Certainly by now you’ve seen knitted hats with pompoms on top. But have you ever wondered how the colorful balls came to adorn winter hats?

Pompoms may look like just another decorative feature, but Inside Edition reporter Justine Santinello learned that they actually serve a purpose.

In a video posted on Facebook this week, Santanello said that the pompom hats were originally worn as a form of protection:

“Sailors used to wear these hats and they put these pom-poms on there so that when they were out at sea and the waters were rough that they would bash their heads, so it gave them that little extra protection just by putting this little pom-pom on top.”

According to the Outline, the word “pompom” derives from the French word “pompon.” The earliest known recording of a pompom hat was found in a statue of a Viking god.

In a book called “Hats: A History of Fashion,” author Hilda Amphlett explained that early versions of pom-pom hats were used in European armies. The pompom hats were then known as shako from the Hungarian word “csako.”

The shako hats, or caps, were used in Napoleon’s infantry and various armies in Europe. Some variations were helpful for protection while others were more ornamental.

Musée de la Marine/Wikipedia

Similar hats have been used by different armies, clergymen, and seamen over the years. They were popularized during the Great Depression as a cheap way to decorate clothing.

Not only have pompoms been used as part of military uniforms, but it has also become a traditional icon of the winter season. Santa Clause is often depicted wearing a white pompom on his hat.

In addition to blowing our minds with the history of pompoms, Santinello continued to explain why there are small flaps on the side of juice boxes, bread tags with different colored twist ties, and more in her helpful video explainer.

Watch the full video via Inside Edition below.

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