Giving the Finger Since 1971
They’re given as thank you gifts for filling out credit card applications, sold at merchandise stores in every stadium, and waved by children and adults alike. Foam fingers are staples at sporting events across the country, and it all started in 1971 with a high school senior from Ottumwa, Iowa.
In support of the Ottumwa Bulldogs, Steve Chmelar constructed a giant hand out of hardware cloth and papier-mâché and wore it to the 1971 Boy’s State Basketball Finals against the Davenport West Falcons.
The Associated Press snapped a photo of Chmelar and ran it the Des Moines Tribune, now the Des Moines Register.
Seven years later, a Texas teacher named Geral Fauss created foam fingers for the teams at the high school where he taught in order to raise money for an industrial arts club. The endeavor was a huge success, which pushed Fauss to sell fingers to the fans of University of Texas and Notre Dame at the 1978 Cotton Bowl. A year later he created Spirit Industries and started producing foam fingers on a large scale Today, he's often credited as the "inventor" of the foam finger.
Most foam fingers are made of open-celled foam. The range of fingers have expanded to include shapes like talons and paws and gestures like peace signs and middle fingers. Most foam fingers are flat in form but three-dimensional "Hulk Hands" have entered the market.
So, thank you Steve Chmelar for being fan enough to take time to papier-mâché your support and, inadvertently, giving the whole world the finger. Go, Bulldogs!