The popular statistic goes that 70% of all human communication is non-verbal. Words make up just a tiny proportion of the information we send to each other, the rest being made up of facial expressions, postures, eye movements and, of course, hand gestures. The gesture is an invaluable tool for silently expressing approval, disdain, lust, loyalty and aggression, and over the centuries, humankind has built up a wide array of movements that defy language barriers to such an extent that many of them are now immortalised in that most 21st century of languages – emoji.
Today on AnOther, the hand is taking centre stage – from its role in fashion shows, to a new exhibition that celebrates the inventive fingers of the best chefs in London. So with photographer Agnes Lloyd-Platt, we decided to create a compendium of gestures, a beautiful pictoral guide to our favourite non-verbal communiqués, from the pre-historic finger counting and the ever-popular thumbs up to the Insta-favourite hand heart and the “to-be-used-with-caution” fist pump.
Thumbs Up: A gesture achieved by clenching the four fingers into a fist, with the thumb stretched towards the sky.
One of the oldest recorded gestures, the thumbs up has been observed in untamed Barbary apes, and was believed to have been used by the crowds in Ancient Rome to either save or condemn defeated gladiators in the arena. Pilots in the second world war used it to indicate readiness for take off, and it stands as the international gesture for hitchhikers. Today, it is synonymous with the icon of the Facebook Like.
Peace: A gesture achieved by the splaying of the index and middle fingers into a ‘V’ shape, palm outward, with the rest of the hand clenched.
The ‘V’ sign first emerged in popular culture as a symbol for victory during the second world war, but it was reappropriated by the peace movement of the 1960s to become the hand gesture of choice for the Woodstock generation. In Japan it has become a popular pose for photographs, a trend which has spread internationally.
Fist Pump: A gesture achieved by the clenching of the hand into a ball, knuckles to the sky.
The fist pump is a gesture of celebration and achievement that often occurs during sporting events such as tennis and football. They have also been incorporated into elaborate handshake routines.
Scout’s Honour: A gesture made commonly with the right hand, palm facing out, the index, middle and ring fingers erect, and the thumb holding the little finger to the palm.
The three-finger salute is used by members of Scout and Guide organisations around the world when greeting other Scouts and in respect of a national flag at ceremonies. It was chosen by Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell, with the three fingers representing the three tenets of the Scout Promise: Honour God and the King, Help others, and Obey the Scout Law.
Chat: A gesture where the hand is hooked over, knuckles to the sky, thumb underneath, and the fingers and thumb flap together.
This is generally a disparaging gesture, often paired with rolled eyes, referring to a person who is banging on a bit.
OK: A gesture where the thumb and forefinger converge to make a circle with the other three fingers pointing to the sky.
This is a gesture that has gained a revival recently thanks to its popularity as an emoji. While it is widely accepted as a positive gesticulation, it is considered obscene in Latin America.
Hand Heart: A gesture where the fingers of both hands link at the top, and the thumbs at the bottom, to create a the shape of a heart.
Popularised by singer Taylor Swift who uses it in her live shows to express affection for her fans, the hand heart has become a popular gesture seen across social media, particularly among younger users.
Counting: Where the numbers one to five are indicated by the index finger of one hand pointing to the relevant finger of the other.
Surely one of the oldest hand gestures there is, this enables the user to silently represent a quantity ranging from zero to five with a single hand, or up to ten with two.
Time Out: A gesture made with one hand pointing to the sky, and the other hand positioned flat on top of it in a ‘T’ shape.
Often used in sport situations to call a halt in a game so the teams can reconvene, this gesture is often used during personal altercations, when a third party will intervene to try and calm arguments.
Sexy Time: A two handed gesture where a circle is created using the index finger and thumb of one hand through which the index finger of the other hand is inserted.
This gesture is often used as shorthand to crudely represent the act of coitus.
Art Direction and Photography: Agnes Lloyd-Platt
Prop Stylist: Victoria Spicer
Manicurist: Ami Streets at LMC worldwide
Hand Model: Benedetta at Body London