In case you haven’t heard, we are living in the age of the short king.
Short kings have always walked among us — men who may fall a few inches below the height standards often linked to conventional male attractiveness, but who own their stature with the same confidence society has tried to convince us is the exclusive domain of men over six feet. Notable short kings of yore include Danny DeVito, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Humphrey Bogart — all of whom stood 5’9? or under but walked with the swagger of a leading man.
However, the modern short king revolution is generally traced back to the summer of 2018, when writer and comedian Jabouki Young-White took to Twitter with a viral defense of short kings, declaring them “the enemy of body negativity.” An official Short Kings Anthem followed in 2019, and now the revolution is coming for the online dating space with the forthcoming Short King Dating.
The online dating platform is the latest venture from short king outfitters Ash & Erie, a clothing company dedicated to producing apparel specifically designed for shorter guys. With Short King Dating, the minds behind Ash & Erie hope to expand their short guy safe space to the dating world — where anti-short king sentiment still tends to run largely unchecked.
“We want to make sure that shorter guys know that they do deserve the confidence that everybody else has,” says Short King Dating co-founder Steven Mazur. “They deserve to be super confident in who they are, regardless of height, regardless of anything else that’s really out of their control.”
While we tend to think of women as the primary victims of unrealistic societal beauty standards, men definitely bear the brunt of the body shaming when it comes to two specific measurements: height and penis size. And while body-positive efforts have made strides in quashing at least the most blatant displays of female body-shaming, we don’t seem to have come quite as far in terms of promoting and enforcing the same standards of positivity toward male bodies. By and large, jokes about short guys — and sometimes blatant discrimination against them — still seem to be fair game, and nowhere is this more apparent than on dating apps.
Not only do many online dating platforms allow users to filter their prospective matches by height, but it’s not uncommon to see women include their height requirements for male partners in their bios. In turn, many men — particularly those who can boast six feet or more — have taken it upon themselves to advertise their height up front, often followed by the vaguely (and rightfully) disgruntled qualifier “because apparently that matters.” Meanwhile, this culture of height shaming has encouraged many men who don’t pass the coveted six-foot mark to lie about their height on apps. In a survey of Ash & Erie’s customer’s base, 80 percent of men admitted to lying about their height on dating apps, while 90 percent said they believed a taller woman wouldn’t consider dating them because of their height.
Men feeling the need to exaggerate their height on dating apps has become so commonplace that it was actually the butt of Tinder’s 2019 April Fool’s joke, in which the platform advertised the launch of a “height verification” feature. In fact, Tinder’s arguably tasteless joke was actually where the idea for Short King Dating was born.
“It was meant to be a joke because everybody lies about their height on dating apps. In some ways we laughed, but it’s not great when so many guys feel like they have to lie about their height, feel like they have to represent themselves as someone different,” says Mazur. “We wanted to build a platform where guys feel comfortable being who they are, where they can be authentic, where they don’t feel the need to lie.”
The creators hope to launch Short King Dating in late November, with plans to host both an app and an online platform. The platform is open to short kings 5’8” and under (sorry to those in the 5’9” to 5’11” no man’s land of average height) and those who can appreciate and show them the respect they deserve.
“We’ve really embraced ‘Short King’ as an awesome way to say, ‘Look, you are perfect the way you are. You’re a King,’” says Mazur, who acknowledges that while the short king meme may have always been a little tongue in cheek, it’s a very real part of the body-positive moment, addressing an issue that has long been a source of insecurity for many men. “It started with humor, and I think now it’s getting taken a little more seriously. We’re seeing more acceptance, more empathy for our unique bodies and who we are.”
Two years into the short king revolution, there’s some evidence that the tide is indeed turning in short kings’ favor. While, to be fair, you still don’t have to scroll too far on Twitter to find someone taking a crack at short guys, their taller counterparts are increasingly being called down from their lofty perch.
As the oft-recycled “Is he hot or just tall?” tweet suggests, more and more people are starting to realize that we’ve all been fed a lie: a tall man is not necessarily a hot man, and falling below six feet does not automatically disqualify a guy from being attractive. Too long we’ve hailed otherwise unremarkable men for simply growing a few inches taller than average, while ignoring the cool, understated confidence of the under-six-foot royalty among us.
As Short King Dating’s tagline unapologetically states, “Fuck tall guys, date a short king.” Short is sexy. The reign of lanky, lumbering giants is over. The short king revolution is now.
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