As a man, you can be short along with many other things. You can be short and famous, like Jack Harlow. You can be short and incredibly talented, like Bruno Mars. You can be short and have a really hot tall girlfriend, like Tom Holland. Or you can be short and possess the ability to make women orgasm in lockstep as you hit a high C note, like the Weeknd.
Short kings exist aplenty in the world of riches and privilege. But some lesser known tech bros, finance guys, actors, and wealthy soft bois are going to extreme lengths to leave their short king status behind for the new shiny mantle of…slightly taller king.
In GQ’s latest deep dive, men who’ve undergone intensely painful leg lengthening surgeries shared why they paid between $70,000 to $150,000 to add anywhere between three to six inches to their height—the taller the aspirations, the bigger the price tag. The surgery requires both femurs to be broken, a process that takes about a year and renders patients unable to walk for months. Nails made of titanium are inserted into the bone and extended one millimeter every day for 90 days by a magnetic remote control. But that’s just for the most commonly requested additional three inches. For six inches? They’ve gotta break your tibias, too.
Men—cishet straight men, specifically—have long suffered the consequences of daring to exist in the world at shorter than 5’11”. Straight women will commonly draw boundaries around their height preferences, like “won’t date a guy under 6 feet” or “he’d be perfect if he was a little bit taller.” Inter-height couples are a rarity, and when they are spotted out in the wild, they’re the subject of whispers and stares and even absurd questions about how they have sex. According to a 2009 Australian study cited by GQ, short kings actually earn less than tall princes (about $500 more a year per inch) and are less likely to make it to the C Suite, considering the average height of a male Fortune 500 CEO is six feet. But have no fear! The LimbplastX Institute, a Las Vegas clinic founded in 2016, has the solution for those who are desperate.
Since Covid19 kickstarted a Zoom-inspired plastic surgery binge, the LimbplastX Institute says they’ve seen double their regular load of patients and are up to 50 new people a month. A BBC report says that hundreds of American men are opting for the procedure, while men in general are embracing the idea of altering their appearance through gender affirming surgeries—up 29 percent from two decades prior, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The owner of LimbplastX, “Dr. D,” jokes that he could open a tech company with the amount of tech bros he operates on. “I got, like, 20 software engineers doing this procedure right now who are here in Vegas. There was a girl yesterday from PayPal. I’ve got patients from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft. I’ve had multiple patients from Microsoft,” he said. He also operates on trans men, and has shortened the legs of trans women.
One of Dr. D’s patients, Chad, decided to go through with surgery because a woman who was 5’10” was embarrassed to hold his (5'5”) hand walking down the street. “I was like, ‘All right, you want to be like that? If you think you could do better, you go do better. See you later,’” Chad told GQ.
Despite it costing an additional $14,000 to $20,000 to get the nails surgically removed, another man quoted in the piece named John was able to afford the surgery by taking out a loan for his femurs. He is set to pay $1,200 a month for the next five years. Why purposely gnarl your own legs for a not life-changing amount of extra inches and certainly a life-changing amount of money? “I noticed that taller people just seem to have it easier,” John told GQ. “The world seems to bend for them.” And to be fair, he is correct.
It would be easy to judge this life-altering, if not life-threatening surgery in service of maintaining an idyllic manhood—but for many, it’s apparently worth the risk. If we are going to be fine with gender affirming surgeries and procedures—or if you’ve had a rhinoplasty, lip filler, or any body modifications to appear more feminine or masculine—why not change your height, too?
Doctors caution that this surgery is in a different league, though:
Because of the risks associated with limb-lengthening surgery—which includes long-term damage to nerves, limitation of joint motion, chronic pain, and in rare cases, pulmonary embolisms—Westrich cautions that “although the procedure is performed for cosmetic reasons, it is not in the same dimension as other cosmetic procedures such as facelifts, breast augmentation and nose jobs.”
It’s a bummer that anyone is made to feel lesser than because of their height. I wish no one had to break their own legs for this reason—but I do hope those few extra inches bring them a few extra ounces of joy and confidence!