Earmuffs: A Wintertime Must-Have

There’s nothing worse than having cold ears on a chilly winter day! Luckily, earmuffs are the perfect tool for keeping frostbite at bay, thanks to a clever nineteenth-century teenager who was allergic to knitted wool caps.

MAINE ORIGINS

Modern earmuffs were first created by Chester Greenwood of Farmington, Maine, in 1873. The ingenious 15-year-old needed a solution to help keep his ears from freezing while he was ice skating. The teenager decided to bend a wire into two loops and, with the help of his grandmother, cover the looped ends with beaver fur. Thus, the first modern earmuffs were born. 

Greenwood would not patent his creation, which he called “Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors,” until the spring of 1877. This patent kicked off a lifetime of invention for the young man; he filed more than 100 additional patents in the decades that followed the birth of the earmuffs. Greenwood also worked to refine his original invention by switching out the bent wire frame with broader bands and adding hinges to the sewn ear pads to create extra warmth and pressure.

WARTIME AND MASS PRODUCTION

While Greenwood did everyone living in colder climates a great service by creating earmuffs, the inventor actually earned his fortune by supplying the warm headgear to the United States Army during World War I. The Chester Greenwood & Company factory near Farmington was producing 400,000 earmuffs per year by 1937, when Greenwood died at the age of 78. His earmuffs and enterprises made such an impact on the local community that Farmington still celebrates Chester Greenwood Day, which includes a parade of participants wearing earmuffs, on the first Saturday of December every year.

TODAY’S WINTER HEADGEAR

Today’s earmuffs are as fun and fashionable as they are functional. Fuzzy faux fur poufs in a rainbow of colors are the norm for women’s and children’s options. Cat ears or other animal elements are sometimes added to the band for a lighthearted touch. Among men’s earmuffs, you’ll often find darker shades with more solid fabric exteriors. However they look, earmuffs are still appreciated today for keeping the cold winter wind away from wearers’ ears.

Earmuffs aren’t the only wintertime staples that are both a necessity and an accessory. Wool gloves, heavy scarves, snow boots, knit hats, and an assortment of coats all play an important part in keeping people warm while making a fashion statement. What makes up your cold-weather outfit of choice?

Cuffs: Types and Uses

Cuffs are more than a place to display your cufflinks. Their use dates as far back as the 15th century. The major purpose of the cuff is to protect the garment and allow for wear and tear to be easily repaired. Though you may think you know all about cuffs, here are some interesting facts about them you may not know.

SHIRT CUFFS

Generally, we think of shirt cuffs on button-down shirts, more formal than casual. The reality is that every shirt has a cuff. Back in the 15th century cuffs were more ornamental than today and were used to display fortune. Shirt cuffs can be divided by how they fasten. Barrel cuffs use a button — these are the most common on casual button-down shirts today. On higher quality and more formal shirts, you will often find french cuffs, requiring your best cufflinks or silk knot closures. For those who can’t decide, there is a convertible cuff allowing you to either button or use cufflinks.

TROUSER CUFFS

Shirts don’t get all the fun. Pants have ends that need to be protected, replaced, and taken up as well. Hemming usually prevents the need for cuffs, especially with properly tailored items. Initially, individuals would cuff their pants to prevent getting them dirty while traveling on unpaved roads. It is more typical to see it as a fashion statement, when a child’s pants are too long, or when it’s raining, now.

LASTLY: JACKET CUFFS

Used like shirt cuffs, jacket cuffs essentially extend the wear of your favorite jacket. Formal jackets include embroidery, lace, and studs. Generally, it is accepted that the cuff of a jacket is more decorative than functional; however, winter jackets employ their elastic or snap cuffs to prevent heat from escaping out of your sleeve. Military dress uniforms use their cuffs to display rank, so pay attention while shaking their hands it will tell you the difference between a general and private.

Cuffs on garments were designed to lengthen the durability of the garment, aiding in saving money. Slowly as textiles became easier to come by, they became more of a decorative, elaborate item than necessary. Save your sleeves, cuff them!

Knickers: New York’s Classic Style

Knickers (or knickerbockers, as they are also called) made their debut long ago, but have left a lasting impression on the world. This humble piece of clothing is a symbol of the early 1900’s; an era of industrial prosperity and great innovation. It was also a time of great immigration to America for many Europeans; and along with the immigrants in search of the American dream came this classic style of pants.

WHAT ARE KNICKERS?

Knickers are a loose-fitting pair of trousers that are gathered by a buttoned, buckled, or even elastic band just under the knee. Generally made of woolen tweed, plaid, or solid colors; these pants were originally worn by Dutch immigrants for work, cycling, or other sporty endeavors where the excess fabric of longer pants might get in the way.

WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS THAT?

One might wonder how a pair of trousers ended up with such an unusual name. The reason is unusual in itself, as their name is the result of a famous novel written by Washington Irving, in which the clothing of Dutch settlers in New York is described. Irving uses the character, Diedrich Knickerbocker, to narrate the story, and from that time on, the Dutch (as well as their fashionable attire) were referred to as Knickerbockers; Knickers for short.

RAGS TO RICHES

Knickers went from being worn by the commoners in the late 1800s all the way up to high society; in 1924, Prince Edward VII of Wales donned a pair of knickers and launched them into fashionable society.

Knickers have played a big role in sports as well. In fact, according to Global Golf, “The first organized baseball team ever to wear a uniform was the New York Knickerbockers in 1842.” Knickers continued to be worn in sports such as baseball and golf until fairly modern times. Modern uniforms are still reminiscent, although not so baggy.

KNICKERS TODAY

Although knickers were most commonly worn by men in the old days, you can still find these stylish little trousers today for men and women; sometimes they even make an appearance on the runways. Try wearing a pair for a fashionable vintage feel, and watch the heads turn!

The Bonnet: An Unlikely Revolutionary

When you hear the term “bonnet”, the Oregon Trail may come to mind. It is true that the pioneering women of the 1840s and 1850s sported utilitarian cotton sunbonnets to protect their faces from the harsh sun and wind. However, the American prairie sunbonnet actually stems from a greater revolutionary history that swept through Victorian England and into America during the mid-1800s.

REVOLUTIONARY STYLE

Fashionable headwear changed dramatically in the late 1780s when the French Revolution brought democratic styles to the forefront and turned fashion away from large hats and hairstyles that had previously been the style for upper echelons of society. It was no longer de rigeur to display wealth, and as the idea of democratic government swept through Europe, elite styles were outmoded, and common everyday materials and utilitarian styles were in. With the introduction of readily available cotton and the influence of English-occupied India, turbans and plain cotton bonnets with ornamental ribbons became the fashion du jour and remained popular into the 19th century.

VICTORIAN FLAIR

By the Victorian era, bonnets had grown larger and more ornate, beginning with straw bonnets, which became all the rage in 1810. Intricate straw bonnets were replaced by colorful fabric bonnets of velvet, silk, and cotton constructed on large bonnet boards. When Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, bonnets had grown much deeper and were used in conjunction with a veil to protect the wearer from the sun and from the public eye. The modesty politics of the era were reflected in the deep and concealing nature of the bonnets, many of which included a ribbon at the back to prevent the neck from being exposed. This did not prevent designers from adding more and more ornamentation in the form of feathers, ribbons, silk bows, and even flowers. In the 1860s, when parasols came into style, the brim of the bonnet was reduced in size, and bonnets became smaller, less concealing, and more ornamental.

MODERN SOCIAL REPRESENTATION 

Although the bonnet faded in the 1860s as hats came back into fashion, the bonnet has continued to convey revolutionary social ideas through fashion. Recently, Vera Wang’s 2018 Spring lineup featured deep black bonnets, in reference to the popular and politically divisive adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2019, Christian Dior presented bonnets and fishnet veils to accentuate the purposeful androgyny of his Spring-Summer 2019 fashions. All this goes to show that while the bonnet may not be the front-and-center trend it was in the Victorian era, it’s revolutionary roots still manifest in today’s style.

Equality Through the Ages: The Revolutionary History of the Culotte

The fight for women’s rights can be tracked in many ways through fashion. From Rosie the Riveter whose trademark red polka dot bandana and striking pose mobilized working women during World War II to the would-be bra-burning at the 1968 Miss. America pageant that, despite the fact that no bras were actually burned, became a symbol of the second-wave feminist movement, fashion has served as a second skin reflecting social norms through time. Perhaps surprisingly, culottes — the wide-legged, flowing pant that has re-taken the fashion industry by storm — is no exception. 

History

Originally, culottes were popularized by French aristocratic men in the mid-1500s. As a result, they came to embody class distinctions across the French socioeconomic spectrum, with those who were too poor to afford them being termed sans-culottes (literally meaning “without culottes”). As the French Revolution came to a head in the late 1700s, it came to be recognized as a movement of the sans-culottes rising against the inequalities imposed by the culotte-wearing aristocratic elite. Regardless of the culottes’ heated origins, the wearing of these knee-length pants (sometimes referred to as “breeches”) continued to spread beyond France among European men. In fact, culottes were even donned by early U.S. presidents, reflecting their continued permeation among upper-class men.

Culottes Today

Today, women largely have horses to thank for the transition from culottes being recognized as a socially acceptable garment for women. Startup Fashion’s brief history of culottes discusses the development of the “split skirt” as a necessity for physically active Victorian women who wanted to more easily ride horses without having to depart too far from traditional female clothing styles; however, adoption of our modern conception of culottes was not always so readily accepted by society at large. Indeed, the appearance of a comparatively shortened culotte at Wimbledon in the early 1930s was met with public shock and outrage from major publications at the time.   

Of course, like any fashion, seasons change and culottes eventually became less a topic about gender and more about style itself. Even though the look of culottes has continued to evolve and their popularity has waxed and waned over the past decades, they nevertheless remain an embodiment of critical social revolutions that have shaped the very fabric of global societies. Indeed, a walk in today’s culottes is an indirect stroll through the history of France, feminism, and the fight for equality for all. 

The History of the Beanie: How it Became a Household Item

While many people are familiar with beanies and often wear them to accessorize or complement their outfit, few know that they “originated” from the early 1900s, in America. At the time, bean was a slang word used to describe the head. 

HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT BEANIES

  • When first created, beanies were not designed to be fashionable but made for the necessity of warmth and to keep hair back from the face.
  • It took more than a century for them to find their way into fashion trends.
  • Originally beanies were primarily worn by men.
  • A now uncommon name for beanies is Wool Knit Cap.
  • While the first major documentation of Beanies is from the early 1900s in America, it is believed to have actually been a product dating back as far as the 14th century. 
  • Beanies were originally made from wool but are now commonly made with fleece and other synthetic materials.

14TH CENTURY BEANIES AND BEYOND

Looking back at the 14th century, the beanie was known as the Monmouth Cap, named after the town Monmouth in South East Wales. It has been documented to have gained popularity for its warmth and simplicity. By the 16th century, it had become a standard for the common workforce to wear them on their day to day jobs. From the rising of popularity in Monmouth through England, eventually, the wool hats made their way to Canada where they were recreated to be known as the tuque. Under the new name, tuques became a symbol for French-Canadian nationalism with the imprint of the maple leaf on France’s liberty cap.

Fast forward to the mid to late 1900s and the simple creation has been adapted across many countries and cultures. What started out as a means to keep warm has become an international trend. While beanies are still commonly used to keep the head warm and hair out of the face, they’re now worn by men and women abroad. Other common names for the product are knit cap, uhlan cap in the British Army, the Scandinavian tophue, and tuque is the French-Canadian name. 

While there are a variety of styles and versions of the design for beanies, all are known for their tight and snug fit on the head. Through many decades, the beanie has been recreated, restyled, and become a common household item. It doesn’t appear that the simple idea will be replaced with another hat any time soon, only designed with a new style every so often. 

Baseball Cap: The Hat of America’s Pastime

If baseball is considered America’s pastime, the baseball hat might just be considered America’s hat. Starting on the ballfield, the baseball hat now has many uses, from sun protection to political statements.

HISTORY OF THE BASEBALL CAP

Hats were first introduced on the baseball field in 1849 by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club in New York, but these hats did not resemble the rounded, soft cap we associate with baseball today. They were closer in appearance to a yacht cap. The first version of a hat that resembles the ubiquitous baseball cap was donned by the Brooklyn Excelsiors in the 1860s.

This style of cap was quickly adopted by other sports teams. It truly hit full steam when Spalding, the well-known baseball bat manufacturer, began producing baseball caps in 1903.

LOADED WITH LOGOS

One of the most iconic elements of a baseball hat is the display of a logo on the front. This trend was started by the Detroit Tigers in 1901 featuring a running, orange tiger. The trend for logos spread to other Major League Baseball teams, amateur teams, and even little league teams, which began to sprout up in the 1940s.

The development of screen printing technology in the 1950s made it significantly easier to add logos to any item of clothing, including baseball caps. Companies began screen printing their logos on hats and using them as swag for customers and fans.

New Era Cap Company was prepared to fill the significant demand with their 59Fifty hats. By the 1960s they had launched in retail and by 1994 they were the official manufacturer of hats for the MLB, who began to allow headwear licensing. Thanks in part to a request from Spike Lee for a specialty red New York Yankees hat, fans were now able to get their favorite team’s hat in any color.

HIGH FASHION AND POLITICAL CENTERPIECE

The baseball cap is such a versatile piece of the American wardrobe, that its uses span from sporting to high fashion to statement-making. 

Many high-end designers have put their own spin on the baseball cap, including A.P.C., Burberry, Brunello Cucinelli, Gucci, and Kenzo. The hat has proven an effective tool for making a political splash as well. Supporters of President Donald Trump can be easily spotted sporting bright red hats with the president’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

Whether you are looking for comfort or fashion, there is surely a baseball cap to fit your needs!

Duffel Coat: The Trend that Spans Three Centuries

Learn how the duffel coat made its way from the shoulders of 1850s workmen to modern haute couture runways. With its distinctive hood and toggle buttons, this heavy wool overcoat made utilitarian fashion history on the battlefields of World War II before being adopted by celebrities and designers in the second half of the 20th century.

The menswear experts at Gentleman’s Gazette trace the original duffel (or duffle) coat to British outerwear merchant John Partridge. His 1850s coat was shorter than modern duffels but had the classic large wooden toggle buttons that we still see today. His idea was to make a sturdy wool coat that was roomy enough to layer multiple garments under for extra warmth in the winter. Although modern duffel coats have a slightly sleeker silhouette than Partridge’s original jacket, in all eras the coat has boasted a loose enough fit that sweaters can be layered under for comfort in tough weather. Partridge may have been inspired by an even earlier “frock” coat, a more lightweight hooded and toggled jacket that was seen in Poland a few decades earlier, but he gave the duffel its name and his design is the origin of its modern popularity.

With its utilitarian style, Partridge’s duffel caught the eye of the British Navy. The coat’s long-wearing materials and warm, protective hood made it ideal outerwear for troops facing harsh winds at sea. From the original order in the 1880s through to both WWI and WII, the coat evolved to be as useful as possible, with a longer length that protected the men down to the knee along with a loose-fitting shape that could be made in mass quantities for all sizes of soldiers. The coats became standard issue for all ranks of British military seamen from first-time sailors up to top-ranking officers. The coats worked so well for the navy that soon all British soldiers were wearing duffle coats. When the allies won WWII and the fighting ended, the British military suddenly found itself with a huge number of extra coats. This military surplus would be the start of another chapter in the duffel’s history when the extra coats were bought in large quantities at low wholesale prices by the retail brand Gloverall.

Gloverall discovered that the distinctive coats were suddenly popular with civilians, who wanted to show their nostalgic support for the WWII-winning army and navy. Men were buying the coats so quickly that the surplus stocks ran out. Seeing the potential for more sales, Gloverall began to manufacture their own variation on the duffel with a modernized, slightly slimmer cut. Their idea was that with only a few small tweaks, the duffel coat could fit both men and women. The company chose a lighter, more luxurious lining fabric for streetwear and replaced the hard-wearing jute cord that wrapped around the toggles with softer, more comfortable cotton. High-end versions appeared finely crafted leather ties wrapped around toggles made from water buffalo horns. Soon Gloverall’s unisex jacket was seen on mid-century celebrities as diverse as avant-garde French poet Jean Cocteau and Beatles frontman Paul McCartney. The no-nonsense coat became popular with 1960s protesters who marched in the streets and held sit-ins outdoors for long periods, and soon it developed a reputation as a counterculture fashion statement. David Bowie wore an iconic duffel in the 1976 film “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and Oasis kept the trend going into the 1990s with duffel-clad appearances in their music videos. As more stars wore duffel coats, top tier designers started to notice and soon reimagined duffel coats were seen on international fashion week runways. Today’s haute couture duffel coat designers like Junya Watanabe, Bottega Veneta, and Balmain have updated this classic by making duffel coats in luxury fabrics like cashmere and unexpected colors like powder blue, and by adding pricey details like fur trim.

From its functional origins in John Partridge’s shop through its history of warming soldiers, stars, rebels, and runway models, the duffel coat has shown remarkable staying power. Today, the easy-to-style duffel coat stays popular among everyday people who pair it with jeans or throw it on over classic wool suits for a timeless statement.

The Capelet: An Undying Victorian Trend

The capelet is defined as “a short cape, usually just covering the shoulders”. While the definition may be simple and straightforward, the capelet has a complex and diverse history that stretches from prehistoric times all the way to today’s hottest runway fashion. 

Prehistoric Cloaks and Capes

The capelet is a variant of the cloak, which has been around throughout human history. The original cloaks were large cuts of cloth with a hole in the middle, for the head, much like a poncho. Other early cloaks included a round piece of cloth, worn over the shoulders and fastened at the neck. Over the centuries, cloaks evolved into various forms among multiple cultures, including early Native Americans, Scots, Arabs, and Romans. The ancient Romans further developed the garment to denote a person’s rank by color, fabric, and cut of the cloak, and the trend spread throughout the Roman Empire and the world. The cloak became a standard part of the English costume in the 1800s as a red hooded cloak called a “Scarlet”. Come the Renaissance, people began wearing elaborate embroidered cloaks that grew shorter and more varied as fashion dictated.

Advent of the Capelet

Enter the capelet or maletot, a fashionable short version of the cape adapted by Victorian women as an alternative to the shawl. The Victorian era saw extensive use of shawls of various lengths, styles, and materials to accent and cover bulky Victorian dresses. A shorter cape, with a stylish collar, the capelet was a tailored marriage of the outdated longer capes and the less weather-resistant shawls that were so popular at the time. While coats became standard wear for men in the 1800s, Victorian women continued to wear and develop different styles of cloaks and shawls well into the 1900s.

The Capelet Today

In the 1900s, women began wearing the more useful and modern coats, but capes and capelets never completely lost their allure. Re-imagined versions continuously reappeared throughout the 20th century. The style can be seen in the mantle cloaks of the 1930s, and in the 50s and 60s, stoles and short capes were worn by fashion icons Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe. Even more recent fashion trends indicate a renewed interest in capes, cloaks, and capelets, and major fashion designers such as Marc Jacobs, Heidi Slimane, and Oscar de la Renta have even rolled them out on the 2019 fall runway. The capelet may have been a Victorian trend, but it looks like this style is here to stay.

Sources:

Dictionary.com Unabridged. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/capelet. Accessed 18 August 2019.

Pauline Weston Thomas. “Cloak Fashion History 3 – Edwardian Cape – Drawings 1890 to 1915”. Fashion-Era.com. https://www.fashion-era.com/coats_history/cloak_costume_history_3.htm. Accessed 18 August 2019.

Pauline Weston Thomas. “Cloak Fashion History 4 – Line Drawings of Cloak Styles After 1900”. Fashion-Era.com. https://www.fashion-era.com/Coats_history/cloak_history_4.htm. Accessed 18 August 2019.

Buck, A. (1961). Victorian costume and costume accessories. New York, N.Y.: T. Nelson & Sons. https://vintagedancer.com/victorian/victorian-capelet-shawl/. Accessed 18 August 2019.

“Cloak – Facts and History of Cloak”. History of Clothing. http://www.historyofclothing.com/clothing-history/cloak/. 2019. Accessed 18 August 2019.

Justine Carreon. “A Complete Guide to the Top Trends of Fall 2019”. Elle. https://www.elle.com/fashion/trend-reports/a26147021/fall-fashion-trends-2019/. 9 August 2019. Accessed 18 August 2019.

The Tailcoat

Few other articles of clothing say “dapper” like a sleek, black tailcoat! Whether it’s worn for a wedding, evening dinner, prom or a dance performance, the tailcoat is always elegant and brings to mind the dressier days of bygone years. Let’s take a look at what tailcoats are, where they originated and how they made their mark in the fashion world.

What is a Tailcoat?

The history of this unique jacket goes all the way back to the early 1800s, where it was worn as a horse-riding outfit. The knee-length, double-breasted sports coat was the norm, of course, until someone introduced the brilliant idea of a tailcoat. This was a coat with the front cut away at the waist for the sake of easier maneuvering in the saddle.

The back remained knee-length, with a split down the center, so that the “tails” could fall comfortably over the back of the saddle and horse.

While most modern tailcoats are black, they were worn in many colors in the 19th century. Today, you’ll see men sporting them at formal gatherings, professional settings, equestrian competitions and military events.

Who Designed the Tailcoat?

The gentleman commonly attributed to the tailcoat’s design was a man named Beau Brummell (1778-1840), an Englishman who was intimate friends with the British aristocracy and who also became a recognized leader in the fashion of his day. Unfortunately, however, Brummell engaged in his high-society lifestyle without prudence and racked up unmanageable debts. He died an impoverished and abandoned man. However, his legacy of fashion continues to this day.

The Modern Tailcoat

Today’s tailcoats are no longer double-breasted and aren’t generally worn with a high, lacy collar as it was in the Regency Era. The color is usually restricted to black, paired with a bow tie and reserved for very formal settings such as weddings, orchestral concerts and proms.