A Brief History of the High Five


I was recently sent a link to the BLHFL (Bud Light High Five League) by a friend who cannot wear wrist watches because of his compulsive propensity to connect palms. Apparently, the good people of Bud Light (who I am no longer compensated by) have decided to create a web-based competition that captures the best in high fives, double fives, double foot-fives, need for speeds, reverse slaps, flip backs, high-lows, low-highs, back agains, front agains, snap-dragons, open-pounds, sock-puppet hugs, thumblers, trifectas and palmies from around the world.

After doing a little research on the high five, I realized that while there is now a definitive home for the current state of the open-handed slap, there is no definitive bullet point record of the high five’s history. So, without further ado, I present…

A Brief History of the High Five

  • 1278: Upon hearing that the Habsburgs’ have taken control of Austria, Rudolph I slaps the raised hand of a stranger then kills that stranger. Later, the movie Rudy is written about the birth of this influential European House, but is turned into a feel good football movie during extensive rewrites.
  • 1849: The first prospector, Fuzzy Wiggins, discovers gold in California, but loses his arm to a bear on the way back to town. He hires a blacksmith to make him a golden arm, but runs out of gold and is left with his hand in the raised, open-palmed position, leading to a life full of fives.
  • 1861: Having heard the story of a gold-armed man people travel to slap the hand of for good luck, President-elect Lincoln high fives his way from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration.
  • 1944: Franklin Delano Roosevelt high fives a 19 year-old Lenny Bruce after Bruce tells him the one and only joke about wheelchairs he’s ever heard and laughed at.
  • 1945: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is asked by his wife to stop high fiving every person he meets on the street. FDR refuses and adds “High Fiving” as part of the Secret Service training.
  • 1956: After a precipitous rise, the Low Five takes over as the preeminent form of casual, hand contact related greeting. Some believe it is a result of a general weakening in our countries shoulder strength because of Communism.
  • 1968: JG Ballard writes a passionate letter to The New Yorker explaining the misappropriation of the high five as a form of hello. Ballard argues persuasively that high five’s be returned to their original intent as a celebratory gesture.
  • 1974: People Magazine is launched to capture compelling high fives from around the world, but changes direction and becomes a home for meaningless lists after its founder is left hanging by an old friend during a softball game.
  • 1988: Michael Jackson and Michael J. Fox and Michael Jordan work together to found the MJMJFMJHFFKF. Their plan to sell pictures of the three of them high-fiving to raise money for kids fails after their acronym is confused for a foundation that offers mining jobs to stutterers.
  • 2009: Jason Marziani breaks the record for most high fives in an hour during the Philadelphia Brewer’s Bar Crawl.
  • 2010: ???

Twenty-ten, much like the rest of the future, is wide open for all sorts of history making, high-five related and otherwise.


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