Everybody’s seen it: the infamous “skinny arm,” the pose dujour for trying to look slim in photos.
Like it or not, it’s a phenomenon — but like all things that go viral, it has garnered a lot of internet hate. If you Google “the skinny arm,” the first several search results give you a pretty good sense of this.
The first item, written by Gigi Engle from Elite Daily, is titled “Why The ‘Skinny Arm’ Is The Most Insecure Thing A Girl Can Do” and says that the skinny arm “perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with society.” Harsh.
Another one of the search results, from a website called “Total Sorority Move,” claims “the skinny arm is dead” and that it was borne out of our selfie-obsessed, self-indulgent, photo-posing culture.
Frankly, they couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a classic move, and by classic, I mean actually classical.
The “Skinny Arm” actually originates from the Classical era of Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof: Check out Artemis, goddess of the hunt, rocking the skinny arm.
What about this Aphrodite figurine, shamelessly flaunting it?
So how did it all start?
STEP ONE: The Awkward Phase
Beginning roughly around 500 BCE, sculptors were transitioning away from the staid, full-frontal style of sculpture, known as the “Kore.”
Think of this as your middle school awkward phase — standing stiffly and staring straight into the camera.
Why did it fall out of fashion? Well, it simply isn’t flattering. Only Beyoncé can make this pose look like the mythological ideals the Kore were supposed to convey.
But even more importantly, it didn’t reflect the way humans actually stand and move, so Greek and Roman sculptors came up with something a little better…
STEP TWO: Contrapposto
Around 480 BCE, Grecian statues started becoming more dynamic and lifelike.
Artists started using what later came to be known the “contrapposto” technique to make their sculptures look more lifelike and pleasing to the eye, using fluid s-curves.
Once they’d mastered that, they moved on to…
STEP THREE: The Skinny Arm
The Ancient Greeks gave more than just their alphabet to sorority sisters — turns out they also gave them the best way to pose for onlookers. Don’t take my word for it, let Athena, the goddess of wisdom, show you the way it’s done.
Why was it popular? It’s natural, it’s lifelike, and it accents the body’s curves.
And it’s not just for women: Here’s Verrochio’s David, created in the Renaissance period, looking like a prime specimen:
And Donatello’s David, not to be left in the dust:
So next time you see someone pop their elbow for the camera, maybe think twice before rolling your eyes. They’re just rocking a lesson in beauty as old as Western Civilization itself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe there are some men out there who need a similar lesson...
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