Ever wondered why in photos, East Asians always make the ubiquitous V-sign? (Also known as the peace sign or “fob sign.”)
According to Time, the hand gesture entered mainstream consciousness through the 1968 manga Star of the Giants (Kyojin no Hoshi), which follows a young baseball player with father issues. Before a big game, the dad throws his son a “V” sign as a gesture of approval. The volleyball manga V Is the Sign (Sain wa V!) was created after that.
But the V-sign didn’t become popular until American figure skater Janet Lynn performed her long program at the Olympics in Sapporo, Japan in 1972. The shaggy-haired 18-year-old, heavily favored for the gold medal, collapsed on the ice after failing to land on a jump. But instead of frowning, Lynn sprang back on her feet and smiled. People in Japan were in awe. “They could not understand how I could smile knowing that I could not win anything,” Lynn, who took a bronze medal, told Time. “I couldn’t go anywhere the next day [in Japan] without mobs of people. It was like I was a rock star.” During media tours around Japan, she would flash the V-sign, and a cultural phenomenon was born.
In the next decade, Japan’s pop culture flooded across East Asia, much like Korea’s Hallyu Wave that we’re seeing today. The V-sign became cool and fashionable in South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Since then, flashing the V-sign in photos has become second nature.
“I think the practice is a testament to the power of media, especially television, in postwar japan for propagating news tastes and practices,” Jason Karlin, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo and an expert on Japanese media culture, told Time. “The V-sign was [and still is] often recommended as a technique to make girls’ faces appear smaller and cuter.”
–STORY BY STEVE HAN
This story was originally published in iamkoream.com.