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I've always heard that women tend to have a greater leg length to torso length ration than men, and I think that my anecdotal observations of pedestrians of both sexes tend to confirm that.

However, now I read that is not the case:

If they are the same height, she’s a lot “leggier” than he is. It looks as though women really do have long legs and short upper bodies for their height. (We’ll see later this isn’t the case.)

(...)

This observation is purely anecdotal, though. There are studies which measure the lengths of men’s and women’s legs, arms, upper bodies, and so on. These measurements show that women have shorter legs and longer torsos than men as a proportion of their heights.

So, at least, says a bicycle designer. And I suppose bicycle designers should know anatomy.

I have a cognitive dissonance here, since again, my eyes watching pedestrians tell me otherwise.

So - what is the truth?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think men look like they have shorter legs because they tend to wear pants that are less form fitting with a lower hanging crotch area for obvious reasons. So this gives the illusion of a longer torso and shorter legs. Women also tend to wear clothes that accentuate the length of the legs to make the legs look longer, like high waisted pants, etc. $\endgroup$
    – mchid
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 22:28

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We seem to have a preference for proportionally longer legs (see comment here for a good summary around that study). So when you are observing "pedestrians" they have probably tended to dress and comport themselves to skew your perception of their leg lengths. Perhaps in your cultural environment females have a greater capacity and/or motivation to alter that perception than do men.

The reality is that adult female legs are on average proportionally shorter than those of men. See, for example, this detailed 1977 U.S. Army study comparing body proportions in adults by gender.

For readability I would highly recommend this much broader survey of the subject, which contains not only clear illustrations of how proportions are measured but also an extensive survey of cross-cultural and historical variations: Leg Length, Body Proportion, and Health: A Review with a Note on Beauty.

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