The monogram has come a long way since its beginnings in Greek and Roman history. What once was used as a mark on coins to recognize a particular ruler of an area is now quite the Southern fashion staple. But how did we get here? We are going to give you a rundown on monograms from their ancient beginnings, all the way to their place on Longchamp bags today.
For those who perhaps were not born and raised in the South and find the monogram a blaring question mark over their heads, here is a quick briefing. Monogram, by definition, is the artful and intentional placement of letters (initials) as a way to represent and identify yourself. There are many ways to make a monogram, and most widely we see the Victorian format, which puts the order of initial as: first initial, last initial (in a larger, more pronounced size), then middle initial last. This places an emphasis on the last name and therefore, an emphasis on family, something we Southerners hold near and dear.
The first monograms can be dated all the way back to Ancient Greece. Where monograms were used to mark coins and as sigatures by the wealthy and powerful.
The monograms roots in Christanity begins with the Chi Ro Symbol. The first two Greek letters in Christ are the Chi and the Rho, which look like an “X” and a “P” These letters combined make a symbol that represents Jesus Christ.
This particular monogram can be found tied to the story of Emperor Constantine I. Nervous about leading his army into battle, Constantine prayed for strength and looked up to the sky, where he saw the Chi Rho symbol accompanied by the words “in this sign you will conquer,” (or in hoc signo vinces in Latin). This vision then led to him dreaming of Jesus telling him that this symbol would be a safeguard to him in battle. Thus, Constantine had the Chi Rho put onto his soldiers’ shields and sure enough, he won the battle.
In the 6th century, the monogram found its place on coins in Ancient Rome as a way for the rulers of the area to authenticate the coins. Fast forward a bit to the 8th century, when Charlemagne is credited to a widespread usage of the monogram on goods as a way to represent his power and authority over an area that he conquered. From there on out, the monogram was often used by royalty or military to show their power and position of stature by marking things with their initials.
Monograms became especially prominent in the lavish Victorian era in both England and the United States. Stylishly designed monograms decorated everything from parasols to prams, and they were a way for society ladies to remember whose shawl was whose in the coat rooms. A more sobering outlook on the history of monograms also includes the Civil War. Monograms served as a way for the military’s higher-ups to identify their items among hundreds of blue and grey uniforms.
As the world entered the mid-20th century, monograms, again, became a fashion hot topic. The single ladies went for traditional monograms with a large last name initial flanked on either side by the first and middle initials. As young women and men paired up, they began sporting a different type of monogram on towels and tissue boxes. Popular wedding gifts included monograms with a large last name initial in the middle with the husband’s first initial on one side and the wife’s on the other.
Another popular theme that has stayed consistent throughout the history of monograms and into modern fashion is baby monograms. Babies decked out with their brand new initials sport everything from rompers to onesies and even precious baby bibs. Parents chose monograms as a way to style their kids with something other than lace and plain outfits. Now, families may choose monograms for their babies because it gives them a simple way to dress their baby in a truly classic style.
A tradition steeped in rich history, the modern-day monogram is a culmination of its predecessors. The history of monograms all led up to the modern-day monograms that include bright colors, twirly scripts, and even a pineapple or two thrown in for a background. Monograms are easy for anyone to design and wear on all their favorite outfits and accessories. With everything from tumblers to baseball caps making an appearance in the fashion industry, it seems that monograms are, once again, a major pop culture icon. They’ve made their way back into mainstream fashion and are doing it in a big way. Men, women, and children are all enjoying the new resurgence of monograms.