Shake It Like a Polaroid

Everyone Needs a Fierce Folding Fan

No other accessory is this practical and this fab.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen June 20, 2017

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By now you've probably seen the photo above of the teacher who posed with Trump as basically a one-man pride parade. Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year for 2017, special education teacher Nikos Giannopoulos, was serving with a jacquard print blazer emblazoned with a pride pin and an anchor necklace in lieu of a tie. He's also holding a black mantilla lace folding fan in such a casually confident way that the internet literally cannot get enough. 

"The fan was actually my partner's. He bought it as a souvenir on a trip to Venice, but I found it about five years ago. Since then I've integrated it into my day-to-day life. I'm extremely campy, and it's a popular prop of mine," Giannopoulos told NPR. "So the fan represents self-acceptance and being unabashedly myself in a society that's not always ready to accept that."

He's certainly not alone in his fandom—this spring Vogue declared the folding fan the accessory of the summer. Rihanna styled models walking in her Fenty x Puma show with them, and she was spotted carrying a blush and white version on the front row at Paris Fashion Week. Beyoncé paired a $450 Gucci hand fan with her $22,000 kimono in February, a year after referencing their inherent Southernness in her "Formation" video. Folding fans have also been a staple of gay culture at least since the epic GIF below started making the rounds in 2014. They're a part of French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese culture, among others, so while adding a fan to your look is certainly dramatic, it's something anyone can do. 

For advice on how to incorporate fans into everyday life, I consulted Houstonia's resident fan fan, art director Tanyia Johnson. She's been carrying folding fans for 15 years, especially after she moved to Houston. Johnson recommends stocking up on cheap hand fans from World Market and keeping one in every handbag—the better to break them out when you inevitably find yourself sweating at an outdoor concert, an afternoon wedding or when standing in line for barbecue. Johnson likes breaking hers out on the dance floor—there are traditional Japanese dance moves that incorporate the fan—where it gets a lot of positive attention.

She also likes buying cheap fans in bulk from Oriental Trading Company and giving them out as party favors. Someone looking for something a little more elegant, like Giannopoulos's version, has options too. Etsy is filled with thousands of hand fans in endless designs and materials, from classic Asian motifs to traditional lace to whimsical and modern takes. British brand Fern Fans launched this spring, offering a line of high-style folding fans made in Spain from birch wood and cotton available at Neiman Marcus.

Staying cool has never been so hot.

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Image: Shutterstock

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