Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 17:02 UK

Eight ways short people disguise their height

When diminutive French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave a speech at a factory he was flanked by workers no taller than him - leading to accusations of a set-up. How do short people disguise their height?

Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster
Tall partners can help by crouching

At 5ft 5in (165cm) Nicolas Sarkozy is only an 2.5ins shorter than the average French male, yet his height is frequently commented on. Now aides to the French president are accused of seeking out only short people to make their boss look taller.

On a recent visit to a motor technology plant in Normandy, 20 of the shortest workers were selected to share a stage with Mr Sarkozy. One of them told Belgian TV she had been chosen because her small stature wouldn't make the president look short.

But the Elysee Palace dismissed the allegation as "absurd and grotesque".

Yet Mr Sarkozy would not be the first person to try to appear taller. So how do others manage it?

1. Wear heels, like cowboy boots. And you don't have to be short to seek a greater height in this way. Sir Cliff Richard admitted donning heels to boost his 5ft 10in (178cm) frame on stage, to match his tall dancers. And Sir Mick Jagger, who stands shoulder to shoulder with Sir Cliff on height, if not sexual politics, has worn elevated Nike trainers on the red carpet to get nearer to his 6ft 2in (188cm) girlfriend.

2. Or elevated shoes, for a more discreet rise. It's not the sort of footwear that can be bought in a High Street shoe shop, but there are plenty of options available online, promising a height boost of anywhere between two and five inches. Media commentator Vince Graff, who is "5ft 2-and-a-bit inches", tried them for a night out, achieving a four-inch increase. Instead of showing a big, chunky heel, the footwear conceals the lift it provides inside the shoe - making for a "discreet" way to grow instantly taller. But the deception comes at a cost to the wearer - Graff likens the experience to wearing a pair of stilettos.

3. Dress tall. Fashion is governed by rules and dressing to give the illusion of a few extra inches is no different. The golden rules include wearing one colour head-to-toe and avoiding turn-ups as they have the effect of shortening the length of the leg, according to the Style Directions website. Also, go for well-fitted clothes as poor fitting ones can emphasise width which in turn decreases the perception of height.

Sarkozy at D-Day event
A stool can provide a boost

4. Know your limits when picking a partner. "When you're a teenager, you learn quite quickly that if you're 5ft 2ins you can't date a girl more than 5ft 6," says Mr Graff. "Even if you don't think it looks ridiculous, passers-by do."

5. Find someone who is prepared to compromise. Love is a two-way street, which presumably explains why Rod Stewart's partner Penny Lancaster, 6ft 1in, reportedly steps off the kerb for publicity and paparazzi photos shots, so she doesn't tower over her husband, who is 5ft 8ins.

6.Use a footstool. Mr Sarkozy's people may be rebuffing claims that he surrounds himself with shorter people, but there was no denying the president's use of a footstool at the D-Day anniversary this year. Speaking from the same lectern as President Barack Obama (6ft 1in) and Prime Minister Gordon Brown (5ft 11ins), he stood on a box to deliver his address.

7. Clever editing. Pedestals are commonly deployed in Hollywood, especially for those actors who have the looks even if they lack sufficient stature. In Top Gun, for example, viewers remain unaware that Tom Cruise is a few inches shorter than co-star Kelly McGillis, thanks to favourable camera work.

8. Quit the denials and take advantage of it. Short women may find their height less troubling than men but even for a woman 4ft 11ins (150cm) is considered extremely petite. Yet that's how tall British freediver Sara Campbell is. Nicknamed Mighty Mouse, Campbell held the world record for free immersion, diving to 81m without oxygen assistance. Her lungs are 50% larger than average and her extraordinary physiology has been studied by doctors.

World leaders height comparison
In a world where a carefully manipulated image (and sometimes stack heels) are essential, definitive vital statistics can be hard to come by. The heights shown here are those most commonly recorded for each world leader
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, for example, is variously reported as being between 5'2" and 5'4" tall
Napoleon's height was once commonly given as 5'2", but many historians have now credited him with another 4 inches owing to a miscalculation between French and English units of measurement

A selection of your comments appears below.

I am 5', and my husband is 6'5". Although I would love to be taller simply to find it easier to buy clothes, I don't have any issue with my height and neither does my husband. I have found in the past that short men feel I've betrayed them for some reason, and tall women dislike me for "stealing" a tall man. Ultimately, what difference does a persons height make to their ability to do a job? Let's face it, until relatively recently, I would have been considered around average height.
Jennifer Brand, Dundee

Being 6ft 1ins myself, I once dated a bloke who was 5ft 2ins. I did exactly the same as Penny, stepping off the pavement when photos were taken so it wouldn't show the difference in height so much. Now I have learned my lesson, and am now with a lovely partner who is 5ft 11ins. This makes so much difference as we don't get the funny looks from people.
Rhian Keene, Cardiff

My parents are one of these odd height couples, my Dad is 6ft3" & my Mum is just over 5ft. She says she never noticed the difference, until she catches a glance of them together in a shop window where she has to admit, they look 'ridiculous'
Kitty, Nottingham

Always being the first to enter (and last to leave) a situation where 'impromptu' photographs are to be taken means that a short person can position him/herself closer to the camera, making use of perspective to seem taller by comparison to others present. (This can, however, make an average-sized head seem very much larger!)
Gerry Campion, Glasgow, UK

When reading this barmy item I am reminded of what Britain's 5'2" dynamic prime minister Lloyd George told a journalist who commented on his small stature during the First World War, "Where I come from they value the worth of a man from the neck up". But it's rather like being female - to get anywhere you have to be better and more bloddy minded than the rest. Small is beautiful - 5'2" 'Snowy"
'Snowy' White, Guildford, England

I don't understand why people moan at being 6 foot or less. I'm 6ft 4 and struggle to fit in cars, planes and trains. If you're under 6ft consider yourself lucky that the world is scaled for you.
Some tall guy, Toobigville, Giantland

The only piece of advice worth listening to in that list is number 8. Being short is great. I'm 5'1" and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Emily, Edinburgh

Talk about the "Napoleon Complex". From the press noise I wasn't surprised about Sarkozy, but I had no idea Medvedev and Berlusconi were vertically challenged.
Peter Young, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

When I was younger, I always wanted to be tall, as I thought being tall gave one an advantage (and in some cases, it might). Nowadays, I am quite happy to be small (app. 5'2", so compared to my husband who is 6'0", I look really short!). I won't go into a list of advantages but as a confident, mature adult, I definitely don't feel the need to try to hide my short stature in any way. The only gripe I sometimes have is that it is difficult to find clothes which fit (even so-called "Petite" sizes are sometimes too big/long!).
Sophie Watson, London

I am 4'9" but carry myself with confidence and authority. Some people tell me they are suprised at how tiny I am when they stand next to me because I always give an impression of "height."
Jen, Ontario

I'm 5'0" & perfectly happy with that. I'm normal, everyone else is tall. I do get a bit annoyed when people say "oh, so-and-so's tiny" when they're taller than me! I *really* want to know the height of John Holmes (The Now Show & others) because I'm not convinced he's my height or smaller. But, my height means I get to ride ponies as well as horses & ponies are much more fun.
Puddingandpi, Brighton

I'm 4ft 10 and a half inches tall, and it's the first thing people notice. I get fed up of people mentioning that I'm so tiny. It's as if they think I've never noticed not being able to reach high things! Having a tall partner isn't a bad thing. At least they can reach things that you can't. Alternatively, wear high heels.
Lyndsey, Cambridge

One world leader who appears to be incredibly touchy about his height is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The New Yorker estimates he's about five feet tall.
Davros, York

Perhaps people would have less of a problem with height if we started quoting our own height in metric units, removing the arbitrary six-foot target.
Martyn, Manchester

If I was the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world, and had an ex-supermodel as a partner, I think I'd manage not to worry too much about my height. And all this high heels and stools is just silly. It's like people with thinning hair - having a comb-over looks SO much worse than just getting it all shaved off and forgetting about it.
John Bratby, Southampton

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