Cult item: beanie hat
By Will Morley, 18 February 2016
We all know how beanie hats got their name – we’ve heard the story a million times. How on that fateful day when Beenie Man was down the pound shop picking up some beans to make a three bean salad, he accidentally bumped into a shelf, knocking a discount tea cosy down onto his head. Turned out, he loved the look, exclaiming ‘Sim Simma! This’ll look cracking in the dancehall,’ and fashion history was made.
Or was it? There is also an alternative theory that yarn knit hats had been worn throughout Europe and Scandinavia as far back as the 17th century. They continue to be popular with workers labouring outside in cold-weather climates up to the present day, where the wool has been replaced with acrylic. Either of these histories could be true – it’s just difficult to know which one.
Perhaps one of the most iconic beanies in recent history is Bill Murray’s as Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic. Based on the hat of real-life adventurer Jacques Cousteau, the cuffed knit worn above the ears is as close as it’s possible to get to a World War Two watch cap. Watch caps were issued to members of the US Navy and coast guard to protect against inclement weather when standing on watch. Murray’s, of course, is famously a whimsical red/orange, while the OG watch cap is usually black, blue or, in case of the army, olive.
If you’re going to go oversized you may as well go all out, as J-Biebs here proves by finishing his look with a big, ballsy beanie. Layered oversized tees, a baggy graduating-grey cardigan and slim, battered jeans bring the knit hat bang up to date. Whether he knows he’s rocking his hat like a Scandinavian ‘tomte’ from the 1800s is inconsequential when his look is so turnt.
Business street style
Look at this champ! Swaggering down the street, taking a pinch of Robert Redford from Downhill Racer with his turtle neck, a dash of Sean Connery from Goldfinger with his grey suit (albeit turned up a notch with a double breast and peak lapels), then finishing with a smidgeon of Jack Nicholson from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with his beanie. Taking something so associated with casual steez as a knit cap and using it to finish off a sharp formal suit is a bold move that’s paid dividends for this guy.
Wearing plum with aplomb can be difficult, but just a touch works wonders. Fashionista Jay Xyyx projects a sophisticated and worldly air of ‘beanie there, done that’ with an American-heritage inspired look, anchored with a letterman jacket and high-waist trousers. Again, he's taken the rugged styling of the 40s naval workers with their ribbed, cuffed, knit hats, and moulded and adapted it into something more street-style appropriate.
It isn’t just high-street fashion that reps the beanie. Gucci crowned their models with bobble hats as they walked the catwalk for their 2016 autumn/winter collection. Projecting a sense of fun (or just having a laugh, depending on how seriously you take high fashion) the models were adorned with pussy-bow shirts and dandy overcoats with too-short sleeves, flip-flops and pom-pom hats. Lord Byron meets Where’s Wally? if you will.
Caught the beanie bug? Check out four ways of rocking one here.