Nas Majeed can’t catch a break on this season’s Love Island. The 23-year-old has been well and truly friend-zoned – and when contestants had to guess each other’s fears in the couple’s challenge, Jess assumed Nas’s was “heights”. Ouch.
You see, at 5ft 7″ Nas is hardly short, but he’s still two inches shy of the UK male average of 5ft 9″. The joke came in the same week former villa contestant, Amy Hart, revealed her dating dealbreakers. “What do you call a man under 5′10? A friend!” she cackled.
It seems that in 2020, when we would (quite rightly) declare outrage if someone commented on our weight, doing the same to a man’s height is considered fair game by some.
James, a 21-year-old student studying in Bath, believes this stems from shows perpetuating the “tall, dark and handsome” stereotype. “Love Island, which you could say is a reference point for an ideal body type, will basically have men all being above 6ft,” he says. At 5ft 7″, James is the same height as Nas. He’s noticed women put height preferences in their online dating bios, with comments like: “If you’re not above 6ft, don’t bother.”
“Clearly girls will still date short guys, but you’re dating with the knowledge that you’re outside of the norm [of what] girls go by, or are told to go by,” says James. “And so you feel like you’re dating in a reduced field of people who will look beyond the dark, tall and handsome stereotype.”
Tom Glenwright, 23, from Newcastle, is also 5ft 7″ and says he’s always been aware of his height compared to most of his male friends, who are over 6ft.
“I get jokes about it all the time,” he says. “If we walk into a clothes shop, someone will always point out clothes in the children’s section and be like ‘Oh Tom, that’ll fit you perfectly!’”
While he’s happy to laugh along with friends, Tom does fear turning up to a date and finding the girl is taller than him.
“I sometimes try to guess someone’s height from their pictures [on Tinder],” he says. “I’ve had a girl comment that they ‘thought I’d be taller’ once before. And there was a girl I was speaking to for a while very recently who used to call me ‘Little fella’ – luckily they were 5”3 so I wasn’t bothered by it.”
Like James, Tom says height can make him feel like his “options are limited” when dating. “People can be quick to put others down for their height, even though it’s not something that can be helped,” he says. “I don’t really get offended by it, but I can understand why some people view it in a similar light to shaming someone based on their weight.”
Even guys who aren’t necessarily below average height can feel the need to add an extra few centimetres to their online dating profile. Quincy Dash, 28, from Liverpool is 5’11, but sometimes says he’s 6ft.
“I don’t know what it is with this generation with height, but criteria needs to be met with certain females,” he tells HuffPost UK. “Some girls often say, ‘I only date 6ft plus’ or the cliché, ‘They need to be taller than me in heels’. There are a lot of good guys out there who don’t make the cut, simply due to height.”
Ben, 29, from London, points out that height isn’t only a factor in straight relationships. He feels the need to find a tall partner, being 6′5 himself, and always checks for height when online dating. “It’s difficult not to when you’re my height, because even someone 5′10 will sometimes be too short, so I usually just set a 6ft or over requirement and swipe with that in mind,” he says.
“It’s less frowned upon as I’m dating guys, but I do still feel a bit bad with the shorter guys around. There’s something I find attractive about taller guys that just isn’t there for the under 6-footers. I’m sure folks out there have swiped left when they’ve seen my height, too”
But height doesn’t have to be a barrier. Federico Volinsky, 36, is 5′7 while his wife, Eugenia, 34, is around 6ft. The pair met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and at first, Eugenia thought Federico “wasn’t her type”.
“That wasn’t the first time that I hadn’t been someone’s type — and I’d venture to say we’ve all been there, no matter how attractive we are,” says Federico. “But it didn’t matter, because love isn’t really about what ‘type’ you are; it’s about whether you have a connection.”
The pair continued to talk, first on Facebook, then IRL, and romance soon blossomed. “On our first date, she showed up with high heels, but after a few minutes of feeling very short and insecure, I said to myself, ‘she’s here with me, she’s choosing to go on a date with me’ and that changed my thinking ever since,” says Federico.
The couple’s love story inspired Federico to create the Blind Love app, where photos of prospective daters are blurred. The pair currently live in different countries, but see each other every month and have two children – with another on the way.