Posted On August 19, 2009 by Print This Post

The Shug

Good morning and welcome to Anatomy of the Male Mind.  Big doings today.  We at Romance University are daring to go where we’ve never gone before. 

Yes, we will be discussing the man hug. 

Scary, I know.

I recently read an article in the Chicago Tribune on how men hug each other.  I found this fascinating because I’ve never seen an article in the Trib on how women hug each other.  I mean, what’s the big deal?  I quickly found out there is a whole dynamic with men hugging each other that I was unaware of.  Who knew the man hug could be so controversial?

I consulted a couple of my favorite “guy” blogs for more information and hit the jackpot on my first two attempts.  The following is an excerpt from an Esquire magazine post about “the shug.” 

 The combination of a shake and hug has been around for years. One hand grasps the other man’s hand, and one arm goes around his shoulder. The handshake is facile. The hug is tender. But the shug is right there in the middle — masculine and affectionate at the same time, reserved but expressive. It allows you to put yourself out there by bringing the other guy in. Close but not so close. It’s more than a shake, less than a hug. It’s a shug.

This next excerpt is from The Art of Manliness and it’s a step-by-step on how to give the proper man hug. 

The How of the American Man Hug

1.    Begin with a traditional firm handshake.

2.    Keeping your hand clasped with your buddy, wrap the left arm  around the shoulder of your friend.

3.    Slap your friend’s back two times.  The back slap is key.  Somehow hitting your fellow man makes the hug more manly.

4.    Release embrace.

We thought it would be fun to have our man panel review this information and give us their thoughts.

As usual, they didn’t disappoint!  First up is Rob:

The man hug or shug is utilized to covertly and discreetly speak without lip readers or standers-by who would be able to hear what is being said. In the real man world this is used to give more affection than usual by men. I personally have used the man hug (shug) at weddings, funerals and also with very, very close friends. However there is a tell as to how sincere the affection is and I will explain.

 1- You have not seen your friend in a long time and you are great friends.  You trust this person with your life.  Full court press is used here.  A firm handshake followed by a quick pull in chest to chest, and then the man hug with the loud and abundant slapping on the back. This has been known to last more than the normal greeting time would allow and, if truly heartfelt by both parties, does not cross the line into the uncomfortable!

 2-Behind your very good friend stated above, there are other men that feel THEY are just as close to you as your best friend and YOU do not share the same sentiment. This is where the awkward feelings come in.  To avoid this you give less chest to chest and less time on the back slaps, but you are not trying to insult this person so you put up with it.

 3-Further down the food chain there are some wannabes that attempt to imitate the top dogs in this scenario. They have elaborate handshakes that last 45 seconds and then a series of hugs and back slaps that look like they are trying to knock each other’s lungs out through their oral passages. This is a total waste of time and is only for show, no personality or real emotion is attached to this. It is a dog and pony show to attract attention to them.

Gotta love that Rob!  Our good friend Jack Russell chimed in with the following:

The man hug referred to as the “shug” is absolutely okay in today’s man-world — under the right circumstances. In my mind, the shug elevates the friendly handshake greeting to the level of acknowledged mutual affection (manly affection of course).  I know some men might cringe at the use of the word affection when describing feelings about another man. Okay then, let’s just say another man that we really like in a manly way. As such, I reserve the “shug” for men in my family and close friends. The kind of friendships that have lasted years and developed through shared experiences. I’ve been friends with some of my guy friends for 35 or more years and we don’t hesitate to shug each other hello and goodbye.

It’s not necessary however to know someone that long before it’s okay to shug him, but I think the shared experiences need to be significant. If you shugged every guy you met, the act would no longer be expressive of a close friendship or camaraderie.  And then, if the need arose to be expressive — no, no, no I’m not moving to the full hug. So guys please don’t overuse the shug!

I have a few additional rules about shugging I’d like to offer. First, no shugging in the work-place, it’s not professional; If you see your friends or male relatives every day, forget the shug because it violates the overuse rule; Don’t add pats on the back to the shrug, it may be interpreted as being patronizing; If you’re in a mixed crowd, some close friends and some acquaintances, don’t overplay the shug with your close friends, use the subtle shoulder bump instead of the arm around the back. It’s impolite to make the acquaintances feel left out, and just in case you’re thinking about including them, that would, at the very least, be disingenuous; A rule to consider for you guys in that 6’ 3’’ range and taller, use the handshake and shoulder bump with us average sized guys, it’s unnerving to have a big guy hunched over the top of us. And lastly, when in doubt, stick with the handshake. There is nothing worse than a self-conscious shug.

 I followed up with the 6’5” Rob regarding Jack’s suggestion to the tall guys.  Here’s what Rob said:

I don’t really think about that usually. The man hug is used with those people that are close to me, so the awkwardness of the size difference has not come into play. Also the shug has been a way for friends, not strangers, to greet and show affection. Having said this, take a look around your close circle of friends.  You most likely have similar sizes, hair styles, likes and dislikes so the size differences most likely will not be an issue. And if you do have a tall glass or a short stout in your group you may not want to invoke your shug privilege.  

So, what do we think?  For our female readers, did you ever imagine there could be so much involved with men hugging each other?  It’s a whole other language.

For our male readers, do you agree with Rob and Jack Russell?  What are your own thoughts on the shug?

Also, in case you are curious, below are the two links for the Esquire blog and the Art of Manliness.  They were very entertaining!

Join us on Friday when Leslie Wainger will discuss the benefits of a book doctor.  See you then!

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9 Responses to “The Shug”

  1. As Tracey & Adrienne know, I tried to practice the man hug on my husband when we were in DC. No doing. One – I’m too short. Two – With women, men seem to do the full frontal press :). I did, however, witness it when we met up for lunch with some friends we hadn’t seen in several years. Shannon and I did a normal girl hug while the guys did the pull in, slap, release. Huh – makes me think of a jitterbug move!


    Posted by KelseyBrowning | August 19, 2009, 12:07 am
  2. Kelsey, I thought I’d die laughing when you and your hubby kept bumping into each other like malfunctioning robots. And then, when you and Adrienne tried it — I was done for.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 19, 2009, 5:35 am
  3. I think we just need to practice more. LOL.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 19, 2009, 8:12 am
  4. It boggles the mind. Can’t say I’ve ever given this much thought to hugging another woman. When Adrienne and I met in person for the first time at RWA – after years of being crit partners – we immediately hugged. No thought, just a thank-God-we-finally-met hug.

    Who knew being a man could be so complicated? Maybe I’ll add a shug to my wip. Give it a little zip….

    Lucie j.

    Posted by Lucie J. Charles | August 19, 2009, 8:29 am
  5. What a fascinating post..the lengths men will go to in order not to show too much affection….I must admit I’ve really only ever seen the shug used by politicans..scary enough. The height thing was fascinating to think about as well. Sometimes the womanly hug can be just as complicated, due to height, weight and bra size making things more difficult….but I can’t say as I’ve ever seen an article on the correct way to hug a woman with large breasts. =)


    Posted by carrie | August 19, 2009, 9:52 am
  6. Kelsey,
    I laughed out loud at your comment about the full frontal! Loved it! Actually, I got a kick out of all the comments.

    I have to say, as a girl doing a hug, I try not to get too close in the chest area (male or female) due to the bra size issue. I think Carrie is right about there being some complications there, too. It’s always just a lean in and wrap the arms around the neck.

    And I just have to hope that the short man doesn’t trip at any point while going in for the “big” hug.

    Interesting post – can’t wait to see what’s next!

    Posted by Rita | August 19, 2009, 9:14 pm
  7. Your steps were hilarious, but true. I instantly got a picture in my mind of my brothers hugging, and it’s just as you described it! I never thought about it that way. Also, thanks for the links.

    Posted by Julie Robinson | August 19, 2009, 9:48 pm

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