Stand with your feet close together and both arms out to your sides, held parallel to the ground. It’s called a “T-pose,” and it’s the default stance for characters in 3-D animation programs and many video games. In the last few years, meme teens started copying it in real life.
What is the T-pose?
Every game character needs a default pose, something to do when they have no instructions or the code breaks. That’s where the T-pose comes in.
Characters getting stuck in this awkward, stiff position is pretty funny, and memers have long made a joke of it. The T-pose is an ancient shitposting tradition dating back to at least 2010, but it was modernized throughout 2017 as a “deep-fried” meme.
This meme style features layers of grainy artifacts, bright colors, cartoon characters from the 2000s, glowing eyes, and lots of emoji. Here’s an example starring Hugh Neutron from the Jimmy Neutron movie and TV series:
T-posing in video games
Even kids who don’t know anything about creating 3-D models may have encountered the T-pose while gaming. Popular Nintendo games Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Odyssey both accidentally showed characters doing the pose:
Glitches in video games can also show characters take up the T-pose.
The WikiHow meme
In 2018, T-posing became something kids do in real life. Like the dab before it, it’s often done ironically. The most pervasive joke is “T-pose to assert dominance,” which comes from a photoshopped edit of a WikiHow article called “How to Increase Your Social Standing at School,” which, as far as we can tell, doesn’t actually exist. The photo first appeared on the Instagram account @nonhomo in May but rose to prominence on Reddit’s tposememes forum, which has been around since 2017.
“T-posing will let other students know you are superior” is the fake Step 1. It’s not clear what happens after that, and it doesn’t really matter.
Since the meme dropped, others have copied the format, like this photo below of two boys T-posing in front of a girl that is labeled “How to get a girlfriend.”
There’s also this video from May 2018 that shows more than two dozen teens doing the T-pose in a boys’ bathroom.
Since the pose took off in 2018, trolls have tried to convince the internet that T-posing is a white power symbol. It appears to be an attempt to rile liberals and make them look foolish, like previous fake hate symbols that arose from the pro-Trump, white supremacist axis of Reddit’s the_donald and 4chan’s /pol/. Thus far, it hasn’t really worked.
For the most part, though, the campaign hasn’t tainted the T-pose. Teen tweets about it, and the posts at the Tposememes subreddit, are largely pretty wholesome.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to credit the Instagram account @nonhomo with the viral T-pose Wikihow photo and for context and clarity.
It is also regularly updated for relevance. This story was originally published in 2018.