The History of Tissue Pom Poms
The history of tissue pom poms can be linked back to the 1930’s. This lovely accessory has its origins in high schools and universities where they were used as decorative and cheerleading ornaments.
Today this creation has multiple uses; they are now available in a variety of colors, sizes and material. These puffy and fluffy colorful balls have been used at weddings, parties, cheerleading competitions, costumes and for several other purposes. They are also available in different materials like tissue, silk, crepe, plastic, wool etc.
Smaller versions of these fluffy balls were used to adorn hats, socks, dresses and other clothing. For example, the uniform of the French naval personnel had it attached to the crown of their cap. And so did the Belgian sailors, in shades of blue. Similarly, traditional Italian wedding shoes and Turkish dancing shoes had these small puffy balls on them. Even Roman Clergymen had birettas with these little balls on them. The pom-poms of different colors were worn on the biretta as per the wearer’s rank.
In some parts of the world, a small pom worn on the crown of the hat is called a toorie. Toories are seen on Scottish Highland Dresses and the Scottish military uniform. They are usually made of yarn and are red in color.
In Australia, larger versions of this creation are popular, especially during football matches. These are very heavy and often require more than one person to lift them. These gigantic fluffy balls are called floggers.
Toys and bicycles manufacturers too have used the smaller versions to beautify their products.
Coming back to the History of tissue pom poms; it was invented in the 1930’s and largely the credit goes to JimHazlewood. Hazelwood worked along with his brother-in-law, Lawrence Herkimer in the Cheerleading industry. They opened up the Cheerleader Supply Company, where they designed and manufactured clothes and accessories for cheerleaders. Jim Hazel wood is credited to have made the first pom-pom as we see it today. He crafted it from tissue paper. He has also developed a machine that could cut crepe paper to make this fluffy accessory.
Herkie is said to have gotten the idea of creating them for cheerleading when he was watching the 1940 World’s Fair on black and white TV. He realized that it was not possible to see the batons when they were thrown in the air. This was when it struck him that streamers would be easily visible. Later in 1953 he made pom-pons (as he called them after his Hawaii visit) by attaching colored crepe paper strips to a stick, the design to which he copyrighted. Jim Hazlewood later improved on this design, to make them as we see it today. Later on February 2, 1971 Lawrence Herkimer was granted the patent for pom-pons.
However, Jim’s creation was not suitable for cheerleading as they were made of thin paper and were not strong enough; they would fall apart easily. Later Fred Gastoff improvised on both Hazlewood’s and Herkimer’s creation using vinyl.
Thus, the history of tissue pom poms tells us that these decorative items are a timeless piece of art which continues to be used even today as a popular accessory.