In high school, I swore I would never, ever date someone who was shorter than me. I was 5’10”-and-a-half, felt 6’2”, and believed only a man of Shaquille O’Neal’s stature could make me feel dainty, feminine and non-Amazonian. I suffered from a major Bea Arthur complex, and was convinced I was just one shorter man away from shoulder pads, floor-dusting caftans and size 12 flats.
Then I went away to college and fell for a guy who was 5’9” on a good day. He was my first love and suddenly, it didn’t matter that my inseam was longer than his. My next serious boyfriend was the same height as the first. Both were phenomenal partners and treated me like a queen. I never felt like a circus freak and instead chose to identify with a pre-divorce Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke.
Once I finally came around to the fact that my one true love had been sitting under my nose this whole time, disguised as my best friend, it was a happy coincidence that he happens to be about an inch taller than me in bare feet. (And, against all odds, Jewish to boot!) I wore near-flats on our wedding day but regularly step out in high heels. And while my days of dating shorter men are behind me, I was a more than a little excited when I recently met Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and discovered he is the perfect height to nuzzle into my neck.
So I was intrigued when I recently received an email with the subject “SHORT, dark and handsome?” in the Subject. It read:
Let’s face it; we’re living in a world that tells us a tall man is a handsome man, an athletic man as well as a successful man. Whether we admit it or not, all of these stigmas collect in the minds of the shorter man and can have a profound affect on a shorter man’s mindset and psychological state.
How do shorter men overcome and persevere socially in the dating world? They get a great amount of help from celebrity clothier Jimmy Au’s For Men 5’8” and Under.
Turns out Jimmy, who stands 5 ‘2”, is a Beverly Hills-based celebrity clothier who has outfitted everyone from Mark Wahlberg (5’7”) to Elijah Wood (5’6”) to Flavor Flav (5’5.5”). (Others well-dressed shorties include Marc Anthony, Danny DeVito, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jason Alexander and Michael J. Fox.)
Considering height is intimately related to body image, I asked Jimmy a few Qs about his clients and the psychology of the short man:
What are some common misconceptions about shorter men?
“When it comes to body image… some misconceptions about shorter men include every short man wants to look taller; every short man wants to be taller; every shorter man feels short. If people didn’t make heightist comments, I don’t think any shorter man would need to feel this way.”
What are some obstacles facing shorter men?
“Shorter men need to overcome those who judge them purely based on height. They need to overcome the inequality that exists in pay just because one is shorter. They need to overcome women who judge and won’t give a chance to men based on height. They need to overcome the image that assertiveness is somehow a complex developed because of their height.
On the flipside, some people need to overcome the obstacle of judging the abilities of short men based on their height when it’s completely unrelated. Some employers need to overcome the obstacle of paying a shorter man less for the same work. Some women need to overcome the obstacle of judging attractiveness purely based on height. Some people have to overcome the obstacle of assuming an assertive or dominant shorter man is such because he’s trying to compensate for his height.”
Why do people call you the psychologist to Hollywood’s shorter leading men?
“We help them look good and feel good. Some feel taller because of our designs. Some like the care that goes into the design. The better the fit, the better the comfort. The shopping experience isn’t condescending but with dignity and enthusiasm. We do not treat all our clients the same. Different people have different emotional, psychological and physical needs and we try our best to be considerate of that to create the best shopping experience possible.”
Now I just need to work on convincing my husband to work a special “Apolo” clause into our marriage…