Handheld fans have been around for thousands of years, with different cultures around the world each producing their own versions. The folding fan is the most common iteration today and was invented around the 8th century in Japan, according to Aisla Hendry, curator at the Fan Museum in London. Folding fans weren’t brought to Europe until the 16th century. “They first come in through Italy, and then, they get popularized by Catherine de Medici,” Hendry explains, adding that later on France, Spain, and Great Britain also adopted the accessory. But there has also been evidence that fans were in use in multiple civilizations across Africa, South America, and North America before the colonial period.