National High Five Day | The Origin of the High Five

Today is National High Five Day, often celebrated on the third Thursday in April, and used as an opportunity to give as many high fives as possible. Although the ultimate function of National High Five Day (according to The National High Five Project) is to sell High Five products and raise money for the CoachArt charity, we here at Crave encourage you to give people high fives for no good reason. Give someone in your office a high five for trying a new flavor of coffee. Or give your sexual partners high fives for a job well done. And, please, if someone prompts you to give them a high five, be a decent person, and don’t leave them hanging. No one should be left hanging today. 

Check Out: Seven Hilarious High Five Pranks

We also are moved to ask: Where did the high five come from? It seems like a tradition that has been around since time immemorial, but surely there was a time when someone transformed a simple handshake into a gimme five, and then someone else expanded on the idea and took that gimme five up top. The actual origins of the high five, however, are sketchy at best, as there is little in the way of written history on the matter. Hence, all reports of the high five’s origin are only available through hearsay, anecdote, and rumor. 

The high five, as far as has been conjectured, likely began during World War II between soldiers. It’s widely accepted that both the gimme five and the high five were pioneered by the African-American community. Sometime in the 1980s, however, two baseball players for the Los Angeles Dodgers – Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke – claimed that they had, in a fit of sportsmanlike inspiration, gave one another the world’s very first high five on a baseball field on October 2nd, 1977. Burke, an openly gay man, says that his teammate was stretching, and he slapped his hand in solidarity (a common symbol in the gay community at the time), and the rest is history. 

New Line Cinema

This is a fun story, and Burke may have never given a high five before this, but it’s hardly the first high five. Indeed, many others made the claim over the years. Magic Johnson once claimed that he invented it in college. Other baseball players throughout the 1970s said that they were the true inventor. 

The high five first appeared on film as early as 1960 in Jean-Luc Godard’s watershed film Breathless, although some may say that it doesn’t count, as the adrenaline-lined, sports connotation was absent. The gimme five, we know for sure, stretches far back into American hipster culture of the 1930s and 1940s, as “gimme some skin” was part of the vernacular. The phrase can be heard in old movies and on old jazz records. Making it high, well, perhaps that was just as old, but we have no definitive origin for it. 

Wherever it came from, though, take some time today to slap someone up top. It’s what we all deserve

Top Image: Nintendo

Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.


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