Winter hats come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, but many have the familiar pom-pom on the top. Ever wonder why or where the pom-pom came from?
Winter hats have been around for as long as people have needed to keep their heads warm, and those soft, fluffy pom-poms perched on top are a staple fashion feature that have withstood the test of time. While these cute balls add a bit of fashionable flair to our winter wardrobes, they also carry quite a history, and at one point may have served a really good purpose.
More than A Cute Ball of Fabric
Today the pom-pom on the top of our winter hat serves more as a cosmetic or fashion statement, but history indicates it has been around for centuries, with numerous theories on how this accessory came to be, some of which may surprise you.
The word “pom-pom” seems to have originated from the French word pompon, which translates to “bobble,” which means “a small ball of fabric.” Historians date the bobble showing up on top of hats as far back as 790 AD to Scandinavia in the Viking era.
The mythological Norse god, Freyr, the ruler of peace, and fertility, rain, and sunshine is depicted wearing a head gear with a pom-pom on it. A small statuette of Freyr wearing a hat or helmet with a pom-pom was discovered on a small farm in Sweden in 1904. This discovery suggests a possible religious or cultural component to pom-poms. Either way, it indicates that pom-poms have been donning heads for quite some time.
A Historical Start
Believe it or not, this whimsical ball of fluff actually has historical origins:
- Napoleon’s infantry wore wooly bobbles to denote which regiment they belonged to.
- Hungarian calvary regiments and Scottish Highland regiments also jumped on the bobble bandwagon to help distinguish rank.
- By the 18th Century the floppy beret topped with a pom-pom became the most readily identifiable Scottish piece of clothing.
- In Rome, Roman Catholic clergy have worn pom-pom hats, called birettas, for ages, varying in colors to indicate their rank and job.
- In South America, traditional garments of both men and women were adorned with differed colored pom-poms to signal their marital status.
- French sailors adding them to their hats so they wouldn’t bang their head on the low ceilings of the ship when the waters got rough.
During the Depression, the pom-pom trend flourished for everyday people, becoming a popular clothing accessory. Their rise was mostly likely attributed to the inexpensive way to accessorize and embellish clothing.
In the 1960s, celebrities, such as the late Michael Nesmith, from the Monkees also helped to popularize the wooly hat topped with pom-poms. Nesmith often wore a bobble hat in the band’s T.V. program, further making them a mainstream item of clothing.
Today, pom-poms are often seen perched atop winter hats, coming in various colors, sizes, and materials. While we have gotten creative in design, nowadays they very rarely signify anything more than a sense of fashion, adding a little pizazz to your winter ensemble.
Does your favorite hat have a pom-pom?
Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children, and dog.