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.
My mother used to tell us to put a hat on to go outside to play in the winter because we lose most of our heat through our heads.
It turns out that’s not entirely true.
While a hat can definitely prevent the heat loss that occurs through the head, and therefore keep you warmer, we don’t actually lose MOST of our body heat through our head.
Yes, there are people who actually study these things.
Jolie Bookspan is one such person. Through her work designing rigorous experiments for military survival training, she has found out that we really lose less than 20-30% of our body heat through the head. (Interestingly, the colder it is, the higher the percentage of heat lost through the head, she tells us. At zero degrees Centigrade, we could lose as much as 35% of our body heat through our heads! That percentage also depends on what you’re doing: if you’re exercising outside, it then becomes a smaller percentage.)
Where did the head-heat-loss myth come from?
The Guardian reports a new study that debunks the popular myth. The site tells us, “The myth is thought to have arisen through a flawed interpretation of a vaguely scientific experiment by the US military in the 1950s. In those studies, volunteers were dressed in Arctic survival suits and exposed to bitterly cold conditions. Because it was the only part of their bodies left uncovered, most of their heat was lost through their heads.”
However, in response to the new study mentioned in the Guardian, Kenneth J Collins, a clinical physiologist, brings up a concern. What if people, particularly the elderly, forego hats if they learn that this myth is actually false? The study, he says, ignores the fact that cooling on the head and face actually can have important bodily effects. It seems that cool air on the face can cause systemic cardiovascular reflex responses, and that body temperature can be selectively influenced by cooling of the head and face.
Remember, babies’ heads are bigger, relatively
So, while it may be true we don’t lose MOST of our body heat through the head, 20-30% is still a big number. Imagine what this means for babies, who have even bigger heads relative to their body size, and therefore more surface area from which heat can escape.
So, don’t skip the baby hat when you’re going out on a chilly day!
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?
When I was in elementary school, we lined our mittens up on the radiators in the classroom to dry them after a cold and snowy recess. If any of us developed an earache, our teacher would tell us to grab a hot mitten from the radiator and hold it to the ear.
If you don’t have a hot mitten nearby, I’ve got a nifty trick you can try using one of our earflap hats (also called an aviator hat), to hold a warm cloth in place on a child’s ear.
How does warmth help an ear infection?
An ear infection hurts because of pressure on the ear drum as it bulges to contain fluid that is building up. Heat works to help fluid in the ear break up and be on its way, thus relieving pressure on the ear drum.
But getting a child to lie still on his or her side and hold a cloth perfectly in place themselves for long enough can be a challenge.
A trick for keeping a warm cloth on a wiggly child’s ear
Put the earflap hat on your child without tying the strings. Then take a regular, dry wash cloth and microwave it for 20-25 seconds to warm it. (My husband and I also did this to warm our babies’ blankets after bath time.)
Check that the cloth is not too hot, just comfortably warm to the touch. If it’s too hot, wave it in the air a bit until it’s the right temperature, and then tuck it under the earflap next to the offending ear. Tie the strings under the chin. Let your child lay back and relax.
If your baby is up for it, you can also place them with their painful ear on your chest to provide warmth. But good luck getting your preschooler to do that!
And of course, we’re not doctors here. So make sure you get your child to a doctor if you suspect an ear infection.
While we’re on the topic, I highly recommend a trip to Web MD’s Ear Infection Health Center . You’ll find a vast number of articles dedicated to the topic, including worksheets to help you decide when to give antibiotics.
What about you? How do you get through dreaded ear infections with your little ones?