felt bad for the men in the other group. I felt like we were inadvertently emasculating them with our very presence. I wanted to say, “Don’t fret; I’m not really this tall.” But taking a page from my roommate’s friends’ playbook, I kept my mouth shut and my height observations to myself.
After a half hour, I came clean and removed the elevator shoes. I handed one of them to my roommate’s friend Katy (who, like my roommate, stands at 6’1”), and she said, “Oh my God. I need to buy those for every guy I date!”
My roommate chimed in: “I dated a guy who did wear shoes like that, on our first date. Then, on our second date, he was much shorter, and I was like, what the hell happened? And later, one day at his apartment, I saw the shoes on the ground by his door, and I was like, ohhhh.”
“Did you feel tricked?” Katy asked.
“Yeah,” my roommate replied.
“But you kept on dating him,” I pointed out.
“I guess I did.”
I asked my roommate’s other friend Claudia (who stands at a relatively paltry 5’10”) whether she could ever date a shorter guy.
“Depends on how much shorter the guy is,” Claudia replied. “I couldn’t date 5’7” or under. I used to joke with my ex that if we got married, he’d have to wear the heels.”
I’m guessing Claudia found that joke funnier than her ex did. If the girl I was dating said that to me, I’d cry my way to the plastic surgeon’s office for distraction osteogenesis (i.e., leg lengthening).
I redonned the elevator shoes, and we left The Griffin to wander around Fremont Street. The stares were nonstop, and so were the comments:
“There go the supermodels.”
“Damn! Look at those tall blondes!”
“Holy $#!t there go some tall girls!”
Basically I was ignored. Understandable; a tall guy isn’t as noteworthy as a tall girl. (In America, the average guy stands 5” taller than the average woman.) But being ignored gave me a chance to observe the guys who were checking out the girls. Guys, I found, check out tall girls differently. With shorter girls, the eyes move down gradually, from the head to the butt. But with tall girls, the eyes drop like an Acme anvil. There’s a pressing need to see whether the girl is really that tall, or whether she’s wearing 12” stripper shoes.
We approached one of the Fremont Street stages and watched the “Dream Team Divas” perform a dance show. I’ll tell you this much: I sure didn’t have any trouble seeing the stage.
After the performance, we went backstage and snapped a photo with one of the Divas, who’s also a friend of my roommate. As you can see, it looks like a picture of six average-sized people with one short girl up front…only the “short” girl isn’t short at all; she’s 5’5”; she’s a half-inch taller than the average American woman.
Standing next to the average-sized Dream Team Diva and the average-sized girls at The Griffin, I felt a boost of masculinity. But my confidence spike was like a cocaine high: artificial and temporary.
I realized that at the time; I realized that the shoes would eventually have to come off. And when the shoes did come off, back home, the ground looked shockingly close, and my roommate looked taller than ever.
The elevator shoes didn’t offer me the deep confidence that (ostensibly) comes with being tall. But perhaps others perceived me as confident. And when it comes to winning elections, negotiating a salary, and getting the girl, isn’t that what counts most?