We just love our letters.
The South can take credit for plenty of good ideas (putting peanuts in Coke, for starters), but monogramming? Well, that’s one idea we can’t claim as our own: Early Greek and Roman rulers’ seals appeared on their currency as a means of identifying the region and ruler from which the currency came. Then, in the Middle Ages, artisans followed suit, signing their works with monograms. And by the time the Victorian era rolled around, the aristocracy had adopted monograms as a means of showcasing their status.
These days, though, monograms are for anyone and everyone. And while they aren’t a brainchild of the South, we’ve certainly taken the idea and made it our own, monogramming everything from shower curtains to backpacks. So what is it that makes monograms such a ubiquitous element of Southern style?
Jane Scott Hodges, founder and owner of New Orleans-based Leontine Linens, says she thinks it has something to do with our fondness for family tradition.
WATCH: Choosing a Monogram
“I think in the South we are driven by the notion of heritage and heirlooms, that notion of close, multigenerational families and relationships with our grandparents,” says Jane Scott, who works with designers and homeowners to create custom linens that often feature family monograms, or reinterpreted family monograms. “We have that tug of familial history in the South: We take a family name and make it a first name. We do things like that as we pass over the generations. We don’t go to the top 20 list of baby names.”
Beyond our affection for all things family, she says, the South’s obsession with monogramming also has something to do with our affinity for our region’s history and culture.
“My grandmother was from New Orleans, and when I moved here for college, I was so mesmerized by the rich beauty and history and culture, and the city’s nod to things of the past: its emphasis on collecting, the crustiness of everything,” says Jane Scott. “In the South, we feel that it’s important to share and experience the things the people before us have, and monogrammed linens are a nod to that.”
Monograms are a trademark of Southern hospitality, too, she says.
“I had a client who ordered three neck rolls monogrammed with the names of her most frequent guests,” says Jane Scott. “Whoever it is that comes to see you the most, whether it’s your college roommate or your sister, you pull a pillow out of the closet and it has their initials on it. It’s about thoughtfulness. That, to me, was the ultimate compliment.”