What's in a Surname? Physique, Aptitude, and Sports Type Comparisons between Tailors and Smiths

Martin Voracek, Stephan Rieder, Stefan Stieger, Viren Swami

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article


Combined heredity of surnames and physique, coupled with past marriage patterns and trade-specific physical aptitude and selection factors, may have led to differential assortment of bodily characteristics among present-day men with specific trade-reflecting surnames (Tailor vs. Smith). Two studies reported here were partially consistent with this genetic-social hypothesis, first proposed by Bäumler (1980). Study 1 (N = 224) indicated significantly higher self-rated physical aptitude for prototypically strength-related activities (professions, sports, hobbies) in a random sample of Smiths. The counterpart effect (higher aptitude for dexterity-related activities among Tailors) was directionally correct, but not significant, and Tailor-Smith differences in basic physique variables were nil. Study 2 examined two large total-population-of-interest datasets (Austria/Germany combined, and UK: N = 7001 and 20,532) of men's national high-score lists for track-and-field events requiring different physiques. In both datasets, proportions of Smiths significantly increased from light-stature over medium-stature to heavy-stature sports categories. The predicted counterpart effect (decreasing prevalences of Tailors along these categories) was not supported. Related prior findings, the viability of possible alternative interpretations of the evidence (differential positive selection for trades and occupations, differential endogamy and assortative mating patterns, implicit egotism effects), and directions for further inquiry are discussed in conclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0131795
Pages (from-to)e0131795
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aptitude/physiology
  • Austria
  • Body Height/genetics
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight/genetics
  • Data Collection/methods
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Germany
  • Hobbies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Middle Aged
  • Names
  • Occupations
  • Social Environment
  • Sports/physiology
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


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