April 6, 2017

"New York is just crawling with our guys; I don’t know why... Maybe because short guys are gunners."

Said Peter Manning, who designs clothes for — and has a shop in NYC that caters to — men who are 5'8" and under. His preferred term for this category of customer — which in women's clothing would be called "petite" — is "not so tall."

Here's a list of 100 famous short men — some of whom, e.g., Napoleon, are famously short. Others are famous, but you might not have thought of them as short. Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. was 5'7"? So was Winston Churchill. Do you picture Picasso as short as he was — 5'4"? Ditto Houdini. Voltaire? 5'3"! Beethoven too — 5'3".

78 comments:

Rick Turley said...

Napoleon is famously, but mistakenly, known to be short. He was actually slightly above average in height.

Brando said...

Napoleon was thought to be short, but he was actually above average height for the time. The "short" stature was the result of British propaganda cartoons.

It is true that average male height in NYC is shorter than a lot of places--in Maine, for example, most guys I knew (or just saw on the street) were hovering around 6 feet, or just below. 5'8" would be considered short there. Probably something to do with the ethnic makeup of NYC.

He needs to come up with a better name than "not so tall". That's like catering to overweight women by calling their clothing size "not so thin".

Brando said...

Ha, Rick beat me to it, I got caught up in the naming convention.

Wilbur said...

Napoleon was not short. At 5-6, he was of average height for his time.

J. Farmer said...

Over the past century or so, the average height of humans in industrialized nations has increased by about four inches. Here is a Scientific American article on the topic.

J. Farmer said...

@Brando:

Napoleon was thought to be short, but he was actually above average height for the time. The "short" stature was the result of British propaganda cartoons.

I was under the impression that the myth stemmed from differences in French and British measurement units.

Paddy O said...

It's a mistake to think Napoleon was short.

Wait, did someone already mention that?

Why's everyone so eager to get Napoleon tall?

I blame the lack of vitamin D in NYC. And the fact it is no longer New Amsterdam.

Paddy O said...

I heard Napoleon was considered short because he surrounded himself with especially tall guards.

Michael K said...

" he surrounded himself with especially tall guards."

The Imperial Guard was made up of very tall men. They were finally thrown in too late at Waterloo. They were his last reserves.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Yuri Gagarin was probably the first man in space because he was small. Less weight and he fit in the capsule better.
I was surprised to discover that Humphrey Bogart was the child of a wealthy, artistic family. Raised on the Upper West Side, attended private schools, family had a summer home in the Finger Lakes region . . . he always seemed like a tough guy with smarts he learned on the street.
I guess that is why they call it "acting."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

People, in the past, were just generally a lot smaller than today. It was normal. Nutrition in early childhood has a great deal to do with it as well as less diverse gene pools.

Thrift store and antique store shopping will confirm. It is amazing how small the gloves, shoes, hats, clothing from the 1900's is. Itty bitty hands. Tiny feet. Pinheads according to hat size.

Antique Medieval suits of armor are amazingly small.

James Kahn said...

Madison and Hamilton were short, maybe 5'4" for Madison, 5'5" for Hamilton. Yes, people were shorter on average, but of course GW and Jefferson were both over 6' tall.

Hagar said...

Napoleon was not short. At 5-6, he was of average height for his time.

In France maybe. At 6'-1½" I was the exact average in my high school class, including the two girls and my best friend who reached about to my shoulder.

There is an old story about Napoleon that does not work in English, but does in Norwegian and presumably in French: He wanted a book from a high shelf and Marshal Ney said: "Let me get it Your majesty, I am bigger than you" and Napoleon said, "No, mon ami, you are just taller!"

J. Farmer said...

Here's a fun game to play the next time you watch a Tom Cruise (5'7") movie: see how many different editing and positioning tricks they use to make him appear at least as tall or taller than his co-stars.

Unknown said...

No mention of King Abdullah?

Dave D said...

"The Imperial Guard was made up of very tall men. They were finally thrown in too late at Waterloo. They were his last reserves."

Michael K.: Are you sure you're not thinking of Frederick's Potsdam Gernadiers? The Guard in Imperial France was broken up into Young/Middle/Old by the time of the 100 days. I think the names meant just that: Time in service of the guard.

Brando said...

"I was under the impression that the myth stemmed from differences in French and British measurement units."

Oh, that might explain where the idea came from.

Dave D said...

Speaking of shorter people of the past, we used to go annually to Greenfield Village here in Michigan. My kids would always remark how TINY the period furniture and beds were from the 1800's buildings there, for example.

mockturtle said...

George Washington: 6'2", Lincoln: 6'4".

My favorite, T.R. was 5'10" but it is interesting that leaders do tend to be taller. In the Bible we are told that Saul was selected as King due to his being a head taller than the other men. Maybe they're just easier to see. Napoleon was the exception, certainly not the rule.

That said, I find shorter men just as attractive and 'manly' as taller men and have an aversion to really tall men, like basketball players. My late husband and the love of my life was 5'10'.

Fernandinande said...

""New York is just crawling with our guys; I don’t know why...

I know why! Ask me!

It's because > 30% of the male population is "5'8" and under"

traditionalguy said...

Napoleon , who was unbeatable at military tactics, always invoked strong reactions. You either loved "the little corporal," if you were French or you hated him if you were British, German, Austrian, Russian, Italian, or Muslim.

Interestingly, the political leader's claim to fame of being a tall man does not carry over well for a lawyer in a Jury Trial Court Room. The average man in imperfect clothes can win over the male Jurors that the sharp dressing and, tall man will lose, because the male jurors unconsciously feel in competition with him for the female jury panel members.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I blame the lack of vitamin D in NYC. And the fact it is no longer New Amsterdam.

4/6/17, 10:55 AM

They are much taller in Old Amsterdam. The Dutch are now the tallest people on the planet:

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/why-the-dutch-became-the-tallest-people-on-the-planet/

I can imagine that there are times when being tall is not an advantage for a man - during trench warfare during WWI, for instance. How many guys were picked off by snipers when they made the mistake of standing up straight and exposing their heads.

DC also seems to have an abundance of short men.

Ipso Fatso said...

Freddy Patek was 5' 5' and played 15 years in the Major Leagues. Spud Webb was 5'7" and played in the NBA for 12 years. These guys are certainly the exception. I am 5' 7" and had fun playing baseball, etc. Hey, you work with what you got.

exiledonmainstreet said...

" I am 5' 7" and had fun playing baseball, etc."

Did you play shortstop? I believe up until Cal Ripkin, Jr. that position was normally played by shorter, but fast and agile men.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Audie Murphy was 5'8". Didn't seem to hold him back.

Fernandinande said...

exiledonmainstreet said...
They are much taller in Old Amsterdam.


White people are taller than other races. Which is why the "tallest countries" are also the most white.

rcocean said...

I saw Top Gun with my Aunt and she immediately remarked how the leading lady was so much taller than Cruise but was hiding it by slouching, being seated, etc. Frankly, i never noticed. Nor did i realize Barbara Eden towered over Don Adams until someone wrote about it.

Talking about men who are/were short, Teddy Roosevelt was only 5' 8" and Joe Stalin was 5'4" & Lenin was 5' 5".

And of course, there's Bob Dylan.

rcocean said...

My first Boss got his suits at "The Short Man's Shop". No pussy footing around with the name.

He was 5/6.

Paddy O said...

"The Dutch are now the tallest people on the planet:"

That was my point. If it was filled with Dutch, it'd be tall. But the Romance language settings (Southern Europe, Latin America) are not known for their tall folk.

Hagar said...

Napoleon's Imperial Guard wore tall hats to appear taller and more fearsome.

When they filmed "Boy on a Dolphin," they dug ditches in the beach for Sophia Loren to walk in so as not to tower over Alan Ladd.

Rick67 said...

I work with international students + scholars, and we usually take a group picture before English class. I have developed a lingo. Rather than "tall" in the back, "short" in the front... we say "tall-ER" in the back, and "LESS tall" in front. They laugh, they get that we're trying to not to say "you're short". Which does venture into what is normal, by what standard we measure height, and "othering" people who are somehow different.

I am reminded that when Korolyev specified criteria for choosing potential cosmonauts, they needed to be shorter and lighter than average. Yuri Gagarin was not a big guy.

Paddy O said...

"Which is why the "tallest countries" are also the most white."

I think this is as much related to diet as anything. It's not everything, but it certainly is a major contribution. Also averaging by race isn't always very helpful. The Masai are very tall. The Aka are very short.

Brando said...

"Napoleon's Imperial Guard wore tall hats to appear taller and more fearsome."

I get that that was the style of the time, like wearing an onion on your belt, but never understood why the tall hats didn't constantly fall off. And wool uniforms in the summer campaigns? Brutal!

exiledonmainstreet said...

Judging by the Parisians, I initially came to the conclusion that the French were a tiny bunch. Then I visited Normandy and saw natives who were much taller. I wondered if their height came from the Vikings, the Brits or the Germans. I've never been to the South of France. I assume they are shorter there.

Bob Ellison said...

Short lives matter.

Roughcoat said...

Ancient Indo-Europeans were quite tall and robust. These included the Anakim of Old Testament fame -- "Giants in the Earth." The bones of the warrior-kings discovered in the tombs at Mycenae show that they stood above 6 feet. Goliath, e.g., was an exceptionally big Aegean/Mycenaean warrior from a race of big people. Germanic/Scandinavian peoples were always tall, and so were the ancient Celts, as the Romans in their histories of war with the Gaulic peoples; however, the Romans themselves were also relatively robust, at least during the period of the Republic, when the requirement for joining the army was that you had to be c. 5'11". Harald Hardrada (Scandinwian) was nearly 7' as was Charlemange (Frank). The common denominator for all was consumption of beef in huge quantities, a diet in which meat was the stable and grains were rare. It was the introduction of grains into the human diet in Mesopotamia that stunted and actually lowered height and overall physical robustness. Urbanization in conjunction with grain-centric diets (which made urbanization possible) also resulted in low average heights. The negative effects of urbanization and grain-centric diet on human physiology achieved a sort of apogee in the Middle Ages but even then northern Europeans of Germanic/Celtic heritage remained bigger than most provided they ate large quantities of meat. Example: William the Conqueror, a Norman (= Norseman) was tall (over 6') with a linebacker's build (and he had red hair too).

For an interesting and informative book on the subject see: The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks.

Richard Dolan said...

First time I visited Lisbon, I was surprised to discover how short most of the people on the street were. If you want to stand out in the crowd, for tallness anyway, Lisbon is the place to go.

Mac McConnell said...

Wouldn't it be an advantage to be a small man in NY. You could shop in Brooks Brothers boys' department, think of the $ you'ld save.

Brando said...

"Judging by the Parisians, I initially came to the conclusion that the French were a tiny bunch. Then I visited Normandy and saw natives who were much taller. I wondered if their height came from the Vikings, the Brits or the Germans. I've never been to the South of France. I assume they are shorter there."

I remember hearing a (possibly fiction) story that after WWI the average height of Frenchmen dropped considerably because the army tended to take the taller recruits first and so many of them were killed in the war.

ALP said...

Uh oh, Ann.... as a short woman (just under 60") who prefers short men, after seeing this list I'll have to trade in my current 5' 7" partner for JACK BLACK at 5' 6".

ALP said...

I noticed a difference in average height when I moved from NY state to SEA many years ago. NY being very heavily Italian, Puerto Rican, etc...

My early days in Seattle, I was reluctant to get onto a dance floor as I had never seen so many galumphing, tall, leggy blondes in my life! Every guy that ever asked me to dance seemed like a fucking giant.

Curious George said...

"Said Peter Manning, who designs clothes for — and has a shop in NYC that caters to — men who are 5'8" and under. His preferred term for this category of customer — which in women's clothing would be called "petite" — is "not so tall."

The actual term is "manlet."

Roughcoat said...

The agricultural revolution in the Middle East made possible dramatic increases in population growth and all the changes associated therewith (e.g., the development of civilization), but it also had deleterious effects on human physiognomy and health, stunting growth and introducing a host of maladies including heart disease and tooth decay, etc. The paleo diet was and is best for humans. Homo sapiens survived an even thrived in the harsh and rigorous ice age environment because of the paleo diet: mostly meat. A grain-centric diet would have resulted in their demise, in part because they couldn't have grown grains but also because they would not have healthy or strong enough overall to endure ice age conditions.

Henry said...

Kind of a fun read, but 5'7" seems awfully tall as the cut-off for off-the-rack shopping. Gap.com sells men's pants starting at 28in inseam.

Then there's this:

Suits that fit without tailoring.

Who pays any kind of money for a suit and doesn't get it tailored? Or is "tailoring" different than "fitted"?

Henry said...

First time I visited Lisbon, I was surprised to discover how short most of the people on the street were. If you want to stand out in the crowd, for tallness anyway, Lisbon is the place to go.

Good place for short men to shop, I guess.

Sarah Rolph said...

Didn't know that about Picasso. That explains a lot. Surprised to see Dylan on the list. Would have guessed Bob Costa to be shorter than 5'7''.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Roughcoat, I wonder if there have been any studies comparing the height of vegetarians vs. meat-eaters in Western societies over the space of a few generations I'm not talking about countries like India, where partial or complete vegetarianism has been established for eons, I'm thinking of people like a woman I know. Born in SF to hippie parents who went vegetarian in their early 20's, had her and raised her to be vegetarian. She's about 5'5" or so. She married a vegetarian (I have no idea how tall he is.) They have a son and they are raising him to be a vegetarian. If the Paleo diet people are correct, I assume the kid will be shorter than his meat-eating great-grandparents.

The Godfather said...

Every time I fly coach I'm thankful that I'm not tall.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

The median height for American males over the age of 20 is 5'9". Now, 5'8" is shorter than 5'9"...but not by much.

Wiki: Average Human Height (chart)

Balfegor said...

Re: exiledonmainstreet:

They are much taller in Old Amsterdam. The Dutch are now the tallest people on the planet:

Taller than the Dinka?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I'm a bit confused, though---are these all men who SELF IDENTIFY as being 5'8" and under, or is this publication committing the grave sin of recognizing some empirical standard as applied to a person? That's all kinds of wrong, of course, thus my confusion.

madAsHell said...

You hockey puck. Don Rickles has passed on.

Rick Turley said...

Bob Ellison said...
Short lives matter.

I disagree. Short people got no reason to live:

They got little baby legs
And they stand so low
You got to pick 'em up
Just to say hello
They got little cars
That got beep, beep, beep
They got little voices
Goin' peep, peep, peep
They got grubby little fingers
And dirty little minds
They're gonna get you every time

exiledonmainstreet said...


Balfegor said:

Taller than the Dinka?"

Looks that way, according to the article I linked above:

"Today, the Dutch are on average the tallest people on the planet. Just 150 years ago, they were relatively short. In 1860, the average Dutch soldier in the Netherlands was 5-foot-5. American men were 2.7 inches taller.


Since 1860, average heights have increased in many parts of the world, but no people have shot up like the Dutch. The average Dutchman now stands more than 6 feet tall. "


Wonder if you get more legroom on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines?

Rick Turley said...

madAsHell said...
You hockey puck. Don Rickles has passed on.

Who was also short by the way.

Freeman Hunt said...

Short guys owned Ultimate Beastmaster Season 1, which had the best final that could be hoped for.

(See, I'm not totally oblivious to television and/or televised/Netflix sports.)

Meade said...

A man's length can change. For example, before the revolution, Louis XVI was over 6'. After, he was under.

rcocean said...

Don Rickles was 5/6 and made Frank Sinatra 5/8 look tall.

tim in vermont said...

Not that tall for a Dutchman, okay, half Dutch, but, for example, in a mall in West Palm Beach, I feel like a giant. In Boston, not so much.

rcocean said...

King Louis was the King of France
Before the Revolution,
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe,
King Louis got his head cut off
Which spoiled his constitution.

rcocean said...

Yep, the Dutch are tall. In Amsterdam I must have seen 20 guys over 6/5 in the space of an hour. women are tall too. Average is 5/7.

Holland is becoming Muslim, so height doesn't equal intelligence.

Rick Turley said...

rcocean said...
Don Rickles was 5/6 and made Frank Sinatra 5/8 look tall.

“It’s a true story, so help me God,” he began obligingly. “Sinatra was headlining at the Sands, and I was with this girl having dinner in the lounge. She wasn’t anybody I would bring home to my mother, but I really wanted to score big. Frank was in the lounge at his table with Lena Horne and some other celebrities and all his security guards. And my date says, ‘My God, there’s Frank Sinatra! Do you know him?’

“I said, ‘Sure, he’s a friend of mine.’ Which he was. But I made it sound like my whole life. ‘We’re like brothers!’ She didn’t believe me. So I said, ‘Wait here, sweetheart,’ and I went over to Frank’s table. ‘What do you want, Bullethead?’ he said. That was his nickname for me. I told him I was trying to impress this girl and would he do me a very big favor and come over and just say hello. He said, ‘For you, Bullethead, I’ll do it.’”


Five minutes later, Sinatra strolled over and said, “Don, how the hell are you?”

And Don Rickles looked up and replied, “Not now, Frank. Can’t you see I’m with somebody?”

Al said...

The booklet that comes with the Dylan box set the bootleg series volumes 1-3 has a photo of Dylan's passport, which says he is 5'11"

Roughcoat said...

exileonmainstreet:

I'm not familiar with any such studies, but I'll bet they're out there.

Re: For example, before the revolution, Louis XVI was over 6'

The Bourbon kings were famously tall. Louis XIV stood 6'4" in his bare feet, "but when wearing his heels and one of his 1000 wigs, he would appear almost 7 feet tall."

Another French king [sic!], Charles de Gaulle, stood 6'5". As an early proponent of armored warfare, I'm guessing he experienced difficulties fitting himself into the small light and medium French tanks of the interwar period.

Robert Cook said...

"Freddy Patek was 5' 5' and played 15 years in the Major Leagues. Spud Webb was 5'7" and played in the NBA for 12 years. These guys are certainly the exception. I am 5' 7" and had fun playing baseball, etc. Hey, you work with what you got."

I've never heard of these players--not being a sports fan--and I don't know when they played, but basketball did not start out as a game of tall players. This has happened over time, a sort of "self-selective evolution," given that the taller players had an advantage in getting the ball into the hoop.

Roughcoat said...

The Dutch are now the tallest people on the planet.

Reputedly Dutch men also sport the largest penises. According to a study conducted, no doubt, by ... Dutch men.

"There are only two things I can't stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and . . . the Dutch."

Robert Cook said...

"Short lives matter."

Not according to Randy Newman.

quizbowla said...

Many know that Madison was our shortest president, standing 5' 4".

Who was our shortest Supreme Court justice?

Did you guess Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

You are WRONG if you did!
.
.
.
Here's the answer: The shortest justice in history was Alfred Moore, a Federalist appointed in 1800. He was 4' 5". He served as an aide to Washington during the revolution. Looking at portraits of him, it seems like he probably had some form of dwarfism. An unheralded first!

mockturtle said...

Re: For example, before the revolution, Louis XVI was over 6'

LOL, I took that to mean avant la guillotine. ;-)

mockturtle said...

OK, Meade, I see that's what you were alluding to. It sometimes pays to read all the posts. ;-)

Phil 3:14 said...

2 Standard deviations below the mean in adult males is less than 5'4", so most of these "short men" aren't all "that" short.

tcrosse said...

My French-Canadian Mother had three brothers who were short, muscular, and pugnacious. For fun they would go into bars and start fights. She taught me that short guys could be dangerous.

Jamie said...

I'm frequently surprised by how relatively compact movie actors are. Matt Damon and Daniel Craig, both at a pretty average 5'9-10", do not carry themselves in an average fashion; they seem to act big. (I mean "act" in the sense of "carry themselves" rather than "act theatrically"; I'm not here to comment on their thespian abilities.) And of course, Tom Cruise has never carried himself such as to come across as the height he is. I don't mean any slight, so to speak, by this. I just mean that a shorter person, male or female, has to move his or her limbs subtly faster to cover the same distance, has a different angle of attack to grasp things from that of a tall person, would tend to carry his/her head at a different angle, etc.; my intuition says that a shorter person's physical presence should be different from a taller person's. And maybe it is - maybe the reason "action heroes" are so often not super-tall is because they move faster over the same distance: it could give them the appearance of being that much more coiled-spring dangerous.

On the other hand, Leonardo diCaprio is apparently over 5'11" and always seems shorter to me, no matter what his role.

jimbino said...

My three top heroes, Madison, Einstein and Milton Friedman, were very short.

openidname said...

I spotted several inaccuracies in the list that the article links to.

There's no way to know Alexander the Great's height. The sources only tell us that he was less than average height.

Napoleon did not win "hundreds of battles."

Bob Dylan has 18 Grammys, not 11.

And that's just what I happened to spot. I consider the whole thing suspect.

Peter said...

Yuri Gagarin was not supposed to have been the first person into space. Gherman Titov, who also was vertically challenged, was slightly more advanced in cosmonaut training and by all rights should have gone first, but the Soviet authorities decided that his given name wasn't traditionally Russian-sounding and went with Gagarin instead.

Peter

Valentine Smith said...

5'8" ain't short. Robin Williams was at least 5'10" or presented as such. OTOH, Stiller is no more than 5"6'. Or presented as such.

I gotta cop to it: I have a definite prejudice regarding short people especially actors. I think runt actors playing heroic roles is wildly absurd. Even the 5'10" Pitt playing Achilles makes the willing suspension of disbelief impossible (or maybe the movie simply sucked).

So there you have it. I'm shallow. But discerning very discerning. For instance, I'll bet Chuck the life long republican is no more than 5'4".

dbp said...

In the 1992, I spent around 6 months in Southern Japan, courtesy of the USMC. I was 5'8" back then. I towered over just about everyone 45 years old or more. All the teen-aged boys towered over me. Even some of the teen girls were my height or more.