No one is sure where the name “beanie hat” came from, but there are several theories.
Some think it’s from the slang term “bean” referring to the head. Others point out that the button that was commonly found on top of beanie hats a long time ago was about the size of a bean.
It all started in Wales almost a thousand years ago
First of all, the term beanie hat can refer to two main types of hats: the rounded, seamed cap often with a button on top, or a soft, stretchy knit cap. Beanie Designs makes the soft stretchy kind.
The first hats of the style of beanies we’re talking about seem to date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. They were called Monmouth caps after the name of the town where they originated. The earliest versions were worn by women and made of velvet, taffeta, or satin adorned with embroidery.
Even the first beanie hat makers were obsessed with quality!
Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Monmouth caps evolved to look pretty close to a knitted beanie cap you could find today. These beanie hats were knit of wool by hand knitters in the town of Monmouth in south east Wales, because the sheep there, called Ryeland sheep, produced particularly high-quality wool.
Wikipedia tells us, “The industry of cap manufacture by hand knitters in and around Monmouth was well established by the 15th century, when court records show Capper as a common surname in the town.”
The hats were worn by soldiers and sailors and widely exported. The wool was felted to make the hat waterproof.
Everyone must wear a beanie hat on Sunday…?
These early beanie hats were used so commonly that nearly everyone in England and Wales wore them. In fact, the Cappers Act of 1488 forbade the wearing of caps made outside the country, upon penalty of fine! Nearly 100 years later, there was even an Act of Parliament that required those older than age six to wear this type of hat on Sundays and holidays (excluding some people such as maids and ladies, and when travelling).
Gradually, the precursor to the beanie hat was manufactured in places other than Monmouth, leading to new names cropping up, including watch cap.
In the 1620’s, the early settlers of Massachusetts brought their Monmouth caps with them to the New World.
I wonder what the early Monmouth knitters would think of our Beanie Designs hats today?
It’s winter – which means it’s prime time for hair that stands on end when hats come off.
Of course the static doesn’t last long and hair gets right back to normal. But did you ever wonder exactly what’s happening to cause hair to do that?
Your beanie hat, your hair, and the science of matter
ScienceMadeSimple.com gives a great explanation for static, especially helpful if you want to teach your little boy or girl why hair stands up all funny after taking a hat off. Here’s the gist boiled down for you.
You probably remember from science class that everything around us is made up of atoms. Inside atoms are protons, electrons and neutrons. Protons have a positive charge and electrons are negative (neutrons have no charge).
Your hat or hair has no charge when the number of positive and negative charges in its atoms are equal. In this case, there’s no static happening.
But when two things rub together, some electrons move from one item to the other. This changes the balance, and one item can end up with more or less electrons.
Now, remember that opposites attract, and like charges repel.
When your hat rubs on your hair, your hair gives up electrons to your hat, so each of your hairs has the same positive charge. Each hair is repelling the others, trying to move as far apart from each other as possible. Thus, they stand up and separate, leaving your son or daughter looking like a little prickly porcupine.
Why do you notice static more in the winter?
Yes, you probably wear a hat more in the winter, so that’s one reason. But it also has to do with the air. In the winter, the air is typically drier, and the charge from the electrons can stick around more. When the air is humid, the electrons will dissipate more quickly, so you don’t notice the static as much.
Other times you get static electricity:
- When you scuff your feet across the carpet and then touch the doorknob
- As you come down the slide at the playground (this is my favorite – I love seeing the kids reach the bottom with a fluffy porcupine hairstyle, completely different from how it looked on the way up!)
- Try rubbing a balloon on your hair and then sticking it on the wall
- And of course laundry all stuck together when you take it out of the dryer
Try explaining static electricity to your preschooler and let us know how it goes!
As Americans, we usually put a hat on a baby to protect his or her precious head, keep it warm, or complete a stylish outfit, right?
When I was younger and living in Canada, I remember only wearing a hat to play in the snow. We used mainly tuques (essentially a beanie hat) and ski hats – the kind that pull down over your face with open spots for your eyes and mouth!
But in many countries around the world, hats have special meaning for children beyond protecting their sweet little heads.
Many countries older than America have intricate traditional costumes or traditions that involve hats.
Chinese baby hats for health and happiness
In China, mothers traditionally embroidered elaborate hats for their children, using the rich symbolism prevalent in Chinese culture. The hope was for the hat to provide both protection of the child from evil and to imbue qualities such as health, happiness, beauty, and success. (See some vintage Chinese children’s hats here available from a collector.)
Even in modern times, hats are still playing an important role for children beyond simply keeping them warm and looking cute.
Yellow hats for school children’s safety in Japan
In Japan, young children make their way to school by themselves from first grade, walking and taking public transportation like buses and trains. So on their way to school, they all wear yellow caps. This helps motorists see them better, as little kids can be hard to spot for drivers. A great idea, right? Leave it to Japan to coordinate hats for an entire country!
Do you know of any other hat traditions from around the world? Share your story here!