Napoleon wasn’t tall, but he wasn’t short either. At five foot five inches (1.65 meters), he was only an inch shorter than average for a Frenchman of his time. Despite the myth, to this day, people dismissively describe aggressive men of short stature as having a Napoleon Complex.
The idea that short men sometimes feel the need to prove themselves is not a myth. In the genetic lottery, tall men have hit the jackpot. They are much more likely to become successful in business, politics, and love.
In the history of US presidential elections, the taller man has won 53 out of 58 times.
While only 1% of American males are taller than 6 foot 3 inches (190 cm), one-third of the CEOs in the top 600 companies in the US are that tall.
Shorter guys, on the other hand, often get the short end of the stick. According to a study at the University of Exeter, shorter men have less education and income. They measured 120,000 men and found that just three inches fewer in height was associated with $1,600 less in annual income.
Height discrimination in the dating world is also rampant. According to one survey, only two out of seventy women were willing to date a man that was shorter than her.
Height bias is predominantly a male burden to bear. There seems to be no connection between height and success for women. Of course, women are also unfairly discriminated against based on their looks. According to professor Timothy Frayling, a woman with an extra 14 pounds of body weight earns $1,600 less in annual income compared to a woman of average weight.
Basing income or employment on height or weight is irrational, but height and weight biases are real.
Height inferiority has caused some men to go to great lengths to get taller. Height extension surgery is on the rise. Twenty-eight-year-old Alfonso was profiled by insidehook.com. Though above average at 5 foot 11 inches (180 cm), he says he dreamed of being taller since he was 12 years old. Alfonso has paid $75,000 for the limb lengthening surgery. The procedure involves breaking the patient’s legs and inserting a device into the bone. After surgery, the device is controlled by a remote that stretches the legs by one millimeter a day and stimulates new bone growth. Alfonso is expecting to gain an extra three inches.
Some critics of this surgery worry that it is reinforcing toxic expectations to be tall. Others believe that undergoing such extreme surgery is a sign of a mental disorder. For Victor, another height extension patient, it’s normal. He says, “at the end of the day, we all do something because of societal pressures.”