I was asked this question years ago by a friend when I tried to explain to them the extensive number of benefits to having height as an advantage in life. Ever since then I have asked myself that question maybe once every year and I have found that my answer has evolved as I become more educated on how people behave and economics.
What most people do when they are asked this type of question is to avoid giving a definite answer, often because they are afraid of being politically incorrect and offending someone else. So the most common answer is not some number they pull out of their head but a ,” Well, it depends…” or “How do you define the word “ideal”?” or “Are we talking men in only the US or across the world in general?”
One thing that life has definitely taught me is that when one tries to give a definite exact solution to any question, one has to consider all the possible situations. For any questions that become even slightly theoretical or metaphysical, the answer is almost always impossible to answer with a definite solution.
Life Lesson: Hard questions can never be answered to a satisfactory level for everyone who wants an answer.
To answer this type of question which does involve subjective biases and preferences, one realizes that the answer may only satisfy 55% of everyone who reads such a post. However, I am trying to gain the agreement of the majority of the readers beliefs and biases.
Let’s first set up some constraints and parameters so we can focus the answer down to only a few possible answers.
1. We are only talking about men for now
2. We are only talking about people from the USA, including say Alaska and Hawaii. It has been shown from previous posts that the height averages for different countries vary too greatly in a huge range.
3. Let’s assume we are talking about the white caucasian american. (I do realize that it is a race label)
4. We understand that the ideal height is different for different people, so we will actually have 2 different ideal heights.
Humans are social creatures so when we are talking about “ideal” height” we are really talking about the preference and opinion of other people. That means that whatever one’s own opinion of one’s height is removed from the equation. We are only talking about how other people view one’s height. How do they look at you based on your height ,assuming everything else in your life is the same?
When we are talking about the fact that different people have different opinions on their optimum height FOR YOU, their answers will be varied.
For men, the issue of height really has 2 primary social/interpersonal relationship functions, one for women and the other is for other men.
Function # 1: To gain the admiration, desire, and attraction from women
Function # 2: To gain the respect and awe (and maybe even jealousy) from other men
That is why I felt that there should be two different ideal heights, one for women for function #1, another for men for function #2.
Let’s look at function #2 first. When you are a male and you meet and confront another male, at some unconscious instinctual level, you are sizing them up. The easiest way to size up another man is through their size. Size is used to showcase domination, fitness, strength, and physical prowess. If you are taller than the other people, your eye level is above theirs and you can literally “look down on them”.
However, the subject is not as simple as being taller is always better. At some critical point, the emotion of awe and respect other men might give you might turn into ridicule and sympathy if you are too out of societies constructed social rules.
The late author Michael Chrichton who was 6’9″-6’10″ himself had stated that the optimum height for men in the US was 6′ 6″. Here is a Harvard Medical School trained doctor who has been a best selling writer multiple times over stating such a claim. Thinking from a completely pragmatic point of view that does make a lot of sense. The average height of normal wall in american houses is 6′ 8″. One’s hair might add 0.5-1 inch to the height. If we then add the fact that most shoes add around 1-1.5 inches to ones height, we realize that 6′ 6″ is the upp er limit in height that one can be without any hindrances that can develop because of how buildings are created.
There are some small cars that are being developed these days that maybe a guy who is 6′ 6″ can not fit into, but the large trucks that are still sold can still house a man of that size quite comfortably. In terms of shoe sizes, there are many stores that sell pants and shirts with larger inseams and shirts these days. When one asks other grown men who are the most popular and most admired strong American males (let along from the African American community) , the names Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant appear often and they are both 6′ 6″.
These days it is actually really hard to find great male role models. A lot of young guys these days don’t have male heros they can look up to. In sports, the athlete that has come close to achieving immortality in the last generation was probably Michael Jordan. Sure there are the people who admire Bruce Less but for some people, it is really hard to relate to him because he had the foreign element about him. Plus, even though Bruce was strong and ripped like crazy, he was reported at 5′ 7.5″ feet tall, which was very averaged sized for an asian guy from his era. If you walked by him on the street , you wouldn’t know that he was someone special. He however learned how to overcompensate for his limitations of being asian and average sized to become a legend. However, that legend happend only after his death. There are other types of heros like Gandhi, Einstein, and Steve Jobs but they were never of the size that could instantly bring forth respect and awe form men just from their physical presence.
So the first guess for the ideal height of men FOR men is 6′ 6″. At that height, from other men you command respect and illicit awe while not pushed to a level where you are viewed as some form of anomaly.
Now let’s look at what the ideal height is for function #1. If we go to any internet discussion board that asks women what is their ideal height for men, many of them say that the taller, the better. (Reference Link 1)
Of course it is important to understand what a person says and what they actually do are 2 different things. It is reasonable to say that a 5′ 2″ female would like in theory and her mind to date a guy who is 6′ 8″ since he give her some form of mental security but in actually that could be very mechanically difficult. I am imagining a lot of awkward head tilting, neck straining, and uncomfortable positions…but that is just me.
Recent scientists concluded that women prefer on average to have their ideal male mate be 11% longer in height to their own height. So a girl who is 5′ 6″ would on average like a guy who is slightly longer than 6′ 1″. (5′ 6″ = 66 inches –> 66* (1.11) = 73.26 inches)
From the Wikipedia article on human height found HERE we learned from from 2003-2006, the average height for adult white male is 1.79 meters or 5′ 10.5″. I used to live close to Idaho and traveled a few times through the Mid West area where many towns are still primarily caucasian and I can tell you through just my own experience that the number provided by wikipedia is rather small, especially for the younger generation of guys.
However, let’s assume that number is correct. so from a SI unites pont of view, the average height is ~ 1.80 meters. Now, girls in general want the taller guy. They want a guy who is better than average, say by 1-2 standard deviations. I would assume no one chooses intentionally to “settle” for someone who is less in any way than the average. The US usually refers to the smaller length unit as inches, not centimeters. So if a women was to give a minimum height requirement, they would usually say 6′ 0″, which is 1.83 meters in SI units.
However, there are so many caucasian american guys who are 6 foot so they are not really “tall”. It is true that we can continue to add another inch and see if the american female’s opinion of the guy changes. 6′ 1″? still considered average, but getting cuter. 6′ 2″? Maybe 40-50 years ago that was the golden standard that people wanted to reach, but people have grown taller since then. 6′ 3″? Now we can reaching a level where a guy can be classified as “tall”. There was some study done from data collection that showed that only 3% of all people in the US was 6′ 3″ or taller so if you are at that hieght, you are in an elite group of individuals. Of course, that study had combined the numbers of males and females so the real percentage was probably 6% of all men was 6′ 3″ or taller, which is still a nice elite group one can be in.
For many girls, 6′ 3″ could be considered the ideal height, but let’s continue to add th inches. 6′ 4″? There seems to be quite a few athletes these days at the height getting a lot fo exposure like Michael Phelps and Dwayne Wade. However, we must also remember that most women don’t focus on sports that much. Movies and TV is still a very popular way people absorb the media. If we look at the most famous male actors which are considered attractive like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Or Chase Crawford, or Channing Tatum , none of them are on the “tall” side. They are either average height or slightly below average. Thus, we can conclude that the admiration, desire, and attraction we want from women can be developed without the need for great height. Women care more about how you make them feel and the emotions more than anything. Maybe it used to be that the ideal male was the larger than life, rugged, tough men from decades before but women this days prefer a more real life sized man. Some women do choose not to date really tall men because they look strange. Many women have called 7′ 6″ Yao Ming scary because he looks like and is the size of Frankenstein’s monster. However, that doesn’t mean that they have shut off that primitive part of their brain to desire tall men. So what is the standard deviation from average do they really desire in their men?
So the real question is, where is that height that balances size and looks?
I conclude that the ideal height is 6′ 3″, maybe slightly taller at 1.91 meters in SI units. If you look at a lot of the lead actors in action movies these days, they can often be classified into two groups by height. They are either the average sized joe who is agile and smooth. Think Daniel Craig in James Bond (5′ 10″), Matt Damon or Jeremey Renner in the Bourne Series (both 5′ 10″), Robert Downey Jr. (5′ 9″), and Colin Farell from Total Recall (5′ 10″). Then you have the larger sized male leads who are taller , broader, but not as agile or quick. Think Josh Duhamel in Transformers series (6′ 3.5″), Dwayne Johnson (6′ 3.5″), Gerard Butler (6′ 2″), Brandon Routh from Superman (6′ 3″), or Chris Hemsworth, the guy who played the lead in Thor (6′ 3.5″).
So my point is that the Hollywood movies these days have officially separated the male leads in say action movies into groups based on size. You can have either the average sized actor playing the lead like Brad Pitt (5′ 11″) or the slightly larger actor playing the lead like Ryan Reynolds (6′ 2″). These images have reached the subconscious of the average american female and when they say that they want the “tall guy” to date, they are reaching back into their memory of the movies they’ve seen and choose the guy who is 6′ 3″.
And that is my proposed guess on what the ideal height for the American women is , 6′ 3″ (1.91 meters)