Holding hands in public: The real meaning behind these high-profile displays of affection

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
(From left to right) Sienna Miller and Naomi Watts; the Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. [Photo: Getty]

Holding hands is a surefire expression of intimacy – a gesture most often performed with your nearest and dearest.

Parents will hold their children’s hands to protect them, while couples holding hands in public is often a show of unity.

But what does it mean when celebrities holding hands in front of the cameras?

Recently, co-stars Sienna Miller and Naomi Watts have been pictured clasping hands on multiple occasions while promoting their forthcoming series, ‘The Loudest Voice’. But is the friendly gesture a well-timed act for the cameras, or a genuine display of their affection for one another?

“Hand holding is often seen as a youthful, adolescent form of affection,” body language Judi James tells Yahoo UK.

READ MORE: Celebrity red carpet poses decoded

“Co-stars love to use PDAs [public displays of affection] to suggest harmony, empathy and mutual support and rapport on set,” she adds. “They're clearly both aware of the cameras.”

However, in this case the gesture looks particularly genuine.

“These two do signal strong friendship with this very firm clasp, which is heavy on 'support' signals.”

However, how do other examples of high-profile hand-holding match up?

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

The ‘A Star is Born’ duo garnered romantic speculation after their on-stage performance at this year’s Oscars, but their hand-holding tells a different story according to James.

“The way Bradley walks in front, leading Gaga by the hand shows a generous co-star presenting the movie's female lead,” she says.

“It's glamorous but also slightly awkward as Gaga seems to be signalling independently with her free hand.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are regularly pictured holding hands, particularly in their first appearances as a couple back in early 2018.

But what does their hand-holding say about them?

“Harry & Meghan use the most romantic form of clasp here, suggesting early days of passionate love,” says James.

READ MORE: Telltale signs Charles, William and Harry are nervous, according to a body language expert

“Harry’s hand is on top in a protective gesture and he holds her hand close to his own torso to keep her close and tactile.”

Donald Trump and Theresa May

A show of international unity or simply a helping hand? While the Trump/May hand-hold during the outcoming British Prime Minister’s 2017 visit to the White House was termed “awkward”, James argues it “barely registers” as an intimate gesture.

“This clasp was so fleeting it barely rates as a hand hold. It was an assistance device, with Trump apparently aware the couple were walking down some steps and needing to proceed with caution,” she says.

Donald and Melania Trump

The First Lady has been known to avoid her husband’s hand in public.

But, when they do hold hands, the US President is show his “dominant” role in their relationship.

“Trump extends his hand in a display and power signal here, calling Melania to his side in a display of dominant-looking affection,” says James.

David and Victoria Beckham

Even 20 years into their marriage, the Beckhams are not above a bit of pointed hand-holding to show their unity, says James.

“The Beckams use their clasp here as a signal to display togetherness. The clasp is held high at waist height to make a statement rather than dangling down.