By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – The most notable symbol of the Packers Nation — the cheesehead — has become a part of the Green Bay Packers organization.
On July 24, the Packers announced that they had acquired Foamation, Inc., the company that created the original foam cheesehead.
The Milwaukee-based company was founded by Ralph Bruno in 1987.
Bruno came up with the concept while reupholstering his mother’s couch, at a time when “cheesehead” had become a popular slur directed at Wisconsinites by neighboring states.
Bruno burned holes in the foam to make it appear like Swiss cheese and painted it yellow to give it the appearance of cheddar, making light of the name.
Working as a pattern maker, Bruno had a background in reading blueprints and making the product out of wood.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer more than anything, so building equipment and doing things like that came naturally to me,” he said.
“With my past background in pattern-making, I was able to make a mold.”
Bruno wore his prototype to a Milwaukee Brewers game.
“My friends originally didn’t want to be next to me at the time, until a girl came up to me and wanted to try the hat on,” he recalled.
The hat got passed around during the baseball game.
“Everyone had a great time with that,” he added.
“After wearing the cheesehead I fabricated, shortly thereafter I researched the foam business, because that is what the hat is made out of, and probably within a couple of weeks on a local level I was able to find some folks that would help me with the formulation for the foam.
“So, I started making the product and kept expanding, going to gift shops. Then, with it being a Brewers thing, we were able to get it into Sports Service, who at the time was selling it on consignment. From there, it just kept going and going.”
Today, the company offers a variety of foam items, with the Packers the largest purchaser of their products.
“The popular cheesehead hats have come to represent Packers fans all over the world, and we’re excited to officially welcome this special brand to the Packers organization,” said Gabrielle Dow, Packers vice president of marketing and fan engagement. “We’re looking forward to building upon the legacy the Bruno family has created over the years and offering our fans even more cheesehead items to love.”
Bruno said that he finds it hard to explain why the cheesehead became so popular, stating “It’s organic.”
He said that he has always been fascinated by “the excitement of what it brings. It’s not a me thing, it’s never been a me thing. It’s a cultural thing.”