Height and Dating: A Message to Men Under 5'8"


Height. Almost everyone wishes they could change their own, whether they think they are too short, too tall, or too average, it is almost never a satisfying statistic. Outside of day to day trade-offs like legroom on a plane vs. the availability of top-shelf treats, there is a large emphasis and advantage derived from height in today’s dating pool.

Women’s online dating profiles are filled with examples like; “5’11” in three inch heels- please be taller”, or “Swipe left if under 6 feet”, or the more rare “I really like short guys”. Every girl seems to have a specific height preference. But why? Why is height so important and does it mean, as a man, you can’t date someone taller than you? In short, no, you can date whoever you damn well please, but there are some things you’ll need to consider if you are going to perch on your tiptoes for a smooch.

The reason why height seems to be so important in dating is based in genetics, with some influence from evolving social norms. In its basic form, women wanting a taller male partner is rooted in the basic need to feel protected and secure. This was ingrained in us from thousands of years of our shared hunter-gatherer culture. Back when a woman felt safest and had the most food security by partnering with the best hunter, who was typically the biggest. Over thousands of years of social evolution and the decline of hunting and gathering as a way of life, height has somehow maintained its symbolism of personal security and evolved into social power. Even now, studies1 show that a man’s height is correlated to his average salary and position at work; the taller the man (to a point) the higher his salary and/or position is likely to be. Naturally this plays into the attractiveness of someone on the surface, as the ability to provide and protect (both of which can be derived from money) are huge factors in a person’s selection in a mate, whether it is a conscious consideration or not.

Beyond protection and providing, another big determining factor is the likely height of offspring. Regardless if the goal is to just “practice” making kids, the brain is trained to be attracted to those who will likely produce the best offspring. In the case of height, the best offspring are those measuring in just above average, which for men is 5’9” and women is 5’4” (in the US). Being socially dependent creatures, we want our kids to be accepted by the majority of society, and have the greatest advantage of survival. This is why you find that many men who are very tall are more attracted to women who are much shorter than they are, and vice versa. This causes a lot of headaches for the shorter men because the women who are 5’5” in 3-inch heels, tend to fall in the realm of being so short that they prefer much much taller men who are at least 5’11 in chucks.

Regardless of their own height, recent studies have shown that almost all women prefer their male partners to be taller but not too much taller, with 67% of women on average choosing a partner who is no more than 7 inches taller than themselves2. Meaning if a girl is 5’3, her likely preferred height for a guy is around or under 5’10”. While this is statistically significant, it doesn’t have to be the final rule. Inverse height relationships are more uncommon (1 out of 720 in the US and UK), but they do exist.

What is important in these relationships is self-confidence. Because people relate height to status, it is easy to have feelings of inferiority rather than equality to a taller female partner. This is a matter of self-confidence and self-knowledge. Knowing and embracing who you are, and acknowledging the height difference takes away the impact it can have on both your own psyche and that of your partner. Speaking it’s name gives it less weight. Think Voldemort, but the opposite. However, this only needs to be done once. If repeated, this can be seen as a point of sensitivity, not strength.

If you are short, your height doesn’t have to stop you. Using your height as a harping point for your own perceived unattractiveness is a cop out, and frankly, super self-defeating. If you think about it, there are two types of height, actual height and perceived height. Actual height is what’s on a person’s medical record, while perceived height is how tall they are thought to be in the minds and memories of those they meet. You most likely know a guy who is really of average height, but people look up to him; his influence, body language, and social presence, which make him seem bigger than he really is. The same is true of the opposite, someone who is quiet and shrinks into the corner of a party, is typically remembered as being smaller in the minds of those who saw them. Insecurities in your height and sense of self will be felt and given the amount of attention you allow it to. So, instead of trying to stuff the 5’4” “issue” under the rug, show it off and be proud of it. Owning who you are will make you larger than life, which in turn will make your height matter less, and the attributes that truly matter, like your sense of humor, charm, and manners show through more. You may not be responsible for your height, but you are absolutely responsible for how you let it affect your dating life.