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Beanie Hats – How They Got Their Start

By Taylor James


Updated on

Nowadays, beanies are a given when it comes to your wardrobe. Most people have multiple beanies in different colors and even sizes. It seems as though there’s not a single celebrity that doesn’t step out in a beanie during the winter months, and sometimes will even wear a beanie as a fashion statement in the summer. Right now, Carhartt beanies (Amazon) are all the rage with celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna sporting them in the public eye.

Even though beanies are such a popular and common part of your closet, you probably don’t know much about how beanies got their start. Here’s a little about the origin of beanies hats that you probably don’t know.

Man wearing a grey beanie

How did the beanie get its name?

There’s some debate about how the beanie hat actually got its name. Although the actual origin isn’t known, here are the three theories that etymologists believe could be true. The beanie could be named after a button on the top of the original “beanie” hat that may have been referred to as a “bean”.

Beanie could also come from the evolution of the word for a type of Medieval hat that was often worn by students called a bejaunus or beanus. The last theory is much more simple. Some believe that the term beanie might simply have come about, because the head was referred to as a “bean” in slang during the 1900s. The world may never know where the term actually came from, but it’s fun to consider the options.

Beanies were the hats of scholars.

A type of beanie has had a place on people’s heads dating all the way back to Medieval times! Yellow hats were worn in universities, presumably as a symbol of their pursuit of knowledge amongst other functional reasons, like warmth and to deter pests, like lice.

The beanie’s academic life didn’t end. Starting in the 1950s, Freshmen on many universities were required to wear beanies. In some ways it was considered to be a type of hazing. Shockingly, some universities still supply their freshmen with beanies, even though they’re no longer required to wear them as a nod to the old 1950s tradition.

Beanies were also the hats of hard working middle-class men.

Perhaps beanies are so popular, not because of their place in academia, but rather their functional use for hard working men. Blue collar workers like mechanics and welders adopted the beanie, because it’s extremely functional. A beanie allowed them to easily keep hair out of their faces while working. It was ideal, too, because the knit material kept them warm in the cold, but cool enough in warmer temperatures. Unlike other types of hats, beanies also don’t have brims that might obstruct their view from what they were working on. Considering that working conditions could be dangerous for blue collar workers, having their full field of vision was potentially a life-saving commodity.



About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.