rub elbows with, to

rub elbows with

Also, rub shoulders with. Mix or socialize with, as in There's nothing like rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, or At the reception diplomats were rubbing shoulders with heads of state. Both of these terms allude to being in close contact with someone. [Mid-1800s]
See also: elbow, rub

rub elbows with, to

To associate unexpectedly closely with. This term originated in Britain as rub shoulders with, which is still the more common locution there. Thackeray used it in his Book of Snobs (1848): “She had rubbed shoulders with the great.” Elbows are preferred in America, as in Upton Sinclair’s muckraking novel, The Jungle (1906): “Young white girls from the country rubbing elbows with big buck Negroes with daggers in their boots.”
See also: elbow, rub