The Definitive Guide to the 10 Best High Fives

The Definitive Guide to the 10 Best High Fives

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If you’ve known me at all in the last few years, you know that I love high fives. This amazing gesture – in its many forms – symbolizes camaraderie, victory, and awesomeness. So readers, this is my Christmas gift to you from abroad – a curated list of the best high fives from the foremost authority in Paris’s 7th arrondissement: yours truly. This last bit can’t really be corroborated.

This is the gift that you never knew you always wanted. May it enrich your life.

Origin Story

Before we delve into the varieties and nuances of high fives, let’s spend a moment on history. There are several origin stories of the high five, but the most common one is that this gesture first occurred in 1977 between Los Angeles outfielder Glenn Burke and teammate Dusty Baker. Baker had just hit a record-setting home run, and according to the story, Burke, overcome by the excitement of the home run, just felt compelled to throw his hand up in the air toward Baker. And Baker, not knowing what Burke was doing, just did what felt right. He slapped his teammate’s hand.

I don’t know if this is THE origin, but it’s certainly my preferred legend.

The 10 Best High Fives

1. Classic High Five

This is the most common, but by no means boring, high five. It’s the vanilla cake of high-fives – simple, classic, and comforting. It fits any occasion, is especially appropriate for a work environment, and requires little skill.

But remember, if you are just starting out, focus on your partner’s elbow and follow through. The louder the better.

Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers, SNL – Weekend Update

2. Double High Five (aka High Ten)

This high five is characterized by using both hands simultaneously. This is something you pull out for a really momentous occasion. Using two hands complicates things a bit, but as you’re usually facing someone head on – it’s very doable. It’s most appropriate for athletic events and party game victories. But a little warning here – if this is done a little more slowly, it can end up having a certain Oprah-esque quality to it – particularly if you end it with a hand hug. Compare and contrast Ross and Rachel to Steve Harvey and some lady I don’t know.

Use deliberately and with gusto, unless you are on a talk show.

Ross and Rachel, Friends


Steve Harvey and Unidentified Woman, Steve Harvey Show

3. Besties High Five

This is also known as the couples high five, but that’s a far too restrictive label. This high five is executed when side-by-side with your partner, where each person uses their outside hand (as opposed to the classic where each person uses the same hand). Sound and size are not the most salient feature of this high five. It’s more finesse than force. Even a light touch, when executed in a coordinated and timely moment, will leave you feeling smug. See below for two slightly different versions – synchronous and asynchronous. Both work beautifully.

I find this high five also finishes well with a subtle smirk.

Barney and Robin, How I Met Your Mother
Logan and Veronica, Veronica Mars

4. Double Tap High Five

Veronica Mars does it again. I’m not sure if I’ve seen this anywhere else, but this high five is a gem. It makes you wonder why you haven’t been high-fiving like this your whole life. Demonstrated flawlessly by Veronica and Wallace, it’s two high fives delivered in rapid sucession. They do this right after he announces he has won a scholarship and that’s exactly the type of occasion this is perfect for. It embodies victory.

Wallace and Veronica, Veronica Mars

5. Air Five

An air five is conducted by two parties simultaneously raising hands as if to high-five, but without any hand-to-hand contact.

You might think – Blasphemy! The essence of the high five is the slapping, the sound, the echo!? Well, I think the essence lies more in the coordination of the gesture between two people. Thus, I believe this can be used effectively in some situations: when you are far away from your intended partner, if you are a germaphobe, or if you are really lazy. Feel free to add this to your repertoire, but please, use sparingly.

Is there any better duo to demonstrate this?

Jim and Pam, The Office

6. Self Five

This one is near and dear to my heart. It serves the person that feels a high five coming on, but has no one around or willing. Also great for introverts.

I’ve seen this done a couple ways, but Tina Fey’s version nails it. You raise one hand and bring the other hand up to slap it. I think keeping the initial hand stationary is key to making it look awesome and not like you are just doing an unimpressive dance move. And if you can add in the side-eye and agape mouth she employs and then finish it with that snap…well, you are already a God among men. Give yourself another high-five for that.

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

7. Windmill High Five

Known sometimes as Top Gun Five or High Five, Low Five, the Windmill is a sublime flavor of the high five. It starts off with a classic high five, but then the partners, while in motion, continue moving their hands around to deliver a reverse low five. It’s high-risk, high-reward. It’s not for everyday use and is one few of us can try. You need to have coordination, the right partner, and the right opportunity to use this tricky beast. But if you can, consider your bad self blessed. If you can’t use this one, let’s just take a moment to appreciate its glory.

Maverick and Goose, Top Gun

8. Backwards Five

For all those moments, when the person you need to high-five is sitting facing away from you. Yeah that really doesn’t happen to me either.

Barney Stinson, a lover and inventor of high fives, has brought so many high fives to the world through How I Met Your Mother. There are plenty of delicious ones in the show (e.g. prayer high five, freeze frame high five, mushroom cloud high five), but this Backwards Five is one of my favorites.

I don’t think this is one to learn. It’s best to admire.

Barney and Robin, How I Met Your Mother

9. Wave Five

The Wave Five is perhaps the most challenging of all high fives to master for reasons that are self-explanatory. It’s an arm wave that finishes as a high five. I must confess, I have tried this a couple times with a friend. It’s not ready for public consumption yet. But, when and if it’s ever revealed, I do worry that the ripples of awesomeness emanating from this high five may just cause the world to implode. Great power, great responsibility…ya know.

Abed and Troy, Community

10. Just-cooked-42lbs-of-Meth Five

Ok, you got me. This isn’t really its own type. But this high five is so freakin epic, it deserved its own spot. It’s so visceral. Walter is hesitant at first and then BOOM!

Walter and Jesse, Breaking Bad


I hope you enjoyed this list. I’m strangely in the mood to watch tv now.

Before I go, one word of caution to all those overzealous high fivers out there. I wish you many high fives this coming year, but remember, sometimes, the sun is in their eyes.

Joyeux Noël!

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