The rumors are true: It's officially Short King Spring. While men often flaunt or even lie about tall heights on dating apps and women who are attracted to men generally regard height as an important factor in their relationship decisions, a new trend—celebrating shorter men—might be changing the dating scene.
The hashtag “#short king spring” has more than 1 million views on TikTok as of the end of March, with people posting videos about dating men shorter than them, demonstrating height–appropriate partner poses for Instagram, talking about the benefits of shorter men, and showing off their shorter boyfriends. Many on both TikTok and Twitter say that the confidence that shorter men have, as well as their senses of humor, make them especially attractive.
Many attribute the start of the trend to Tom Holland and Zendaya, one of the most talked–about Hollywood relationships on social media. Zendaya, who stands at 5’10”, is two inches taller than Holland, who's 5’8”, but their height difference hasn't been an issue in the relationship. Holland even called it a “stupid assumption” that it could ever be a problem for the couple.
Holland and Zendaya star in the latest Spiderman as Peter Parker and his love interest, Michelle "MJ" Jones. In past franchises, including The Hunger Games and Iron Man movies, when Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow were taller than their respective on–screen romantic counterparts, Josh Hutcherson and Robert Downey Jr., directors used certain angles of perception—as well as platform shoes—to make the men look taller than they actually were. The most recent Spiderman movies show how times are changing: There was no attempt to make Holland appear taller than Zendaya, the director instead choosing to keep their natural heights.
It’s absolutely time for the stigma against short men to be done away with. The biases against shorter men are not only rooted in misogyny, but also heteronormativity and cisnormativity. There are still stereotypes at play, such as men feeling the need to play the role of a "protector" in a relationship and women needing "protection" from men—and these need to be broken down. Preferences for taller men have material implications as well: A recent study shows that a man who's 5’6” needs to earn $175,000 more a year than a man who's 6’0” to be seen as equally desirable. When running for office, tall men often win over shorter men. So why are we equating leadership, masculinity, and strength with height?
While it seems that Short King Spring appears to be turning the tide on this height bias, there is also some danger in this trend. Currently, shorter men are popular on social media, but people easily tire of viral TikTok trends and find Tweets repetitive. By treating the attractiveness of shorter men as a mere trend, we risk cycling back to the misogynistic and heteronormative bias against them in the future.
But not only this, the idea that unchangeable characteristics such as height can be considered trendy or progressive further represents how social media commodifies our bodies. Similar to how some are declaring 2022 as the end of the "BBL era," Short King Spring seems to be just another iteration of how body parts are now a part of the trend cycle. In fact, Short King Spring seems to be dubbing people who are attracted to short men as "progressive," rather than simply acknowledging the fact that there's much more to attraction than just height.
While Short King Spring is deconstructing rigid societal expectations of height, its framing seems to promote shortness as a trend rather a trait that should be permanently accepted and celebrated. We need to ask ourselves: Is this era just another body trend or are we actually ushering in a perception of masculinity that is inclusive of all men?