It's officially short king spring

The internet says tall men have dominated the dating scene for far too long, but a new era is upon us.

by Laura Pitcher
22 March 2022, 7:00am

“I’m 6 foot if that matters” is a common disclosure that you might come across when scrolling through men on dating apps like Tinder. If you’re taller, you’ll be more desirable to potential matches, the theory goes — but there’s research to back it up. A recent study found that shorter men need to earn more money to be deemed equally attractive to taller men: for example, a man who is 5’6 needs to earn an additional $175,000 per year to be as desirable as a man who is 6’ tall. This bias is clearly rooted in misogyny, ableism and racism, with Asian men often taking the brunt. But just in time for the spring equinox, the internet has proposed that tall men have dominated the dating scene for too long, and we’re sensing something in the air this season. Welcome to “short king spring.” 

While the term “short king” has been around for years (with comedian Jaboukie Young-White tweeting it back in 2018), it started circulating on TikTok by way of a viral trend where women called their tall boyfriends “short king” and filmed their reactions. The results revealed deeply-rooted insecurities from tall men, however, the phrase was then reclaimed by short men themselves on the app. “Short kings is the new wave, sorry to y’all giraffes,” one creator posted. Women then got involved by expressing their desire to date shorter men and saying that “anyone taller than 5’11 no longer qualifies”. Happy couples have also started posting TikToks celebrating their height difference, with Jaida Boodram's comment declaring it "short king spring" on the popular video getting over 244k likes.

Isaac Silvia Looker, a queer and non-binary person who's struggled with being “small and scrawny while presenting as masc”, attributes much of the short king love online to Zendaya and Tom Holland’s height difference (and the viral photo of her holding his hip as they walk). “Zendaya dating someone shorter than her has started to unravel pre-set gender norms and expectations that have been deeply set in misogyny, binary cultural expectations and homophobia,” Isaac says. They’ve always had a complex relationship with their height as a model, and so Isaac encourages the “short king” dialogue when it's a genuine celebration of body diversity, which they feel is only starting to happen now. 

Damien Bryant, a 23-year-old trans photographer based in Alabama, says he’s often dreaded the question “how tall are you?” on dating apps, having better luck on ones that don’t ask for your height. At 5’6, Damien often experiences height dysphoria. “Being a trans male comes with its own set of societal expectations, but the expectations of cis males and the heights that come with them are also packed right on top,” he says. “I think that height is framed to be much more telling of someone’s character than it should be. When words like feminine, submissive or soft are often attached to being short, it feels like us trans men have run into this wall of never fully being perceived as masculine.” 

Damien finds the term “short king” to be sneering, similar to how the internet uses “skinny queen.” “I think it’ll take a lot more time for society to release the grip that it has on the desire of 6-foot men,” he says. “There may be more discourse about being more accepting of short men, but we’re also in the age of disingenuous ‘wokeness’, so I’ll believe it when I see it.” Despite this, Damien doesn’t plan on letting his height keep him down in any way this season. “I’ll be in my sexy, short, masculine era for sure this spring,” he says.

With people in the trans community suffering most from discrimination in dating, it begs the question, is the “short king spring” dialogue finally addressing heightism, or is it — like many things on the internet — just for show? Jules Posner, a 34-year-old comedian based in Philadelphia, says he hasn’t noticed a shift on the ground yet. “I would love it if it was the year of the short king,” he says. “Maybe more people will be open to seeing if real chemistry can win out over superficial physical characteristics.” 

Despite not yet noticing any actionable change from “short king spring”, although it’s just begun, Jules does find the term to be an overall positive one. “I can't lie and say the prospect of a short king spring doesn't inspire some additional optimism, but I'll believe it when I see it,” he says. He’d also like to nominate Tom Holland for a Nobel prize for the work he’s doing for the “short king community.” “Tom Cruise walked, so Tom Holland could run,” he says.

With height discrimination spread throughout society into even the workplace — a survey of the heights of Fortune 500 CEO’s revealed that they were on average 6’ tall, which is approximately 2.5 inches taller than the average American man — it’s clear posting about “short king spring” won’t magically reverse centuries of height discrimination and social conditioning. It does, however, open up the conversation for couples who don’t fit the previous mould. If the celebration of height and body diversity is also taken offline, it could inspire new potential romantic partners to examine their own internal biases. 

Then there are the men who have declared it short king spring their whole lives. At 5’3”, Jason Newman loves that his wife is a few inches taller than him. The new dialogue just confirms what he’s felt all along — that short men are just as attractive as taller men — and that tall men have had “all the love” for far too long. It's time for short men to shine. Ushering in the new season, he says: "Tall men see the world. Short men change it.”

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