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UT cheerleaders, at a rally before the 1955 TCU game, teach the Gregory Gym crowd the famous "Hook 'em sign for the first time. Notice that one of the cheerleaders has the hand sign backwards. (Photo courtesy of: The Texas Exes.)

Happy birthday to the Hook ’em Horns sign

Posted November 11th, 2015

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Can a hand symbol blow out birthday candles? Because the University of Texas’ indelible “Hook ’em Horns” sign turns 60 years old today.

The year was 1955, and Longhorns fans were hungry for a spot at the Cotton Bowl. With a 4-4 overall record that season and a tough-to-beat TCU next on the schedule, football fans lit candles and organized rallies all around campus, according to Texas Exes.

Harley Clark, Texas’ head cheerleader at the time, was planning the official pep rally Nov. 11, which soon snowballed into a full-on Longhorns revival, including a spirited, rousing variety show. When it came time for the rally, Clark looked for a new way to jazz up the burnt orange faithful. According to the Exes:

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A few days earlier, while in the Texas Union, Clark was talking with classmate Henry ‘HK’ Pitts, who suggested that the hand sign with the index and little fingers extended, looked a bit like a longhorn, and might be fun to do at rallies and football games. The Texas Aggies had their ‘Gig ’em’ thumbs-up sign, inspired while playing the TCU Horned Frogs. With a big Texas vs. TCU game coming up on Saturday, why can’t Texas fans have their own hand signal?

Clark introduced the gesture as ” the official hand sign of the University of Texas, to be used whenever and wherever Longhorns gather,” and it spread to the big game held the next day.

Actor Matthew McConaughey, President George W. Bush and tennis player Andy Roddick display the University of Texas Longhorns' hook'em horns sign in this 2006 file photos. (AP Photos/ FILES)
Actor Matthew McConaughey, President George W. Bush and tennis player Andy Roddick display the University of Texas Longhorns’ hook’em horns sign in this 2006 file photo. (AP Photos/ FILES)

It’s a pretty conventional origin story to be sure; it’s certainly more normal than Big Bertha’s atomic genesis. But the “Hook ’em” has certainly endured, from emojis to the name of this very website.

While you’re celebrating the noble Hook ’em, check out some of our favorite moments of team spirit through the years.

Former UT head cheerleader Harley Clark introduced the
Former UT head cheerleader Harley Clark introduced the “hook ’em horns” hand sign to longhorn fans half a century ago. (Amber Novak FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
First lady Laura Bush does the
First lady Laura Bush does the “Hook ’em Horns” sign during the Texas Longhorn Band playing the “Eyes of Texas” at the conclusion of the funeral service for Lady Bird Johnson. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)
Family hand out photo of UT graduate Dana Shafir's fetus with, what looks like, the baby's hand making a Hook 'em Horns hand gesture. Photo taken at 19 weeks. Provided by David Sheehan.
Family hand out photo of UT graduate Dana Shafir’s fetus with, what looks like, the baby’s hand making a Hook ’em Horns hand gesture. Photo taken at 19 weeks. Provided by David Sheehan.
Jimmy Kimmel flashes the
Jimmy Kimmel flashes the “Hook ’em” sign during the Monday taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” at the Long Center.
(Credit: ABC)
The 2010 Citi BCS National Championship, Pasadena, California, where Texas QB Colt McCoy holds up the Hook 'em Horns sign as he walks dejectedly off the field after the final gun in their loss 37-21 to Alabama. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
The 2010 Citi BCS National Championship, Pasadena, California, where Texas QB Colt McCoy holds up the Hook ’em Horns sign as he walks dejectedly off the field after the final gun in their loss 37-21 to Alabama. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
President Barack Obama gives a
President Barack Obama gives a “hook ’em horns” sign as he starts a speech at Gregory Gym at the University of Texas on Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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