We’re all familiar with the beanie cap we know and love today. But have you ever wondered where the beanie got its start? Read on to learn the curious beginnings of the beanie cap and other uses for beanies beyond the fashion scene.
What is a Beanie Hat?
What is a beanie? A beanie is a soft cap that hugs the head. Beanies may or may not have a folded cuff. They may be plain or decorated with embellishments, such as buttons, tassels, pom-poms and other designs. Because there are so many types of beanies, they go by a myriad of different names; skull caps, knit caps, tossie caps, and ski hats are just a few alternative names for beanies.
What is a beanie made of? These hats can be made of various materials including cotton, knits, viscose, synthetic materials, fleece, and more. This makes beanies multi-seasonal.
How does a beanie fit? They are also available in different fits, from slouchy and loose on top, to snug to the head.
Who can wear a beanie? Beanies are often unisex, and there are a lot of diffent beanie options for men, women, and children.
History of the Beanie
Before the 20th Century
The traditional use of beanie-type caps is simple: keeping the head warm in cold weather. Because of its essential function, hats in this style can be found independantly in many regions with a cool climate throughout history. In fact, even the vikings wore knit caps. Starting in the 1700s, wool knit caps were popular among fisherman, hunters, and other outdoor-workers.
How the Beanie Got Its Name
Speculation still exists about how the beanie cap got its name. Most therories suggest that the beanie cap was named after the head itself, which was often referred to as a “bean” in the early 1900’s. Another theory suggests the name “beanie” originated from the top button that originally secured the gathered fabric together, which was about the size of a bean.
Beanies in Industry
In the early 1900’s beanies were often worn by blue collar laborers, which included welders, mechanics, and other tradesmen. Beanies kept hair from getting in the worker’s face and offered sun protection for the scalp and ears without getting in the way. Some beanie designs did come equipped with a small, 1 inch deep brim addition. Interestingly enough, these brimmed beanies were the starting point for the modern baseball cap we know and love today.
Beanies and Universites
At this time, beanies were also handed out to college freshmen at U.S. universities, making them associated with college students. While not its intended purpose, this practice often became a form of hazing; upperclassman would bully freshmen who took off their beanies. In some colleges, freshman would burn their beanies at the end of the school year during an annual bonfire. By 1960, this tradition was no longer followed at most schools.
The Propeller Hat
As baseball caps began to rise to popularity in the early 1940’s, beanies became less popular. A brief rise in fame for the beanie hit in the late 1940s thanks to the introduction of propeller beanies in science fiction. The propeller beanie was initially created as an image of self-mockery as science fiction fans were perceived as childish. As comic books and other forms of science fiction media began implementing propeller beanies into their work, the popularity for this specific beanie style briefly increased and is still sometimes used today for satirical purposes. The 1950’s brought the beanie back into play as a cap for college freshman, usually as part of a hazing ritual or to spurn rivalry between odd/even class years.
From the 1960s onward, the beanie cap increased in popularity. Marvin Gaye's signature red beanie led to a beanie-boom in the 1970s. Jack Nicholson's black knit cap in 1975's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" also added to the beanie hat's appeal. Beanies picked up even more traction as a fashion accessory in the 1990s; they were often worn in grunge and skateboard culture.
Beanie Hats Today
Today, beanies have become a staple for just about any fashion style, winter weather apparel, and a way to show off your individuality with various colors, logos, and your fave team emblems.
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Additionally, beanies are often used in the working world. Factory workers, those working with heavy machinery, and those in the food industry all use beanies to keep hair away from the face in a comfortable way. Slouchy beanies are especially popular for this purpose.