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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Stand up for your height
Tall
Men and women from all over the world are gathering in Boston for the annual meeting of the Tall Club International movement. BBC News Online's Chris Horrie traces its history.

It's not easy being tall.

Finding clothes to fit can be a problem, furniture is often designed with the shorter-limbed in mind, and then there are low-slung doorways...

Naseer Ahmaad Soomro of Pakistan, 7ft 7in
Naseer Ahmaad Soomro lost tallest man title in 1999
Back in 1938, such problems so aerated Kae Sumner, a taller-than-average Disney animator, that she wrote an article for the LA Times detailing the plight of tall people condemned to live in a world where "everything is tiny".

The article led to a campaign aimed at getting clothing and furniture manufacturers to realise that tall people existed, and that they had special needs.

The campaign got quick results. Within months an LA mattress company began marketing the first "king size" beds, specially for the benefit of the tall community.

Word spread across the US and to Europe, where like-minded tall people set up similar groups to campaign for better facilities.

How tall is tall?

At the same time, the burgeoning Tall Movement organised parties so lofty lads and lasses could socialise with those who saw eye-to-eye with them.

Tall club cut-off
6ft 2in for men
5ft 11in for women
Many felt - and still feel - awkward in social situations where they stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

In 1947, the Tall Movement held its first international convention, linking clubs from one Canadian and 14 US cities. Tallness was officially defined at this time as 6ft 2in for men and 5ft 11in for women.

In a following convention, organisers set up an annual beauty contest for extremely tall women which continues to this day as the "Miss Tall International Parade".

Bend and stretch

Today, the International Tall Movement claims 65 affiliated clubs in the US, with a combined membership of about 4,000 members.

Phil Heinricy, 6ft 8in
Phil Heinricy, founder of the UK's tall club
David Rasmussen, the tallest male member, measures 7ft 3in when standing straight, while the tallest woman is Kathleen McIntyre at 6ft 9in.

There are 55 affiliated clubs in Europe, the most recent starting up in Poland.

Germany has by far the largest number of tall groups, many with a large number of members.

The UK, in contrast, has just one national organisation - the Tall Persons Club of Great Britain and Ireland, founded as an independent organisation in 1991 by a group of tall activists.

The club aims to promote the "material, psychological and social" interest of those who are "taller than average".

The UK tall movement is more inclusive than in the US - anyone can join, regardless of height.

"We have no minimum height requirement" the club's website boasts, "because we believe people know for themselves whether they are tall or not".

Growing year on year

As standards of living and nutrition have improved, the average Briton has got taller at the rate of three-quarters of an inch each generation.

The official Health of the Nation figures show that 30% of men aged under 25 are now over six feet tall. If the current trend continues, the average British man's height will be 6ft within a couple of generations and the average woman will be nudging 5ft 7in.

The Tall Persons Club claims to get up to 100 letters a day from people who are suffering because of their height. The majority of letters are "consumer related" queries.

But a significant number are from people - many of them women or teenagers - who are bullied or ridiculed at school or in the workplace.

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22 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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