Object Matters A fluff-free history of the pillow.

Object Matters A fluff-free history of the pillow.

Issue 36

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Katie Calautti
  • Photograph Gustav Almestål
  • Styling Andreas Frienholt

The next time you rest your weary head atop your memory foam, down, polyester or wool-stuffed pillow, try to avoid recalling the object’s not-so-humble origins; you’ll likely conjure nightmares. The main purpose of pillows, at first, was not for comfort. Back in early Mesopotamian civilization, the half-moon-shaped headrests were made of carved stone, and their main job was to keep insects out of the mouth, ears and nose of a person sleeping on the floor. 

The Romans and Greeks brou-ght comfort into the equation, perfecting the pillow’s ability to support the head, neck and spine by stuffing cloth with feathers or straw. Initially, the bolsters were seen as a sign of wealth, though the general populace adopted them over time, especially as an accessory brought to a place of wo...

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