Dude, It’s OK To Hug Your Bro

Get over here. Come on in and let the big bear get his paws on you. Sometimes men are afraid to hug each other, aren’t we?

I am not, and I don’t think you should be either. If you and I have met before, and interact more than five times a year via any social media avenue or e-mail, I am very likely going to go in for the bro hug next time I see you (instead of a handshake). If you invite me to stay at your house when I’m in town, or when I’m talking with someone else about you and I say “Isn’t that dude awesome?”, or you are a generally likeable person whose contact info is in my cell phone, the bro hug is a very real possibility. Unless you want to keep it professional or something like that.

Sometimes, when dudes are happy to see each other but don’t really know what the parameters are, they will do that awkward handshake-into-half-hug thing, which is rather unsatisfactory unless that’s really what you mean, and usually it’s not. It is about as rad as an almost-cold beer or a kind-of-soggy sandwich. It is OK, but lacks authenticity and meaning.

It looks like this:

“Oh, are we going to do that … you know, the handshake thing but … oh, you’re kind of doing the hug with the one arm … OK …”

Avoid this. Get comfortable with the hug. This is the 21st century. It’s OK. The best strategy to avoid awkwardness is to communicate with proper body language as soon as possible — when you recognize your bro, you open up your arms, signifying Dude, You Are About To Get Hugged.

The proper way to bro hug is to approach your bro with one hand high and the other low — not 10 and 2 in clock positions, but say 7 and 2. That way your bro will be able to come in with his arms in opposite positions. Like Chris’s hands in this photo, as he approaches for the bro hug (note enthusiastic expression):

Then, boom:

One pat on the back is the limit here. Two is excusable, but any more than that and you just look like you’re really uncomfortable/nervous to be hugging another man in public, which should not be the case.

Don’ t — DO NOT — go in for the hug with your arms at the same level, low or high. This forces your bro to take the opposite arm position, and you end up in a very strange hug, one dude’s arms up high, the other dude’s around his bro’s waist, somewhat like junior high dancing (without the nervous armpit sweat and the strange, new tightness in your pants). It also makes it really difficult to avoid your bro’s face with your face, and you get dangerously close to kissing each other. Which is of course totally fine, but maybe awkward in a lot of bro/brah relationships.

Other tips:

  • Note the acceptable distance between Chris’s crotch and my crotch in the above photo.
  • Duration: A typical bro hug lasts at most three to four seconds. It’s OK to have multiple bro hugs, just not all at once. Say you’re parting ways after a climbing trip and won’t see each other again for a while, so you bro hug, but then you get started talking about some future climb you’re going to plan, and then suddenly 10 minutes have gone by since the original bro hug. Then you’re like OK, I’m really leaving this time, and you’re both going to your respective cars. At this point it is OK to have one more bro hug.
  • If you want to add a little more bro-love communication to the hug, like if you’re not going to see someone again for a few months, it’s acceptable to touch heads mid-hug — but not cheeks.

And, you know, if you see me somewhere, and you need a hug, that’s cool. Come on in for it. Remember, 7 and 2.

(Thanks to the talented and charming Joe Penacoli for the photos!)


13 replies on “Dude, It’s OK To Hug Your Bro

  • MikeMac

    My method is to declare intent, direct the effort, and disarm the potential huggee with a bit of levity. In this case, with some coach humor (tight shorts and whistle optional). Like this: “The McCormack’s are huggers…bring it in!”

    I’m sure the look on the victim’s face is usually a “I’m just going to roll with it. What else can I do?” But since the guy being hugged is looking behind me, I can’t see that look, so it’s not really off-putting. Almost like it never happened (see: tree falling in woods.)

  • Steve W Weiss

    To avoid awkwardness, I like to proclaim “Cmon! Bring it in for the real thing!” I find that it works relatively well. By the way, love the emotion, Chris is totally stoked on bro hugging it out.

  • Chase

    I dig it! Hug confidence is definite a hallmark sign of today’s successful bro.

    I must say though that when well executed, an enthusiastic hand slap / low-five partnered with a solid hand grip can replace the handshake in the first scenario above and thus make the one-arm-hug seriously brah-tastic and very much acceptable.

    For evidence, please watch the movie “Friday” with Ice Cube. You will see this greeting preformed flawlessly a number of times.

  • Chris K

    Dude. 10 and 7 is going to be SUPER AWKWARD. Worse than all high or all low. I know that’s not what you meant, but your brain stem has betrayed you on the way to your fingers.

    Just sayin!

  • Beren

    Great post. I’ve always tended toward the semi-awkward handshake hug, which is slightly less awkward if you do an interlocking thumb “hipster-style” grip first. But the bro hug does seem better.

  • Kam Zardouzian

    I like what I’m reading people. This is a topic of great complexity.

    By way of definition….Brug = Bro Hug.

    Trouble is not so much Brugging….it’s the awkwardness of the associated timing of it all.

    Check it. If you let go too early it means you don’t love your bro enough. If you linger and hug too long it *could* mean you want more than being a bro. What if your bro ends the hug too early or too late? What if in going in for the Brug you end up kissing each other….it could happen…errr….it has happened? What if one bro grabs the other bros butt? what do you do then?

    The familiar Brug is often good, expected and not cumbersome. What if it’s a new Bro and you don’t have the timing of it all down yet…Remember Vegas MikeMac? Of course you don’t cuz what stays in Vegas….

    Anyway, what if you’re in a group of bros and one bro in particular, not to name any names but his name is Derek, doesn’t like to be touched…at all. Do you Brug your other Bros and have him feel left out. Or do you avoid Brugging your other Bros who’m you would Brug normally and what would they think of the broken tradition.

    Brugging….love it, always awkward, don’t really know what to do about it. I think we may need a Brugging Association to put forth some standards.

    Going to gym now to build upper body strength & improve my Brugging.

  • Daren

    Be careful that the guy does not bring his knee up and catch you in the nuts, it has happened. A guy did not want a bro hug one time so he brought his knee up and the other guy went down fast

  • Paul Thomsen

    Two more options:

    the fist hug, as opposed to the open palm hug. Gives a reassuring ‘punch’ to the back, rather than a ‘feel’.

    Also, one-sided vs. two-sided (without handshake).

    Ultimately, don’t do the bro-hug unless you really have that level of relationship. And since you do, you know how he’s going to receive it.

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