When Did the Hand-on-Hip Pose Take Over, and Can We Please All Stop Doing It?

You do it. I do it. We all need to stop.

I don’t know when exactly it took over, or how it became so pervasive so quickly, but at some point we all decided that we would never again pose for a photo without gluing our hand to our hip, elbows out, like a teapot, or a chicken.

I am sure, though, that it started with celebrities, as most things do. According to this article, the pose seems to have really taken off on red carpets around 2006. They were told by someone, as we were, that standing like this makes your arm look thinner. So we did it, but we never really stopped to take a good, hard look at ourselves: Sure, our upper arm flab was maybe a smidge less obvious, but as a whole, we looked like idiots, posing in a local bar or a kid’s birthday party as if we were at the Oscars.

Years ago, posing for pictures in a non-model capacity was pretty simple: You turned to the camera and you smiled. Now there’s a litany of tips and tricks to remember: hand on hip, tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth, chin out, head angled, a slightly sideways stance, one leg in front of the other, suck in. It’s very exhausting and the end result generally ends up looking something like this.

It’s an interesting phenomenon: Somehow, as taking pictures has become easier (now anyone with an iPhone and an Instagram account can filter a lackluster photo into gorgeousness), posing for them has become more complicated than ever.

It’s been reported that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen whisper the word ‘prune’ to each other right before they get their picture taken. Evidently this helps create the illusion of more prominent cheekbones and pouty lips. But it also feels ridiculous. (Try it.) My mother recently chastised my sister and me as she took our picture — I was angling my head to make my cheeks look thinner; my sister was jutting out her chin to make her jawline more pronounced. “Jesus, girls, just smile,” my mom said. But that’s the problem. Now, just smiling isn’t really enough.

I’m guilty of having posed like a teapot before — everyone else is standing like this, so I guess I will, too, and maybe my arm will look skinny? — but I’ve always done it with a healthy dose of self-awareness and self-loathing. Apparently this how a lot of people do it: “It’s a pose that definitely makes me roll my eyes, but goodness if it doesn’t make a huge difference in how gross my arms look in photos. I hate myself for doing it, but I’m gonna do it,” said one female colleague.

“It makes people look self-conscious about their upper arm fat,” said another, very astutely.

Another friend noted that the pose is less rampant across the pond: “I would always do the ‘skinny arm,’ and before my boyfriend’s family knew me, they made fun of me for it,” she said. “He’s from Europe and they just don’t really do it as much there.”

And what of the men? “To me, it says ‘sassy,'” said one guy. “JC Penney,” said another cryptically. “It’s better than the double thumbs up,” said a third.

I get it. It’s natural to want to look your best in photos — everyone from your cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s brother to your old third-grade teacher will probably see them on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter — but it’s not natural to pose like this. Or this, which looks as if she has snapped tree branches for arms. But there are other options:

-Hands in pockets. (Minus the Victoria Beckham glare.)


-Hands at your sides. See? Simple, pretty, quietly confident.


-Hands clasped in front of you. Anna Wintour’s go-to pose. Because sometimes you just want something to do with your hands.

The next time you find yourself in front of a flash, give one a whirl. And maybe while you’re at it, loosen up a little, try to forget the rules and angles and weird ‘prune’ tips and, for once, just smile.