How to Keep Warm and Look Cool: It Used to Be the Unwanted Present from an Elderly Aunt. So How Did the Woolly Hat Become Fashionable? (Christmas Features)

By Barbieri, Annalisa | New Statesman (1996), December 16, 2002 | Go to article overview

How to Keep Warm and Look Cool: It Used to Be the Unwanted Present from an Elderly Aunt. So How Did the Woolly Hat Become Fashionable? (Christmas Features)


Barbieri, Annalisa, New Statesman (1996)


Fashion's ability to turn full circle is one of its loveliest aspects. As one trend laps round another, we eventually end up wearing what we once loathed and ridiculed. It makes fools of us all, while making us think we are trendy, which is exactly how it should be. This Christmas, one fashion stands, quite literally, head and shoulders above the crowd to illustrate this very point: woolly hats.

My first remembered brush with such things came when I was seven years old. Staying up late to wait for Christmas midnight mass, I opened a present from an aunt in Italy to find a woolly hat, in red. I adored it but eventually gave it up to the back of the cupboard as something I wouldn't be seen dead in. And thus it was with woolly hats for years: something worn only by children young enough to still have a loyalty to whichever (invariably) female relative had made it for them; until they saw sense and realised that fashion wasn't about staying warm. It was about looking cool. Until, that is, such time as staying warm seems like a good idea again -- about the same time that you realise you don't know what the No 1 in the pop charts is any more -- and you start quoting that "80 per cent of body heat goes out of one's head" in justification.

That's how it was until this year, when woolly hats became so hot they're cool, thereby making it fashionable to stay warm. But because fashion can never be completely about comfort, woolly hats actually started being worn by the most stylish folk in the hottest heat of last summer: at the Glastonbury festival, it seemed every head was capped in wool.

It's important to identify the exact genus of woolly hat that is currently at the pinnacle of fashion. It is nothing with a bobble, ear flaps, tassles or a brim; it's not like a beanie hat, which sits at the crown of the head, leaving the ears exposed. No. The woolly hat that is at the head of the fashion table is as worn by the musicians Badly Drawn Boy or Enrique Iglesias. For those catwalk groupies -- and I know you're out there -- it was as shown in the autumn/winter 2002 collections of Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs and Emporio Armani. It is a hat worn completely and tightly to cover the hair and ears, sometimes pulled far down enough to cover even the eyebrows. …

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