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 worn for centuries to keep our heads warm, and the adorable pom-poms on top have become a timeless fashion trend. Aside from adding a stylish touch to our winter outfits, these fluffy balls also carry a rich history and may have once served a practical purpose.
More than A Cute Ball of Fabric
Today, the pom-pom on the top of our winter hat is mostly seen as a cosmetic or fashion statement. However, its history dates back centuries, and there are several surprising theories about its origins.
The term “pom-pom” is believed to come from the French word “pompon,” which means “bobble” or “small ball of fabric.” Historians have traced the tradition of attaching bobbles to hats as far back as 790 AD in Scandinavia during the Viking era.
Interestingly, a small statue of the Norse god Freyr, known as the god of peace, fertility, rain, and sunshine, was found wearing a hat or helmet adorned with a pom-pom on a farm in Sweden in 1904. This discovery suggests that there might be a religious or cultural significance associated with pom-poms. Either way, it is clear that pom-poms have adorned hats for a significant period of 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 cavalry 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 like the late Michael Nesmith from the Monkees helped popularize the wooly hat topped with pom-poms. Nesmith frequently wore a bobble hat on the band’s TV program, which made them even more mainstream.
Nowadays, pom-poms can be found on winter hats in various colors, sizes, and materials. While we’ve become more creative with the design, pom-poms seldom have a deeper meaning and instead add a bit of flair to your winter outfit.
Do you have a favorite hat with 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.