Zoom February 2014

The pom-pom (or pom-pon) as a topper for headgear may look goofy on a winter hat or golf cap, but don’t tell that to pre-helmet armies who wore them into battle. This small, puffy fabric ball may seem like lighthearted fun, but its history is deadly serious. The European post-Renaissance establishment of identical military uniforms brought the pom-pom to war en masse. It became an accent option just like a plume or feathers, depending on the whim of those overseeing the army. They topped the mitre caps of the elite 18th century Prussian grenadiers, the shakos of Napoleon’s infantry, and of course, the glengarry bonnets of the London Scottish Battalion in WWI. Steel helmets largely took the pom-pom off the battlefield but it still pops up on dress uniforms and on the service uniforms of the French and Belgian navies. The Roman Catholic clergy has also embraced mass pom-pom use. It is located at the peak of their birettas and denotes rank. Care to make your own? Wrap a few yards of yarn around four fingers, slide the loop off and tie a separate loop of yarn in a knot tightly around the middle of the circle. Then use scissors to cut the loops on each end of the knot. Voila!

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.