History of the Beanie Cap or Knitted Hat


When I was researching for an article on winter weather clothing for the snow country I came across a lot of interesting history about a certain type of hat.  There are many names for a knit hat or knit cap that fits tight to the head.  These type of hats have many uses including use in non-inclement weather.   A regular knit hat that fits fairly snug to the head is pretty universally referred to in English speaking countries as a beanie.  But in the United States a Beanie refers more commonly  to a seamed hat made of cloth (light wool tweed)   Usually the hat has 6 triangular sections sewn together with a button or covered button on the top.  Historically college freshman were actually required to wear a hat of this type.  When I read this, I thought to myself that this described what "I" thought a Beanie was.  I never thought a beanie was a knit hat of any sort.  I kind of - while snickering under my breath - thought that a beanie was a dunce cap!!!   A dunce cap kind of fits, considering it was for freshman as a form of hazing. The freshman were made to stand out as the greenhorns on campus, by wearing this hat.   Well I am somewhat wrong about the dunce cap, since a dunce cap is a cone.  There is another beanie cap that I referenced that is a propeller beanie or propeller cap.  This one really reminds me of a dunce cap.  The propeller beanie cap probably came from the "Beanie and Cecil" Cartoon.  This is a seamed cap like the freshman beanie cap.  The only difference is that is that the button on top is replaced with a propeller.  


An interesting historical side-note about the Beanie as defined in the U.S. is that it was originally made from 3 sow ears.  This makes sense, since they would be roughly triangular in shape.  I guess 3 sewn together would make a perfect fit for a cap.   There may have been a button attached to the top.  I have never seen a picture of this type of hat, but I have seen a version made from suede lamb leather that is made from 4 triangular leather pieces and a lambswool forehead piece. 


I also learned that  laborers historically wore knit hats or skullcaps as a mechanism to keep grease from dripping in their hair from equipment above them and as a sweat band.  These beanie type knit hats would have also kept the hair more or less together and would reduce the possibility for catching hair in the equipment.   I believe because of the safety and convenience of using the hat in this way, it was most likely worn year round.  Welders also where a type of scullcap - year round - for safety reasons.

 
Today, in some outdoor activities such as skateboarding, knit beanie hats are also worn year round and as a sweat band,  as a mechanism to keep the hair together and also, I am sure, to look cool.  Tony Hawk wore beanie hats or some type of knitted hat.  Tony Hawk makes a brand of beanies or knit hats that are popular with skateboarders.  (We actually sell them)


The beanie hat is everywhere and I am beginning to think that it is loved.  Mostly it is loved for keeping a person's head warm.
Knitted hats have historically existed worldwide for hundreds of years.  In Wales there is a town Monmouth where a round woolen knitted hat was worn called the Monmouth cap.  It was used by soldiers and sailors.  My husband's family is associated with the area in Wales called Monmouthshire.  There is a castle there that was engineered by Ralph DeGater, and ancestor of all Gaithers in America.  I believe it is Grossmont Castle.  There is also a town in the area called Monmouth Cap and I even think that I have been there when we visited this castle. The French Canadian's call the beanie a tuque or touque.  There is a Canadian movie called, The War of the Tuque.  This movie is about a snowball fight. 


There are many instances of characters and people in the media wearing beanies.   There is a freshman type sewn beanie in Animal House.   The Simpsons make reference to beanie hats.  Eric Cartman wears a beanie in South Park.  Michael Nesmith of The Monkees wore a ribbed knit bobblehead beanie, Guitarist in U2, Edge, wears a skullcap type hat, Jayne Cobb in Firefly, wore a ratty looking chullo or peruvian earflap knit hat with a pom pom or bobblehead, and Hip Hop artist Snoop Doog wears a Slouch Beanie. The French Canadian's call the beanie a tuque or touque.  There is a Canadian movie cartoon called, The War of the Tuque.  There is a Hufflepuff House knit hat in Harry Potter.  Bill Murray wore a red ribbed beanie that is pointed and looks a little like a troll doll in The Life Aquatic.   Goober Pyle wore a very strange looking scullcap  type beanie hat with ragged edges.  I have since learned that this cap is called a pork pie hat.  The hat fits very tight to the skull. The purpose of the hat I think was to make Goober seem back-woodsie and it would have kept grease out of his hair and his hair in order while he worked.. if he ever did work at Wally's filling station. 


The beanie hat is everywhere and I am beginning to think that it is loved.  Probably it is to some degree loved for its utility in keeping  a person's head warm.


Where did the name beanie come from?   It is possible that it came from the word bean which means head.  When a pitcher pitches a ball toward the batter's head it is referred to as "trying to bean" the batter.   There are many references to bean - which refer to the head.
The beanie hat is everywhere and I am beginning to think that it is loved.  Probably it is to some degree loved for its utility in keeping  a person's head warm.


So there, your bean has a lot to think about the next time you put on a beanie.

Our store, Overland Trails Discount Outfitters sells many different types of hats for winter and snow activities including hats useful for extreme cold.  In addition to traditional knit hats we also have aviator hats and bomber hats and peruvian tassle hats with earflaps.