I know I have a big ego, but...
December 13, 2011 12:18 AM   Subscribe

Is my head actually that big, relatively?

Since I'm starting a weight loss program, I was taking measurements of myself. I measured my head circumference, and it is 23.5" (or just shy of 60cm). I found this chart and it says I have a really large head for my height and sex (I am a 5'-6" / 168cm tall woman).

I think I'm missing something here. I never have had comments that my head is huge or anything like that. Is this paper too old? The data invalid? Or is it really me?
posted by Monday to Science & Nature (21 answers total)
How old are you? That chart showed adult head circumferences from 20 years ago, and people are a lot taller and larger than they were 20 years ago.

I just bought a hat on eBay, and it seems that 60cm is generally classified as the size "Large" and virtually any hat comes in that size and larger.
posted by surenoproblem at 12:27 AM on December 13, 2011

The difference between 50 cm and 60 cm in circumference is a only difference of about 1 and 1/8ths inches in diameter on a perfectly round object. On the other hand, your head is not perfectly round and most people have hair which further obscures the size. I know from helmet shopping that I do have a larger than average head, but no one else has noticed so far--even when I'm next to my grandmother who is the same size as me but has a smaller than average head (she has trouble finding a hat to fit). It could easily be the same for you.
posted by anaelith at 12:39 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am 33 and American.
posted by Monday at 12:39 AM on December 13, 2011

...and people are a lot taller and larger than they were 20 years ago.

Height has not increased for Americans since the 1950s.
posted by halogen at 12:43 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

The difference between small and extra large is only 6cm circumference, which works out to less than 2cm in diameter. I don't think being marked as a 'large' is really going noticeably large. I have a large frame (my wrists are outside the range for 'female' sizes) but according to that chart and other hat sizing charts I just looked up, I have a small head (5"8, 55cm). No-one has ever commented that my head is small or small for my frame.
posted by missmagenta at 12:44 AM on December 13, 2011

Average head circumference brow-to-inion for an adult is 55 cm (roughly), which of course has a range of 1-2 cm on each side given your height (there are many boring papers about this). Funny thing is, you reach that approximate head size around age 10 or so, and then your body grows into that. 60 cm IS on the large side (a couple of standard deviations above the mean), but hey, I'm an American female who has a head the same size. Unless you have certain medical conditions, it just means there's a little extra free space in your skull - also, this sort of thing tends to run in families. So don't worry about it, seriously. It just makes it a little annoying to get hats and riding helmets and so on.

(Unfortunately, big head doesn't mean bigger brain :( )
posted by vetala at 1:19 AM on December 13, 2011

I probably shouldn't admit this, but for a long time we used to measure head circumference of everyone at my office. This included a number of people who were just passing through. Your head would be in the largest 20% for women in our data set. You are not even remotely a contender to unseat our champion (whom we call "Head" and is the whole reason we started measuring in the first place). It turns out that your head has to be really really big in order for people to notice and think "wow that's a big head!" We'd not even look twice at you.
posted by Lame_username at 1:51 AM on December 13, 2011 [30 favorites]

I can never find a hat that fits. I have a big head. No one's ever noticed or said anything, and when I've mentioned the hat issue people have been surprised. It isn't like giant ears or a huge nose - the size of your head isn't that obvious at all, so you'd have to be considerably larger than everybody else to be noticed for it.
posted by twirlypen at 2:10 AM on December 13, 2011

I have a big head and struggle to buy a baseball hat or cycling helmet to fit but nobody really notices or cares. Probably because I distract them with my big nose. If it took a chart to let you know you have a big head then you really don't. An outlier head would mean you would have struggled to buy lids like I have.

The only people that I notice having huge heads are when I see actors in person and that is mostly because they are disproportionately large heads combined with a smaller than I expected body. Also Gina from the food channel.
posted by srboisvert at 2:44 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

My head is the same size as yours and I'm half a foot shorter than you. Seconding that no one ever notices that I have a big head, thirding that it is impossible to find hats that fit.
posted by arnicae at 3:44 AM on December 13, 2011

I also have a huge noggin and no one ever says anything about it. (Maybe out of horror.)

Personally, unless you cannot wear any ballcap ever made because it sits on top of your head like a kippah even with the strap undone, or you cannot buy a hat without using more than one "X" when specifying a size, you do not have a big head.

(I wear a XXL motorcycle helmet; one day I was in a store with a returned special-order XXXXL helmet; my god, that thing was large enough to house a medicine ball, or so it seemed.)
posted by maxwelton at 4:02 AM on December 13, 2011

I come from a family of big headed people who need to special order hats (which doesn't cone up much anymore but there are stories of previous generations needing to have hats when it was what men wore) and find it is rarely commented on, mostly because our heads are not so much wide but extended front to back. An aquaintance once remarked about the size of my son's head, who has inherited the family noggin (WOW look at the Size of that thing!), and that was due to his standing with a bunch of other boys all in early summer buzz cuts.

I think there are wide heads and long heads and infinite combinations thereof.
posted by readery at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2011

I don't know if your head is particularly large - but I do know that heads larger in relation to the body are considered to be more attractive for both men and women. It's why film/tv actors tend to be shorter than other people in the public eye (eg models). A larger head makes you look slimmer, too.

my point is: enjoy your attractively large head :)

/so says a pin-head, whose only comfort is buying cute kids' hats
posted by jb at 6:14 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal: my head is that size too (female). And yes, we have huge heads, but not Brainiac from the planet Smarton size, so no one has noticed.
posted by theredpen at 6:18 AM on December 13, 2011

Also I have some nice hats if you need to borrow any.
posted by theredpen at 6:18 AM on December 13, 2011

Head size is often very hard to notice unless you can get a good stark comparison between someone with a big head and someone with a small one. For example, I have a tiny head, I'm 5'8" (30 years old) and can wear my 2 year old son's hats. Some are a big snug, but they go on fine. No one has ever noticed of their own accord. My husband has a gigantic head, he can't find hats. He seriously was tragically upset when he lost the one cold weather hat he had found that fit his head. No one ever comments on it on their own accord either. However, if we are with a group of people and are talking about head sizes (I don't know how it keeps coming up, but it does). If we have people look at his head and my head next to each other, they notice (and are quite surprised) at how small mine is and how large his is, especially in relation to each other. Apparently head size is something we don't perceive to be abnormal unless it is in the very extremes of head size (or possible with people who have hair styles that accentuate the smallness or largeness of their heads) or if our attention is directly called to it with visual comparison nearby. The comparison is important, telling people I have a small head doesn't work (trust me, I spent years in high school fighting for a small marching band hat because they only wanted to give them to the petite girls), but people can see it if there's a visual comparison nearby.

Of course, this now makes me want to do a study on perceived head size... I wonder if I can get the face people in my lab on board...
posted by katers890 at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't measured my head, but I take the largest size in men's hats. Women's 'one-size' hats never fit. I'm 5'2", though I always say I'm 5'3". I have big hair - thick, coarse, curly, wavy - which makes my head look bigger. No one notices until I try on a hat.

How do you measure your head to get a standard measurement?
posted by theora55 at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2011

Of course, this now makes me want to do a study on perceived head size
I can tell you that despite taking hundreds of measurements, we remained fairly bad at guessing in advance if a person had a large or small head. "Head" is otherwise fairly thin and has a short haircut and a particularly large head and we all recognized him for the freak of nature that he is (but we love him). But the next largest head we ever measured was on a very large dude and we had no idea his head was outsized at all. There was another guy who we all guessed to be above average whose head was actually the smallest man we ever measured by almost an inch. You do sometimes notice when someones head widens particularly above their eyes and you will read that trait as having a large head, but some people had small absolute circumference and still had this trait. We used to wager on these things as an over/under proposition and no one demonstrated significant skill at guessing. Women are especially difficult to guess because of the big difference in hairstyles.

We guessed that large heads don't set off any mental alarms because we are all used to looking at children, who have ridiculously outsized heads (relatively speaking). This doesn't explain why small skulls don't freak us out. I tried to learn some phrenology in order to better mock my coworkers, but that turns out be like learning how to read palms.
How do you measure your head to get a standard measurement?
After much debate, the method we settled on was to use a piece of string, held nearly horizontally at the widest part of the skull above the eyes (typically just at the brow ridge), pinching the spot where the end meets and then measuring the string. We had a knot tied at the high water mark established by "Head" which allowed us to demonstrate visually the vast difference between his skull and any particular normal human subject. We haven't completely ruled out alien origin for Head.
posted by Lame_username at 8:59 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I should also add that back in the days when my group was much smaller, we would often subject job seekers to the measurement process. I figured that the way they reacted would be instructive about their ability to fit in with our quirky band of misfits (we did not have any particular target values we were looking for) My wife is a plaintiff's employment and civil rights attorney and I asked her if this practice was exposing us to potential legal risk. She cogitated on it for a few days and eventually offered the opinion that she couldn't formulate any real basis for bringing suit against the practice (but she remained opposed to it anyhow). Years later, we did run it by HR, but I don't think they really believed that we were serious. We stopped measuring everyone years ago, but we still have the knotted string in the rare event that someone appears to challenge Head for his title. I also still have the spreadsheet, which probably says something bad about my propensity to appear on the Hoarders show.
posted by Lame_username at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just measured my head - 24 inches around! I have thick, curly hair that probably accounts for an inch or two of that. I am only 5'3" and no one has ever mentioned the size of my head one way or another.
posted by cilantro at 10:59 AM on December 13, 2011

Hmmm... male, 5'5", 23.75. My entire life people have commented on the largeness of my head. Maybe part of the perception includes head height (bottom of jaw to top of head) as well?

When I was about 13 I was hanging out with one of my cousins and her boyfriend at the time. Her boyfriend was straight up, "Simplethings has a big head."
That's pretty much how most people approached the subject so I said, "Yeah..." *sigh*
And my cousin replied, "It's because he has a big brain."

From that day on I was no longer self-conscious about it and learned to love my big head--except when buying hats.
posted by simplethings at 12:12 PM on December 13, 2011

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