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Nightcaps: Past and Present

By Taylor James


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Trends change throughout the years, and what people wear to bed is no exception. In the past, people have worn many different things while sleeping. While it might seem uncommon now, nightcaps were popular to wear to bed.

People wear nightcaps to bed to keep hair from tangling, silk nightcaps can also make hair look shiny. However, historically most nightcaps were cotton or wool. They also helped people to stay warm.

Nightcaps may not be as popular now, but they have a long history. In the past and today, nightcaps can protect your hair while you sleep.

night scene with a person wearing a traditional night cap.
Evgeny Atamanenko@123rf.com

Victorian Era Nightcaps

While nightcaps existed well before Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom, caps were popular during the era. Many women wore nightcaps to bed in the 19th century.

At the time, electricity wasn’t available, so it was hard, if not impossible, to heat the home. During the winter, homes could get very cold. Because of that men and women would wear long nightgowns to keep their bodies warm.

A thick nightcap could keep the head warm, but nightcaps of the time weren’t always the most fashionable. Women needed nightcaps to protect their heads, so it didn’t matter what the caps looked like. Some women had multiple bonnets to account for changing temperatures outside and would change them throughout the year.

Edwardian Era Nightcaps

At the turn of the 20th century, nightcaps lost a bit of popularity. They were not thought of as fashionable in any way. And as more homes gained electricity, the need for nightcaps for temperature control wasn’t as critical.

From about 1900 to 1910, women stopped wearing nightcaps. However, nightcaps came back within a decade for a different reason. Despite cold homes being less of an issue, women started using nightcaps to protect their curls. Silk and laced styles became more common in the 1920s.

Modern Nightcaps

In the 21st century, nightcaps may not be as popular as they were a hundred years ago. However, some women still use them for many of the same reasons as our ancestors. A nightcap can be a valuable tool for taking care of your hair while you sleep.

You can find nightcaps in various colors, styles, and fabrics. Depending on your hair type, you can find a sleep cap that works for you. While it’s not a massive trend, you may have more options than ever regarding nightcaps.

If you struggle to brush or comb your hair in the morning or your head gets cold at night, a sleep cap might be for you.

Avoid Tangles

Some people struggle with tangles in their hair. When your hair tangles and forms knots, it can be hard to brush or comb. You could end up breaking your hair, and it can be hard to avoid the issue.

While some detangling creams and sprays can help, so can a nightcap. You can wear the cap to bed to protect your hair while you sleep. That can keep your hair in good condition and keep it from tangling.

If you toss and turn, it can be easy for your hair to get caught on itself. But if you contain it in a nightcap, you won’t have to worry about that happening.

Make It Glossy

Silk nightcaps can also make your hair look shiny. If your hair looks dull and lifeless, you may have many products to help. But the silk can make your hair look good and reduce the risk of damage.

You can get the same benefits as if you used a silk pillowcase, but it won’t matter what pillows you use. So if you need to wash your pillowcase or if you’re traveling, you can still make your hair shiny and protect it overnight.

While you can use nightcaps of other materials, they won’t provide the same glossy sheen to your hair. So keep that in mind when selecting a sleep cap if you want to use one.

Check out these silk caps on Amazon.

Keep Hair Out of the Way

If you have long or thick hair, you can use a nightcap to keep your hair out of the way. Your hair could get caught as you lay down and find the best sleeping position. You could end up with your hair under your shoulder, for example.

Some people will put their hair up to eliminate the issue. But putting your hair in a ponytail or bun could cause other problems. The hair tie may cause a bend in your hair, and it may be hard to get the bump or bend out in the morning.

Even if you have short hair, keeping it out of the way can be helpful. You don’t have to worry about pulling on it in your sleep. And when you wake up, your hair can look smooth and sleek.

Temperature Control

It may not be a huge issue, but you may want a nightcap if your head gets cold. If you don’t have adequate heating in your home, your head may get cold at night. So wearing a nightcap is an easy solution to the problem.

Just make sure you get a thicker nightcap that will keep your head warm. While the silk ones can help protect your hair, they may not be right in a frigid environment.

Best Nightcap Fabrics

If you want to get a nightcap, you should consider the fabric. Think about your goals for the nightcap as well as your budget.


Cotton is an excellent material if you want a simple nightcap to keep your hair up while you sleep. It’s relatively breathable, and you can find a cotton nightcap that suits your needs. You can get one on a budget and find one in your favorite color.


Satin and silk nightcaps are especially popular for hair care. If you want to keep your hair from tangling or increase the shine, you should choose a satin or silk option like this very popular cap on Amazon. You can find them in different colors and styles based on what you like.

You can check out this guide comparing silk and satin sleep bonnets.

Final Thoughts

Nightcaps may not be the next biggest trend, but they’re useful for many things. People used to wear them to stay warm and protect their hair. And if you need those things, there’s no reason why you can’t find your perfect nightcap.

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.

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