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.

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!