In the 19th century, Duvelleroy, a hand fan manufacturer in Paris, published a marketing pamphlet called “The Language of the Fan.” It featured a list of gestures one could make with a fan and the meaning of each.
To carry a fan open in your left hand, according to the pamphlet, signaled “come talk to me.” Drawing a fan across one’s cheek: “I love you.” Placing a fan on one’s left ear: “I wish to get rid of you.”
When temperatures rise from steamy to sweltering, as they have lately in much of the world, pulling out a fan can make a more universal statement: It’s way too hot out.
There are hand fans on the market for every taste. Many can get someone from the subway to the office in a moderately dry state. But just as how a fan is held can communicate something about its user, so too can the style of the fan a person holds. Whipping out the fan sold at Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour, for instance, signals die-hard fandom.
Few options are more practical for a shvitzing city dweller than a simple paper folding fan from Pearl River ($3). Sold in cheery shades of yellow and turquoise, it is cheap enough to buy in bulk and to misplace without regret. Extras can be stored in tote bags or given to a sweaty friend.
Pearl River’s scented colorful wood fan ($6) is just as practical and is sold in a variety of scents (melon, ylang-ylang, sakura) that would help freshen the air on a train platform full of sweaty commuters at rush hour. A bit more polished, but no less fragrant, are the fans from Miya Shinma (150 euros; about $166), a Japanese perfumer in Paris. The fans, which are made from bamboo and Japanese washi paper, come with a black lacquered box and are sold in three floral scents.
Those seeking refuge from heat in the air-conditioned halls of a museum may notice fans displayed as objects and in artworks like “Dancer With a Fan” by Edgar Degas and “Lady With a Fan” by Gustav Klimt. It should come as no surprise, then, that museums’ gift shops are fertile terrain for fan hunting.
The Weimar-inclined may prefer the boldly patterned fan made of black and blue silk ($32) from the Neue Galerie’s gift shop. For an option that more obviously nods to art history, consider the fan featuring the Japanese artist Hokusai’s “Great Wave” block print from the shops at the de Young and Legion of Honor museums in San Francisco ($20).
Film, too, is filled with fans, including the delicate pearl-and-lace fan Audrey Hepburn carries in “War and Peace” and the intricate pink fan Kirsten Dunst wields seductively as the titular character in “Marie Antoinette.”
For those who want to live their own Versailles fantasy, Agnès b. offers a gold-tinged folding fan made from sycamore wood and cotton canvas ($170). According to the brand, the fan is a homage to the town of Versailles, which is where Agnès b.’s founder and designer, Agnés Troublé, grew up.
A closer approximation to the fan used by Ms. Dunst in “Marie Antoinette” is a pink silk hand fan with a pleasing rose-colored tassel from the Etsy store Brownskylight ($30). Gucci’s lilac-and-green flower print fan, which has a lush flora-and-fauna print on its screen and a gold interlocking G logo charm on its handle, also looks like it could have been lifted from a royal court. At $440, the fan, which is made with silk satin and wood, is royally priced, too.
To conjure the tropics and their refreshing breezes, try a softly pleated Iraca hand fan from the Etsy store CoroCoraColombia ($33). The fan is made with Iraca palm straw and would look as elegant on a shelf as it would in a hand. So would Baba Tree’s Bolga fan ($35), which is handwoven from vetiver grass. Both fans have handles with a hook, making it easy to attach either to a bag with a ribbon or a carabiner.
The watermelon Iraca hand fan ($37), also from CoroCoraColombia, seems ideal for cooling down at a picnic or a garden party. So does Pubumésu’s lemon fan ($143), which is made with calf-hide leather and ox horn. Pubumésu’s line of luxe leather fans also includes a graphic fish fan ($151) and an ivory crab fan ($158) that unfolds to reveal a large orange crustacean and tiny starfish.
Duvelleroy, it should be noted, is still in the fan-making business. Among its most functional fans is the Take Away, which is available in a few colors and comes with an adjustable cord so it can be worn like a handbag. For a stately option, try the navy blue Take Away ($93). A sportier choice would be the Kelly green Take Away that Duvelleroy produced in collaboration with the Frankie Shop ($87).
Like any hand fan, both of those, as Duvelleroy’s “Language of the Fan” pamphlet instructs, can be drawn across the face as a subtle signal of affection when not being used to cool down. If subtlety is not your lover’s strong suit, Olivier Bernoux’s heart-shaped Mon Amour fan ($160) may convey your feelings more clearly.
All Consuming is a column about things we see — and want to buy right now.