Mum’s the Word

This homecoming tradition didn’t start in Texas, but we made it bigger

By Julia Jones

Jacob's Well natural spring-fed swimming hole in Wimberly, Texas

If you went to high school in Texas, you’ve seen them: extravagant faux chrysanthemums done up in glitter, lights, and stuffed mascots, with ribbons and braids trickling down. Mums—and garters, their male counterparts—are homecoming staples all over the state and a rite of passage for high schoolers. But the tradition’s origin is largely obscure—and surprisingly, not Texan.

Homecoming mums are said to have appeared in Texas during the 1930s, but the first known homecoming mums were worn in Missouri, which also hosted the first-ever homecoming football game in 1911. Some claim the tradition of wearing mums—at the time, made from real chrysanthemums—began before the 1930s.

The flower’s temporal qualities led homecoming-goers to transition to artificial flowers, which were glamorized in the ’90s. Today, mums often include more than one flower and extend wider than the shoulders, with ribbons trailing down to the feet, so that only the wearer’s head is visible. The gaudier, the better. Garters have stayed relatively tame in size, although they’re frequently decked out in the same manner. The spectacular displays are only to be worn on the day of the fall homecoming game, never to the dance typically held the following evening.

A diagram of a homecoming mum

Trinkets adorn

the tops of

mums

Mum-wearer’s

initials add

a personal touch

Ribbons feature

the wearer’s

name and

school year

School

colors form

a braid

1936

Year of the first mum sighting in Texas, at Baylor University

$1,000+

Price for a high-end mum

18 feet

Length of the world’s largest mum, made by Whataburger

Popular Mum Styles by Region

North Texas

Large, with standard school colors.

An illustration of a young woman wearing a Gulf Coast and South Texas style mum

Gulf Coast and South Texas

Traditional, smaller mum.

An illustration of a young woman wearing a Houston Texas style mum

Houston

Large, with school colors and nontraditional colors like plum, cream, teal, and pink.

An illustration of a young woman wearing a Central and East Texas style mum

Central and East Texas

Knee-length or shorter, more traditional.

An illustration of a young woman wearing a West Texas style mum

West Texas

Smaller, trinket-heavy, waist-length.

Mums, Incorporated

A profile image of Kisha Clark

Kisha Clark

Kisha Clark has made mums since high school, and her passion for the art has only increased with time. In 2012, she started Mums Inc., an organization that now comprises 145 mum-making professionals and 80 businesses. The group allows mum-makers around Texas to connect with each other, share supplies, and give advice to up-and-comers. Based in Providence Village outside of Dallas, Clark’s mum-making company, DK Florals Inc., ships across Texas and out of state.

What’s the largest, most extravagant mum you’ve made to date?

I have something called a “megaquad,” and it’s body-sized. It has four 7-and-a-half-inch flowers. It’s very long; it goes all the way to the floor. On those mums we do four or five braids, looping, and lots of extra little details here and there that I add to each mum.

When do you start prepping for homecoming season?

We spend all year preparing for this. If you’re importing, you start immediately after the season ends. You get to have Christmas without mums, then in January it’s back to inventory and cleaning and prework for the season, and it lasts until the season begins.

How has the mum industry changed this year because of COVID-19?

We’re not sure. The tradition is very much alive, especially with our seniors. Seniors look for that same level of support from mum-makers. They’re not going to want to miss out on those memories. Parents will want some level of normality, regardless of whether or not football games happen, or the homecoming dance happens. These kids depend on us to help them make memories.

From the September 2020 issue
The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


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The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


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The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


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Save up to 62% off the cover price

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