The shoe lift challenge: Eat your heart out, Tom

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The shoe lift challenge: Eat your heart out, Tom
By VINCE GRAFF

How did Tom Cruise suddenly grow three inches to be taller than his wife? We asked this vertically challenged writer to test one theory … and see if it stacked up.

As breakfast table talk goes, it was something of a bombshell.

“There’s something I’ve never told you,” my wife of three years announced sheepishly as she cleared away the remnants of our 16-month-old son’s Rice Krispies, “because I was worried I might hurt your feelings . . . I nearly dumped you as soon as we met”.

(Gulp. What could I have done to so appall Helen that she’d considered bringing our burgeoning romance to such a swift end?)

“I spent the first 24 hours of our relationship thinking: ‘Do I really want to go out with a man who’s shorter than me?'” she explained.

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What a difference three days make: Tom Cruise looks unusually taller than wife Katie Holmes

“But, sweetheart, I soon realised I shouldn’t be worrying about something so silly.”

Er, thank you, darling.

I am 5ft 2 3/4 inches (don’t you dare snatch that extra three-quarters of an inch away from me); Helen is 5ft 4in.

It’s never seemed to be a problem before, though she did agree to forsake stilettos on our wedding day so that I didn’t end up looking like wee Jimmy Krankie in the photos.

It seems, though, that ours is not the only relationship where height is an issue.

Last week, the Mail carried fascinating photos of Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes at two film screenings.

Tom is said to be 5ft 7in, and Katie 5ft 9in.

But in the first picture, taken at the premiere of his movie Lions For Lambs in Los Angeles, Tom was clearly the taller of the two.

Three days later, at a screening of the film in New York, he was suddenly shorter than his wife.

Before you ask, Katie was wearing similar heels in both pictures, so there’s no way her choice of footwear can explain Cruise’s mysterious height fluctuation.

Yet somehow he’d shed four inches in three days.

So how did that happen?

If Tom’s fast-disappearing inches had come off his waistline rather than his height, he’d have the whole of Hollywood at his feet.

And maybe it’s those feet that explain Tom’s minor miracle.

For what if the famously height- challenged actor had been wearing lifts in his shoes in LA?

Shoe lifts, in case you’ve not come across them before, are little inserts that can be placed inside shoes in order to lift your heel – and, thereby, your height.

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Standing taller: Vince Graff with wife Helen

A more extreme alternative, the socalled “elevator shoe”, in which the lift is an integral part of the footwear, allows you to boost your height by as much as four inches.

Both are impossible to detect from the outside.

A full set of shoe lifts can cost £250, while a single pair of off-the-shelf elevator shoes will set you back between £50 and £100.

But if you’d like a pair of hand-made bespoke elevator shoes – the type that might appeal to a Hollywood star perhaps? – you could spend £1,700 on a pair.

Still, what price pride? I’m the smallest man in my family and was the smallest boy in my primary school until I was eight or nine.

Being a teenager in a class where all the girls towered over me was also not much fun.

Whatever they say about “personality” being the most important thing, I soon discovered the appalling truth: girls don’t make passes at men who are short-arses.

Now I’ve passed my shrink-washed genes onto my son.

George was born quite a large lad (8lb 13oz), but in no time at all he had slipped down the height and weight tables until, like his dad, he was an out-and-out shortie.

He’s now languishing on the second centile – meaning that 98 per cent of babies his age are taller than he is.

I was worried about this for a while.

Then, one night, I found myself at a party where there were 50 or so other men.

I looked around and realised that I was the shortest bloke in the room.

Hardly a scientific survey, but it dawned on me: I must be in the bottom two per cent, too.

Anyway, I’ve had my fill of being small.

I’m fed up with always being the last person at the bar to get served; in a rage at being trampled on during rush-hour train journeys; riled at having to pay the full price for a cinema ticket when I get to see only half the screen.

Yes, short men have it tough – and I want to be taller. Now!

Logging on to the internet, I find what seems to be the answer to my prayers.

Alongside a cheesy picture of a man stroking his chin – not the sort of bloke who struggles to get served at his local – there are 18 styles of elevator shoes, from trainers to formal brogues, that promise to increase your height by up to four inches.

Prices range from £49.99 to £99.99. I opt for brown suede moccasins and a pair of black leather ankle boots.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of in ordering these height-boosting shoes, of course – why would there be? But just in case I’d like to keep quiet about it, the website promises: “All orders are treated in the strictest confidence. All products are sent in plain unmarked packaging.”

When my package arrives, I can’t contain my excitement.

The shoes are well-made and smart.

From the outside, they look like any other pair of shoes, with the soles and heels no deeper than usual.

The secret is inside: the insole is dramatically raised up at the back end of the shoe and tilts down towards the front.

When I slide my feet in, it is as if I am wearing stilettos.

Standing straight and proud, I admire myself in the mirror. I am now a giant among men – a huge 5ft 6in!

One small problem.

Though I’m now three inches taller, my trousers are not three inches longer – and they’re now too short. (The company doesn’t mention on its website that you’ll have to replace every pair of trousers you own.)

I stride proudly into the living room and hug my wife.

She doesn’t notice that the man embracing her is now a giant.

She does, however, realise that something is up.

“Vince,” she says. “You’re looking very slim today.”

It’s not a bad start, I suppose.

I head for London’s West End for a night out. What will happen when I try to order a drink in a bar? And will women treat me any differently?

My first mistake is running for the bus.

Clunk, clunk, clunk. The shoes are heavy and I am not used to running (or walking) with my feet at this peculiar angle.

The bus whizzes off without me.

Eventually, I get to the pub, stride up to the bar and catch the barmaid’s eye.

Within seconds, I’m being served. Is this because of my new-found confidence or my new-found visibility?

The barmaid tells me that, yes, I do look 5ft 6in, and that my shoes look perfectly ordinary to her.

Not that she ever ignores small people at a crowded bar, she tells me. Never. Yeah, right.

Time to move on. Slowly

The stiff virgin leather is pinching my big toe, and my legs are aching under the weight of the shoes.

The barman at my next port of call, the fashionable Soho Hotel, is also in denial.

Paolo, from Ecuador, claims: “It’s all about how polite you are – height has nothing to do with how quickly you get served.

“If you scream and shout at me for a drink, you’ve got no chance – even if you’re 6ft 6in tall.

“But the thing that works 100 per cent of the time is an attractive woman. I just can’t help it. Sorry.”

Despite not fulfilling his criteria, I’ve been served straight away – though, to be fair, there are only two or three other punters waiting.

But it’s nice to be first for the first time in my life.

I get talking to a group of women.

Bridget is a glamorous 35-year-old blonde from the U.S. who used to own a bar in Spain. She’s 5ft 8in.

“You look quite tall enough to me,” she says, looking me up and down. (Even in my new shoes, I’m still shorter than she is.)

“I’ve never had a problem with short men. I know a lot of women look for tall men, but it’s not a prerequisite for me.”

Before we get any friendlier (too friendly?), I move on.

I do seem to have a new confidence.

But Bridget’s friend Ylva, a 32-year- old Swedish woman who works in IT, soon puts me in my place.

“A few extra inches do help a man become more attractive,” she says.

Unfortunately, my shoes don’t quite hit the mark, and for Ylva I’m still too short.

“I want a big bear hug from a man, so I only really fancy men who are bigger than me,” she says.

“Sorry, but that’s the truth.”

I head off for a bite to eat.

In a Chinese restaurant, I find a group of students celebrating a 19th birthday.

Maybe the younger generation can be relied upon to restore my faith in women?

I ask Rachel, 18, how tall she thinks I am.

“Five foot eight?” she hazards. I am in heaven.

Her pal, a pretty Scottish girl called Sarah, jumps up from the table and measures herself against me, back to back.

It’s soon clear I’m not 5ft 8in, but I am taller than Sarah and Rachel.

“It looks funny if you tower over your man,” says Sarah, thinking it’ll cheer me up.

In fact, it reinforces everything I knew before I entered this land of make-believe. Because, in the end, I know I need to return to the real world.

By now, I am hobbling. There is a blister on my left foot and, like an Essex girl at the end of a night’s clubbing, I need to get my shoes off and go to bed.

And the next morning? I get out my ordinary shoes.

It’s not that Helen objected to my height-boosting shoes.

“I was expecting them to look really embarrassing and naff, like a weird orthopaedic thing, but in fact they are rather stylish” she said.

“The only problem is that you just don’t walk properly in them.”

In any case, she wants her old husband back: “I love you the way you are: as my Vince.”

Swoon. Her reaction makes me wonder: did my new confidence come from my shoes or from within?

On reflection, I’m not sure they gave me anything more than might a couple of vodkas and tonic.

On the positive side, it’s impossible to tell you are wearing height boosting shoes.

No one noticed anything odd, and my extra inches did seem to help me get served (and even admired) in pubs and bars.

But there’s no way I can carry on with the charade. My feet won’t take the strain.

It was intriguing to be given a glance into the giants’ world – but this Gulliver knows where his true home is.

Last updated at 07:05 14 November 2007

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