Have you ever seen the plush pompoms on the wintertime wool hats worn by people? Don't they seem delightful and fuzzy? But who came up with the idea to start sticking these tiny tufts of fluff on top of hats, and why did it catch on?
The Old French term "pombe," which means "knot of ribbons," is whence the English word "pompom" originates. The term was also used to refer to the tassels, rosettes, and other decorations worn on military hats to identify a soldier's regiment. Although we are unsure of the origin of these decorations, we believe they came about because troops would tuck their fluffy musket cleaning brushes inside their hats.Many military still utilize various "pombe" designs on their uniforms; each has a unique history and significance, and troops take great pride in their particular one.
But the pompom's significance extends beyond the battlefield; pompoms are frequently used as decorations or as symbols in other cultures. For instance, in Rome, priests don square-peaked hats called birettas, and the pompom's color indicates the wearer's rank.
Men in Scotland wear a Balmoral bonnet, a floppy beret with a bright red pom-pom called a "toorie," which has long been a feature of the country's traditional attire.
Additionally, women in the German Black Forest wear unique straw hats called "bollenhut" that have fourteen handcrafted pompoms on them. Married women wear black pompoms, whereas single women don red ones. As you might guess, with all those pompoms, the hats can be rather huge and heavy, so now days they are only worn on exceptional occasions. Each hat takes about a week to produce.
Although we are unsure of the pompom's specific origin or age, we do know that it has existed for a very long time. The Viking God Freyr can be seen in an eleventh-century statue donning a pompom-adorned cap.
Since knitting had not yet been invented, woolly hats would have been made using an ancient method known as "nalbinding" during the Viking era. Most likely, the threads were formed into a tube and then brought together to form the top. After then, the maker might have wished to include something adorning to hide the seam or the knot at the top. Pompoms may have played a role in this.
Humans, of course, want to make things attractive; we often add embellishments to objects even when they serve no practical purpose. Especially on a cold day, there is something about a soft, fluffy ball of wool that makes us feel a little cozier. Since people have been making and wearing pompoms for thousands of years, we can probably trace this sentiment back even further than the time of the Vikings.