This article first appeared on Texas Highways. Click here to view the article in its original format.
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.
Year of the first mum sighting in Texas, at Baylor University
Price for a high-end mum
Length of the world’s largest mum, made by Whataburger
Popular mum styles by region
- North Texas - Large, with standard school colors.
- Gulf Coast and South Texas - Traditional, smaller mum.
- Houston - Large, with school colors and nontraditional colors like plum, cream, teal, and pink.
- Central and East Texas - Knee-length or shorter, more traditional.
- West Texas - Smaller, trinket-heavy, waist-length.
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.