What is a “Linthead?”

I’ll never forget the first, and only, time I was called a Linthead. I was leaving the home of my high school girlfriend and her father was not my biggest fan. I certainly don’t blame him, as I didn’t give him any reason to think well of me. He worked at the local Goodyear plant and lived on the other side of town. My family was all from the Dwight Mill Village, which was built around the massive cotton mill which had only been torn down twenty years earlier.

As I was leaving that day, he said something about all of us being “a bunch of lintheads.” When I arrived home, I asked my dad about it and he explained it to me. He told me about how all of his parents worked in the cotton mill and at the end of every shift, which were often double shifts, they would exit the plant and have lint spread all over them, and especially in their hair, from all the spinning wheels that ran constantly. And this is how it was that they came to be known as Lintheads to those outside the mill village. I assume it began as a disparaging term for these common factory workers, but I also know at some point us “lintheads” embraced it as an identity of toughness and hard work.

As for me, this one instance was my only personal experience with the term, though I now wear it as a badge of honor. It reminds me of my mill village roots, it reminds me that my grandparents worked double shifts in horrendous conditions in order to give me the tremendous opportunities I have been afforded. It reminds me how much I owe to those in my family and community that came before me.

What about you? Do you have a collective or personal nickname that started out as a disparaging label but was eventually transformed into a badge of honor? If so, let me know in the comments below.