The Cheesy Tradition: How Cheeseheads Became An Iconic Symbol Of Wisconsin Sports Culture
Cheese has been a staple food in Wisconsin since the dairy industry grew over a century ago. Today, it’s an integral part of Wisconsin’s sports culture.
Wisconsin is known as “America’s Dairyland,” the state’s obsession with dairy has integrated into every part of Wisconsin’s culture, including its sports culture. Beer and cheese go hand-in-hand in Wisconsin, and it’s part of what makes every Green Bay Packers home game so much fun.
Green Bay’s Passionate Fans
Green Bay is a city of just over 100,000 people. It’s a small city, but the team has one of the biggest fan bases in the United States. Why, you might ask? The weather for the games is brutal, and the team’s home city is small and remote. However, Packers fans are a dedicated and determined bunch. Fans drive hours in the snow to tailgate at Lambeau Field despite below-0 temperatures and heavy snowfalls.
The Origins Of “Cheeseheads”
Not only are Packers fans called cheeseheads, but they also wear them on their heads. The term cheesehead comes from Wisconsin’s extensive production of cheese. The state of Wisconsin produces 26% of the country’s cheese.
Cheese Industry Roots In Wisconsin
Over 100 years ago, immigrants from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and more moved to Wisconsin as the cheese industry grew. According to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart, by the 1920′s, Wisconsin had over 2,800 cheese factories.
Symbolic Cheesehead Hats
Wisconsin’s wedge-shaped foam cheesehead hats are orange with holes on them that look like Swiss cheese, which is fitting, seeing as Swiss cheese was one of Wisconsin’s first specialty cheeses. Packer fans wear them with pride at games.
Embracing The Cheesehead Identity
The term ‘cheesehead’ was originally an insult made to mock the cheese industry in Wisconsin and the cheese-obsessive folks. Still, the people turned that insult around as an opportunity to show their pride. The hats date back to 1987 when Ralph Bruno created them. They are now recognizable in the United States and around the world.
“[Cheeseheads] can go anywhere in the world, and people will know and recognize us.” – Ralph Bruno
Ralph Bruno said the idea came to him when he went to a Brewers game and noticed a fan wearing a cardboard-shaped cheese on his head. This inspired him to make a more comfortable orange version of the hat with foam at 26.
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