Thursday 22 November 2012

The strange case of the growing male appendage

When I was little, my father was 5’ 8” tall.  Now I am big (6’ 3”) he is several inches shorter than he used to be.   People get shorter as they get older.  I don’t know why.  For me this will have a plus point.  By the time I am in my late 90s I reckon I will be able to sit up in my Hilleberg Akto tent when I am heating up the water for the Ready Brek in the morning.  Nor will I have to contort myself into a hideous, hunched up shape when performing in the tent that function which most middle aged men  undertake in the middle of the night, sometimes several times.   It may also mean that I will not constantly brush the condensation dripping sides of the over rated Trailstar.  That shelter, incidentally, is to be the subject of another blog at another time, now that my prolonged field research (3 nights in it) is complete.

So whilst we get shorter, it is also, empirically at least, a fact that certain male appendages actually get longer with age.  Just look at the ears of old men.  They often appear to be of an enormous length.  Having done some extensive research on this subject,  which involved typing into Google the question “do men’s ears get longer with age?”, I find that Italian scientists have now proved that this is, indeed true.  They have discovered that the male ear will grow by about one inch in one hundred years.  Now this raises two important questions.  Firstly, why were Italian scientists working in imperial units rather than metric? And secondly, have Italian scientists nothing better to do with their time?
This brings me on to the matter of other male appendages which also appear to get longer with age.  I am, of course, writing about feet.  Being tall, and perfectly proportioned (apart from my nose being too big and my head too small), I have always had larger than average sized feet.  However, recent purchases of footwear for my hill walking activities have proved disconcerting.  30+ years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I used to buy shoes sized 44 and walking boots sized 45.  For any Italian scientists reading this I should explain that this means size 10 or 10 and a half.  Over the last 3 years I have purchased 3 pairs of expensive, size 45 trail shoes that I have given away to impoverished student sons  (I suspect they binned them once I had gone home)  as they had proved to be too small for me.  A year ago I bought a pair of Scarpa walking boots and ended up purchasing size 47 (that means size 12, Mr Italian).  They are a perfect fit.  Yesterday my new trail shoes, the discreetly coloured La Sportiva Raptors arrived, courtesy of the Royal Mail.  These, too, were in size 47 and seem to be a good fit.  This can only mean one of two things.  Either shoe manufacturers have altered their lasts and sizing policies; or my feet have got bigger.

Now any reader with a forensic mind will be seeing some linkages here. Scientists involved – Italian. La Sportiva Shoes – Italian. Scarpa boots – Italian.  If I was paranoid or a racist I might form a hypothesis that the Italians were playing mind games with British hill walkers.  This could be some Latin inspired plot to lower our self-esteem and make us think that we have over large and unstylish feet to go with our ill-fitting Next and Marks and Spencer clothes, and our poor personal hygiene.  But my first ever proper mountain boots, those size 45s, purchased when the old Tuff Workboots were no longer deemed up-to-the-job, were made by the then popular boot manufacturer Dolomite.  Also Italian.  So I can only conclude that my feet, as well as my ears, are growing with time.  I feel an experiment coming on.  I am off to measure and record the length of my fingers.
(I am sure that all readers will be gratified that I did not use any personal photographs to illustrate this post)


  1. I could do with losing a bit off some parts of my anatomy and a bit extra in other places wouldn't go amiss. Unfortunately I'm thick where I could do with being a touch more slender and a bit on the short side in other areas. If only the reverse were true!

    For a while I blamed tighter fitting garments on the manufacturers changing their cuts, but I knew I was deluding myself. On a more serious point, I have gained a full shoe size over the years; assuming sizings have remained consistent.

    1. Hi Oss

      I am glad the shoe size increase is not just me. I thought I must have wayward feet. If retailers could understand this trend they would change their ordering policies and get more larger sizes in stock. I have the devil of a time getting stuff in 47.

  2. Look away now if you are of a nervous disposition:

    About fifteen years ago I spent a few nights snowed-in at the pub in Llanthony in the Black Mountains. My mate's girlfriend at the time was a nurse, specialising in geriatric care.

    At about two in the morning, she assured all the assembled, happy but marooned drinkers, that with age comes increasing size of your scrotum. She challenged us all to check each year.

    I am sure that I am not the only one of that party, who every New Year's Eve, stands bollock-naked, peering into the mirror to check the downward slide down the thigh of the said article.

    1. Alan

      I was delighted that you commented, Alan. was running a sweep on which blogger would be the first to use the comments to lower the tone of a very scientific article. I won and can celebrate in style this weekend!

      I would suggest that you contact scientists at any prestigious Italian University and offer your body up for proper experimentation to see whether your mate's girlfriednd, allegedly a nurse, was having you on. Was she wearing her uniform by the way? If so do you have a photograph?

    2. "very scientific article" my backside!
      Now - that's another... no. Stop!

  3. I put my increase in foot size down to not wearing shoes. If my ears get any bigger I won't be able to hike in any sort of wind for fear of being carried away.

    @Alan, gee thanks, something else to add to the annual check-list :-)

    1. G'day g'sallman

      I hope you liked me lapsing into Australian there. Given your comments re the size of your ears I wondered whether you had thought of giving up hiking and taking up dingy sailing? It would be like having an extra spinnaker, wouldn't it. You would give that Ben Ainsley a run for his money in the Laser class.

  4. Interesting.
    I am an inch shorter now than I was in my 20's, but my feet are half a size bigger, or shoes have got smaller.
    Indeed the only part of my anatomy that hasn't changed is the only one I would be happy to be bigger.
    Such is the cruel hand we are dealt.Although that last sentence smacks of innuendo.
    Anyway, I will leave it for Al to lower the tone.
    On a plus note, if I can lose another 14lbs, I will be back to my fighting weight.

    1. Hi Andrew

      I am concerned about this "fighting weight" business. Boxing, wrestling or the marital arts? The latter was a deliberate spelling error given the non-too subtle euphamism in your comment.

      No doubt you will lose weight next May, unless you consume too much cheese in the the middle of the middle of nowehere with your titled friend and Mr S. I hope to bump in to you, sober and not fighting, in the Fife Arms on the Saturday evening.

  5. An interesting post. You are the only one i have read who has commented adversely about the Trailstar. I wait to read your negativity.
    Marks and Sparks and Next gear fits me ok. I actually like M&S.
    Shoe sizes are all over the place i have found. Not just differing countries but different companies within the same country. If i wear Salomon or Scarpa's i have to wear size 44 if i wear Meindl or Inov-8 then size 42 fit fine. And i could go on.
    We get shorter btw because our cartilage and discs wear out as we get older. Carrying heavy rucksacks for years doesn't help either.

  6. Hi Alan

    I too wear M and S. I have done since I reached middle age when I was about 23 years old. I think I did purchase something from Next once but it was far too young for me.

    I will, indeed, put some thoughts down about the Trail Star, but I must first get myself a Round Tuit.


  7. Made me chuckle. However I only measured 5'3 twenty years ago so if your article is correct I reckon I'll soon be "all ears"! ;-)

  8. Those trail boots you gave to your son still get used actually old man. On 3 continents so far.