Beanie Hats : from Wales to the World.

Posted: 07/11/2023 @ 12:11PM

Origins in Monmouth.

The beanie hat is known by several alternatives internationally, from toque, cap, skullcap, stocking cap, to bobble hat, but at one time it was known quite simply as the Monmouth Cap. Dating from the 15th Century the Monmouth cap was made by casting on at a lower edge and knitting in the round towards the top. Felt lined the Monmouth Cap fitted closely to the head often finished with a button to the top. Over time the button would be replaced by pom-pom to create the classic bobble hat.

Popular with labourers and fisherman initially the style quickly spread round the world thanks to sailors, with regional variations springing up, all with the same tapered design and snug fit. The beanies popularity would remain strong amongst working people as protection against the cold weather up until the beginning of the 20th Century.

Fred Perry Chunky Ribbed Beanie and the Fila Linus Stripe Knit Beanie.

Decline in Popularity.

In the aftermath of the Second World War the beanie began to decline in popularity, heavily associated with working men in particular it didn’t chime with new trends originating in America. The preppy and early rock’n’roll styles didn’t gel with the utilitarian aesthetic of the beanie and other alternative headwear to its place, with noticeably the baseball cap rising in popularity. However the style clung on in colder climbs, winter sports and was embraced to some degree by beatniks and then the hippie movement.


Nineties Resurrection.

The beanie arguably came into its own in the 90s when it became more than a head warmer but became a stylish accessory and all-year wardrobe staple. They became associated with the young, cool and hip and were embraced by movements from skaters to alt-rockers. The popularity has maintained into the 21st Century with beanies becoming ever more colourful, bold and bright. Most definitely no longer just reserved for manual workers, hippies and skate kids the style that started in Monmouth is now for anyone to wear and look great in a beanie hat.

Failsworth Aran Cable Knit Pom-Pom Beanie and the Levi's® Essential Ribbed Batwing Beanie.

What’s in a Name?

So why is a beanie called a beanie? Well there’s no definitive answer to that question but two explanations seem to gain the most traction. Firstly in the early 1900s when the style was being popularised in the USA they simply used the slang term bean meaning head. This would make sense for skull fit cap. Alternatively the name comes from the old button on the top of the hat which was said to resemble a bean, and from that the hat became the beanie.


Check out the wide range of Beanie and Bobble hats available at Atom Retro here.

The only known example of an original Monmouth cap dating from the 16th century, in the Monmouth museum (sadly unavailable onsite).