Tag Archives: Napoleon Bonaparte

Heightism and the Sartorial Rise of Short Men

13 Feb

Tonight is the night to change things for the better for short men who want to dress well in properly-fitted clothes.  I am delighted to sit on a panel this evening to discuss height inclusion in menswear at Ryerson University’s Fashion Department. I will share the stage with industry experts who will discuss the practical possibilities of outfitting short men in well-fit wardrobes, and the new market that height inclusion sizing will serve.

But first a little theory and a little history.

Any time there is an “ism”, there is conflict. “Ism”s are based on the idea that one group or idea is superior to another group or idea. “Ism”s in action move people into opposing camps that are at odds: men/women = sexism, white/non-white = racism, and tall/short = heightism.

These “isms” only exist in the minds of the group that decided to divide the world up in the first place – i.e. the ruling class. With the means to spread messages and influence the masses, their biased’ “ism”s are imposed upon and absorbed by the public, and eventually, we’ve got a cultural division and a learned prejudice that can deeply affect society.

Cultural Belittling

Early in the 19th century, the tension between England and France exploded into war. King George III led British forces against Napoleon, leader of the French Empire and its allies. Those wars have left a lasting impression on Europe and western society, but in ways that we may not expect; it is my belief that this conflict introduced a concept the world hadn’t seen before: heightism.

Napoleon was 5’6 – average height for European men at the time.  Across the English Channel, the ruler of England was an unusually tall man. Seizing upon this difference, George III played out his contempt for France and its leader through satirical political cartoons published in British papers that spread the idea of conflict of stature: these images portray tall, red-coated George peering through a spy-glass at pint-sized Napoleon who he holds in his hand. George says to Napoleon, “I cannot but conclude you be one of the most pernicious, little odious reptiles that nature every suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth”.

This visual metaphor was English propaganda, and the ridicule of Napoleon as a smaller and weaker leader created the height (i.e. power) conflict which suggests that taller men are somehow superior to short men. This baseless concept left a lasting impression on the collective consciousness of English culture and all it touched – the British Commonwealth, including Canada.


 Heightism, like any other “ism” that pits one group of people against another, can cause us to distrust and feel hostility towards the group the ruling class deems “less than” – in this case, short men.

Interestingly, psychological heightism seems to only apply to men. Though women of varying heights will have their own set of physical issues to deal with, we don’t live under height discrimination like men do.

However, women’s perceptions have been influenced by heightism – some women won’t date short men. Why? I don’t think it’s because short men aren’t attractive (they are!), but it could be that learned cultural bias that makes us see short men as inferior to tall men.  For example, this Business Insider article explains a lot about the perks and privileges of being a tall man, and cites Malcolm Gladwell who notes that tall men have more opportunities in life, and gives the example  that the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are “taller than the average man”.

I’ve worked with and surveyed men under 5’8, and many of them tell me that they can feel overlooked and disrespected by society because they are short. Shorter men may feel discrimination at the office, in romance, and – in their closets.

I’m a men’s image consultant that works with men of all sizes, and I am petite, so I feel the pain of ill-fitting clothes. Average small, medium, large, XL sizing just doesn’t work for us – we are not average.

Short men, like petite women, need their own sizing system.

Height Inclusion and Specialty Sizing

Women have traditionally spent much more money than men on clothing, but men have become more style-conscious in recent years – they want to look good and take pride in their appearance and this means better grooming and better clothing.

But when we don’t fit average size, it’s always best to have clothes made for us – this is where made-to-measure or bespoke clothing for the gents comes in handy, but it isn’t an option for everyone due to cost. More affordable clothing is mass-produced and uses clothing patterns designed to fit the “average” measurements for practical reasons. In recent years however, consumers – specifically female consumers – demanded affordable specialty sizing – i.e. women’s petite or plus-sized clothing – and the clothing industry delivered.

Men have not had this luxury. “Average”-sized garments are cut to fit the tallest “average” wearer, so this leaves the shorter people sloshing around in too-long shirts, pants, coats, jackets, etc. For men who may not think to take his clothes in for tailoring, he ends up wearing sloppy, ill-fit clothes that will do nothing but diminish his stature, his attractiveness, and his confidence.

But with an industry buzz about a new sizing system for short men, this clothing revolution would be a game-changer for men 5’8 and under. Let’s hope tonight’s panel makes the case for height inclusion in menswear. Maybe then we can leave the political motives of a dead king in the past.


Davy Jones

8 Mar

This week, we lost one of the good ones. Davy Jones, the former singer of The Monkees died at the age of 66 of a massive heart attack. He leaves behind a lifetime of talent, loads of laughs, and a million broken teenage hearts.

Davy was born in Manchester, England and began his career on the much-loved series, Coronation Street, then took the part of the Artful Dodger in the London West End production of Oliver! which brought him fully into the entertainment fold (he was nominated for a Tony award for his role in the New York production). He appeared on the same Ed Sullivan Show as the Beatles in 1964, you know, their first US television appearance where masses of hysterical teenaged girls drowned them out.

“I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that,” Jones said of the evening.

In 1966, Jones auditioned for a new series that followed the adventures of The Monkees, a music group trying to break into the rock and roll world. The Monkees were really the first corporate pop group, a fabricated American version of The Beatles, made complete by Davy Jones, the clever, handsome Brit. The group had some very catchy music, often written by the best songwriters of the period: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, and the group’s own Michael Nesmith, and the series won two Emmy Awards in 1967 for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy (James Frawley).

I watched re-runs of The Monkees TV show when I was a kid and I inherited my one-time Davy Jones-crazed aunt Betsy’s Monkee records, so I have my own happy memories of Davy and his gang of wacky band mates. Betsy, like millions of pubescent girls worldwide, went mad for Davy, plastering his pin-up face on their bedroom walls and dreaming that she was actually the one he was singing about when he crooned, “I’ll be true to you, yes I will”.

I got hate letters from girls all over America because I wouldn’t go to the prom with them.
-Davy Jones

He sang heart-felt ballads and he could shake a mean maraca; he was the kind of fella any girl would fall for – deep brown saucer eyes, thick dark hair, a beautiful face, a sharp wit, and a charming British accent. Davy was just as sweet, just as cute, and caused just as much teenage hysteria as our modern adolescent heart-throb, Justin Bieber. These two share another commonality – their stature. Standing a compact 5’5, Justin is only 3″ taller than Davy was.

Davy was so small that he sometimes served as a prop on The Monkees series.


“I’ve always thought if all the show business success hadn’t happened, I’d have been a world champion jockey. It’s in my blood,” Davy said in 1996.

In Davy’s case, his small stature helped him become an accomplished horseman, though most people might argue that taller is better. In a publication I used to do before I started this blog, I devoted one issue to men’s height. Through my research, I developed a theory about why the western world has a hate on for small men, and I think that Britain’s George III is responsible. When the French army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, threatened England, caricatures of the French leader being small and weak in comparison to the larger, stronger British monarch began to appear in newspapers, colouring society’s view of short men. The truth is that Napoleon stood at a very average 5’6 for the time, while George stood somewhere around 5’11, and he saw this as a point of ridicule. Short men have been in the dog house ever since (source).

For the record, there is no correlation between height and intelligence; short men are just as able and just as intelligent as tall men, but because we have been socially conditioned perhaps by George III’s political posturing, things aren’t so great for short guys.

I learned  more about the short man’s plight in the survey I did for the height issue, finding that of the men surveyed, those under 5’7 reported height discrimination. Short men complained of problems buying clothes, feeling overlooked, and being socially perceived as being “less than” a taller man. It’s understood that shorter men suffer in life, work, and love, making less money than taller men and working extra hard to attract women. (Read this blog about dating short men by a short man.)

I had a conversation about height with a 5’7 foot male friend the other night who uses internet dating sites. He complained about the profiles on these sites being full of women who insist on meeting tall men only, making my shorter friend feel bad and “rejected”.

Seeing as though our culture neglects short men already, I can see why a short man might be hurt by a height exclusion, so, in support of my small brothers, I’m going to make an admission: I am 5’2, I prefer short men, and I have height restrictions when it comes to dating too. Nothing personal, but the closer a guy is to 6′, the less attractive he is to me as a romantic partner. When I used dating sites and saw an interesting face, I’d check his height and if he was too tall, I passed. It’s a proportion thing for me. I know that I am not alone when I say that I cannot think of anything more attractive than a compact, self-assured man. Believe me, fellas, contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of women who dig short guys. (Read this blog about dating short men by a woman who likes smaller men.)

Davy Jones was one of the first men who made being short sexy, passing the torch to short men like Tom Cruise, Prince, Jason Priestly, and Elijah Wood who have all been very successful in their careers and in their romantic lives. With three wives, four children, and an entertainment career spanning over 50 years, little Davy did pretty well for himself. He didn’t suffer from “short man’s syndrome”, walking around with a chip on his shoulder or shivering in insecurity over his small stature; Davy didn’t have anything to prove, he just enjoyed himself and believed in himself, and it’s that confidence that makes a short guy shine.

Thanks Davy.