The Practical Semiotics Blog

The power of the pom-pom

Hi all. It’s turned bloody freezing, so here’s some suitably wintry semiotic thinking…

 The pom-pom is the perfect semiotic subject for cultural analysis- a small, seemingly unimportant detail that hides some powerful cultural insights. Here are five...


1. When times are hard we need frivolity

The pom-pom says ‘I know things are dark, cold and stressful, but let’s have fun anyway’. With its brightly-coloured, total lack of functionality, the pom-pom blows a raspberry in the chilly face of efficiency and austerity.


2. The pom-pom is a literal and metaphorical symbol of warmth

Just look at the physics of it- what could be more insulated than a sphere made of solid fluff? It’s cosiness cubed.


Matthew Walsh Photography

3. Pom-poms transform us into objects of celebration

We dress babies up in bows and ribbons to celebrate their very existence. The pom-pom does the same for grown-ups. Just like we festoon the Xmas tree to make it special. It’s all part of the universal cultural celebration of life in the cold and dark- Roman revels, Chanukah, Diwali, et al. And speaking of Diwali...


4. The bright, expressive pom-pom is basically a festive firework, a centuries-old symbol of optimism and joy, handily perched on our hats.

 5. The pom-pom hasn’t always been about joyful frivolity

Pom-poms were historically worn by soldiers and seafarers; so they're yet another thing that we’ve borrowed from blue-collar culture (see also camouflage backpacks, baseball caps, denim jeans...)

And speaking of hierarchy and power, let’s not forget the biretta, just one item in the Church's fabulous wardrobe

So behind all the fun and fluff, a great deal of physical and spiritual effort. Perfect thought for Xmas...

Wishing you happy holidays (they're in sight)

Rob, Soma and Michael

 P.S. There’s a whole thing about the pom-pom as an extra erogenous zone. Mail us if interested…