The origin of this hug is not clear. It is a manifestation of hip-hop culture, from which it has spread out into western society. It is used mostly by young people, particularly high school students and college students; however, it is not limited to any one race, culture or class.
Greetings will vary from culture to culture. Certain cultures, such as the Chinese or Japanese, are seen as low-touch cultures, in which men are more likely to bow to each other. Other cultures, such as the Central Asian, the Middle Eastern, and the Mediterranean, are characterized by a marked physical intimacy between men. Still other cultures, such as the American, are an amalgam between the two, and the male hug is seen as reflective of those values.
Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University professor of Black popular culture, states that when with men, he'll use a certain kind of hug - as long as the other guy also is Black. "If I was greeting a White guy, I would probably never go for the hug, it would always immediately be the handshake," says Neal. "In the case of Black males, particularly around my age, 40, it's the hip-hop hug: a handshake, you pull yourselves together, and you bump."
Mark Morman at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, identifies elements of the male hug such as the obstacle of the interposed hands, the distance of the bodies and the macho slapping on the back as driven by homophobia and fear, as men of certain groups do not wish to be seen by others while embracing another man. Other sources comment on American men being "plagued by fear of hugging," with some men afraid of hugging or being hugged, and others afraid of being considered "super gay."
The main point of this hug is to assert one's masculinity, claims Kory Floyd of Arizona State University. He is led to this conclusion by what he calls the "A-frame" configuration of the hug: the bodies do not touch except at the shoulders, which only touch briefly, as another of the characteristics of the hip-hop hug is its brevity, usually lasting for a second or less. This hug is generally not used in environments which are seen to intrinsically validate one's masculinity, such as sports, where traditional full-body bear hugs are common.