The current use of the term "cheesehead" as a derogatory word for Wisconsinites originated with Illinoisfootball and baseball fans to refer to opposing Wisconsin sports fans. The term, however, was quickly embraced by Wisconsinites and is now a point of pride.
WWII German soldiers were known to call the Dutch "cheeseheads".
The term "cheesehead" was also used in a derogatory manner in the 1969 novel Papillon to describe the jury that sentenced Papillon to life in prison.
Michael Bednar first saw a cardboard "cheesehead" hat at a Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago White Sox game in Chicago in 1987 worn by fellow Milwaukeean Amerik Wojciechowski. Ralph Bruno later made the first one out of foam while he was cutting up his mother's couch. It was made popular by center-fielder Rick Manning, who saw the hat while playing. Bruno started a business to sell the hats as novelties. The "Cheesehead" trademark is owned by Foamation, Inc. of St. Francis, Wisconsin, which began manufacture of the wearable, foam "Cheesehead" in 1987. It has also been referred to as a "Cheese Hat" since it is legally a hat.
In 2013, sports fans of Chicago and Minnesota replied to their rivals by wearing cheese graters.