Staying Warm with the Busey Snoot Boot

Written by Anna Trammell

In December of 1961, the University of Illinois was the birth place of an odd fashion trend that spread across the campus and through universities all over the country. It began when Charlene Levine, a sophomore in Education, received a knitting lesson from her roommate in Busey Hall. After completing a small square, she realized she could wear the material over her nose in the cold weather. She added elastic loops and a tassel and named her invention “the Snoot Boot.”[1] To Charlene’s surprise, the trend caught on. After seeing Busey girls sporting Snoot Boots around campus, a News-Gazette reporter suggested the girls sell their winter wares.[2]

Busey Hall residents wearing Snoot Boots, c. 1961
Busey Hall residents wearing Snoot Boots, c. 1961

Busey residents knitted and sold the Snoot Boots for 50 cents each and donated the proceeds to the National Leukemia Fund. The first year, they generated $1,300 in sales.[3] Roger Ebert reported on the craze saying, “Some girls aren’t knitting them. But only because they can’t knit.”[4] He went on to say that the number one thing Illinois students would be tired of hearing within a few days of being home for winter break would be: “Why didn’t you bring me a Snoot Boot?”[5]

The project gained publicity through the Associated Press, which distributed an article and photo nationwide when the Busey inventors presented a Snoot Boot to University President David D. Henry. That year, the inventors were also photographed for Life magazine and featured on Chicago’s WLS Radio Station after knitting one for popular DJ Dick Biondi, who in turn promised to give a plug to the “nostril hostels.”[6]

Charlene Levine presents a Snoot Boot to President Henry, c. 1961
Charlene Levine presents a Snoot Boot to President Henry, c. 1961

The Snoot Boots were knitted at Busey Hall for several years and orders were received from students, locals, and customers nationwide. With the recent freezing temperatures in the area, perhaps the trend will make a comeback this winter. After all, as Life magazine suggested in a feature on Busey’s Snoot Boot, “If your nose is froze, it needs clothes.”[7]






[1] Busey Hall: 50 Years Young, 1916-1966, p. 20.

[2] Engel, Sue. “Tired of Catching Cold? If So, Snoot Boots Are for You” Daily Illini, December 11, 1995, p. 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Illinois Coeds Knit New Snoot Boots” The Southeastern Missourian, December 12, 1961, p. 10.

[5] “UI Students Hear Various Questions” Daily Illini, December 19, 1961, p. 12.

[6] “Ah…Ah… Snoot Boot!: Busey Hall Starts Third Campus Fad” Daily Illini, December 12, 1961, p. 3.

[7] “Snoot Boots for a Pair of Frozen Noses” Life, December 22, 1961, p. 59.

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