Boys' Caps: Beanies


Figure 1.--This boy in a rural school about 1915 wears a beanie. A HBC reader dates the image to 1912. The boy in the beanie seems rather old to be wearing one, but I'm not sure just what age boys wore them. This shows that beanies were being worn in the 1910s, we do not yet have any photographic ecidence that boys were wearing them earlier.

The beanie was a popular informal boys' cap style in the early 20th century. The beanie was not as popular as the flat cap and was not worn for formal occassions, but it was popular for some time. It appears to have been an exclusively American style. It is a now little known cap in America where all boys wear baseball caps For a time (1940s to about the mid 1950s) some boys wore a felt or cloth cap that looked a bit like a crown - roundish top with a short, turned up brim cut into a series of peaks. In the "Archie" comic books, Archie's pal, Jughead, wore this style of cap, as did Jeff's (Tommy Rettig) friend, "Porky", from the early televised Lassie series. There were some soecialized styles. Like many caps, this was an exclusively boys' styles. We never note girls wearing them.

Style

The beanie is a small brimless cap. The beanie is a small, round skull-cap, cut in gores to make it fit the head. The classic beanie was fringed with jagged saw like fringe. They varied widely in color, often combining two colors. It was a small, round skull-cap, cut in gores to make it fit the head.

Terminolgy

The term "beanie" is a turn of the 20th century one for the cap worn by boys. Several other terms are: beany, dink, dinky, and calot. Thet were also called skullcaps and wlders' caps. The term "beanie" must have evolved from the American slang term for head--"bean". We do not know the origins for this expression, but it was current in baseball slang. A "bean ball" was a pitch aimed at the batters head. The verb "to bean" was to strike the batter on the head with a pitched ball. The term beanie was so established by the 1950s that in the cartoon "Beany and Cecil", the boy (Beany Boy), took his name from the propeller beanie that he wore.

Gender

Like many caps, this was an exclusively boys' styles. We have never noted girls wearing them.

Country Trends

The beanie was a destinctly American cap. I have not noted them in other countries.

Terminology

The beanie was similar to a scull cap, at least the crown part. "Dinky" or "Dink" was also used to signify a beanie.

Origin

I'm not sure who first came up with the idea or where. A reader suggests that it was created for mechnics as a kind of protective headwear. A bill might have gotten in the way and was necesary as they commonly worked inside a shop of some kind.

Colors

We have no information on the color of the beanies. Some of the beanies worn by men were bright colors. We are not yet sure about the beanies boys wre in te early 20-th century. Often the beanies came with multi-colored pie-shaped wedges. Some of the wedges may have been bright colors. School beanies sere often don in the school colors. The beanies that reappeared in the 1950swere done in various colors, but not real bright colors like the noely beanies appearing in the 1990s.

Accompanying Clothes

Boys with beanies would often be wearing knickers. Unlike flat caps, beanies were not usually worn with suits. They were more of an informal style. We do not see boys wearing beanis with suits. They were worn with casual or play suits.

Usage

Many cap styles have definitive usages. The peaked cap, for instance, is worn when dressing up in America. (In Britain it was a school style.) The baseball cap was a play style. Other caps had more varied usage such as the flat cap. The beanie was definitely a play cap. All the images we have found show boys wearing beanies with casual clothes at play or pick up games-usually baseball.. Usually the boys are wearing knickers. We have noted some boys wearing beanies to school, but play was much more common.

Chronology

HBC has noted American boys wearing beanies during the 1910s, 1920s, and 30s. HBC reader Reverend Antonio Hernandez, who has published a book on scull caps and realted styles like beanies tells HBC that beanies in fact appeared long before the 1910s. Beanies were apparently first worn by adult men. They were distributed to mecahics, welders, ect. for protection from grime, dust, and the weight of the welder's mask. They may have gone home wearing these beanies and of course junior always wanted to dress like dad. Rev. Hernandez reports, "My father wre these, and told me that they date back to the time that he was a teenager. So most likely they were a well-established cap style by then. He is now 90 years old. [In 2001] The beanies he wore were bright orange, for visability I think and bore a commercial stamp of some kind, maybe a welding or mechanics' supply company." HBC can not yet confirm, however, that boys were wearing them before the 1910s." HBC has very limited information on beanies. We have not yet found images from the 1900s, but we do notice tem being worn in the 1910s. They were worn in colleges, but we are not yet sure about the chronology. Beanies made a minor comeback in the 1950s, due in large to the popularity of Beany and Cecil, an animated cartoon. Even Beaver Cleaver wore one in one episode--but the never approached their earlier popularity.


Figure 2.--This beanie is black felt with red and white candy stripe edging. The cap is covered in various buttons, including 8 pin-back buttons, Red Cross, I LIKE IKE, Scouting, etc. This dates it to the 1950s.

Pins and Badges

Often pins and badges of various sort adorned them as well as novelty propellers. Boys liked to attach a wide variety of buttons and pins to their beanies. I'm not sure though when that convention began. A HBC reader speculates that attaching pins to beanies alnost certainly started as as soon as pins were available. One early pin at the turn of the century was the Heinz pickle pin at the turn of the century. Political pins may have been available even earlier. Pins wee attached to other headwear, but none extensively as the beanie. I'm not precisely sure why this was. perhaps because it was cionsidered such an informal cap. Naturally college students had their fraternity pins or even Greek letters embroidered on their beanies. Actually the convention of pinning on items to headwear has considerable historical precedent. The Scotts pinned feathers and sprigs to their blue bonnets (a tam or beret-like cap). This convention has not entirely disappeared. Scouts today like to attach all kinds of pins to their caps. This appears especially popular in America.

Media

Some of the kids in the Our Gang film shorts during the 1930s wore beanies which helps to date them. Jughead in the Archie comics wore a classic jagged edge beanie, but this appears to have been more of a stylistic device than a reflection that older boys were wearing them at the time. A popular 1950s televesion show featured the characters of Beany and Cecil. They were first seen as puppets created by Bob Clampett on the 1950's show Time for Beany, which featured Captain Horatio Huffenpuff and his nephew Beany Boy. They traveled the high seas aboard the boat Leakiní Lena. Beany of course worn a red and white beanie with a prominent propeller. The show favorite was Cecil--the constantly seasick sea serpent. Some of us recall mailing a dime or a quarter and two Kellogs box tops for a Beanie cap complete with propeller.


Figure 3.--This beanie is black felt with red and white candy stripe edging. The cap is covered in various buttons, including 8 pin-back buttons, Red Cross, I LIKE IKE, Scouting, etc. This dates it to the 1950s.

Specialized Styles

The beanie is best known as a popular headwear style for Anerican boys in the early 20th century. In addition to this basic usage, we notice a variety os specilized beanie styles. We note several specialized styles of beanies. The best known thanks to Cecil and Beany is the propeller beanie. This was not a beanie commonly worn by American children, but has taken on iconic status. Another specialized type of beanie is the Moskaears beanie. They were first worn by the Disney Mousksteers during the 1950s. I don't think that they were any where as popular as coon-skin caps, but the younger children loved them, both boys and girls. And of course the millions of children who have visited the various Disneyland theme parks. Beanies were also worn at American colleges, often by the incoming freshmen.

Accompanying Clothing

American boys wearing beanies in the early 20th century almost always wore them with knickers or to a lesser extent short pants. We're less sure how boys wearing beanies in the 1950s dressed, probably the most common outfit would be casual clothes like a striped "T"-shirt and jeans.

Social Connotations

Available images suggest that beanies in the early 20th century were most commonly worn by street kids. This would conform with the theory that beanies originated with welders and other workmem. We have not noted any photographs with affluent kids commonly wearing beanies. The beanies worn in the 1950s, however, were more commonly worn by moddle-class suburban kids.

Countries

The beanie appears to be primarily an American style. Almost all of the images we have noted have been from the United States. We have noted them in many snap shots--but not in formal portraits, because it was such a casual style. They alsp appear in movies. A Canadian reader reports that his mother reports that his uncles used to wear beanies in the 1940s and 50s in Saint John. He is not sure, however, about the ages. We have not noted them being worn in Europe.

Photography

HBC notes relatively few photographic images of boys wearing beanies. In many insrances, HBC would use this as an indicator that the beanie was not very popular. We believe, however, that the paucity of portraits may be die to the fact that the beanie was an informal cap. Presumably mothers insisted that their sons wear a little more formal headwear when they were to be photographed.


Figure 4.--This boy, Peter Miles, wears a beanie for a film ("The Good Humor Man") about 1950. Note the Captain Marval shirt. Clothes with film and TV charcters began appearing in America after World War II. The image is rather an icon of 1940s American boyhood, he wears a beanie and a classic comic book hero shirt while woofing down a Good Humor bar. Although not shown, he alsonwears jeans and Keds. Interesting that this all American boy was born in Tokyo as Gerald Richard Perreau-Saussine.

Colleges and Fraternities

Beanies were also used at American colleges as part of freshman initition. Colleges had the beanies for many years. Freshmen were required to wear them to differentiate them from the rest of the college. They were still being used at some colleges in the early 1960s. Also, graduation hats were the beanies with a square on top. I do not know the signifigance of this, just noting the issue. Also, I have seen academics wearing a beanie in medieaval times. Beanies were also used by fraternities, lodges, and other male social clubs.

Religious Caps

Jewish scull caps are similar to beanies. Similar caps are also worn with by cardinals and popes. A HBC contributor suggests that this may be the origin of the beanie though I am uncertain. These caps are different from the standard boys' beanie because the beanie often had a ring of materail around the crown.

Background

Rev. Antonio Hernandez has provided some background information. He reports, "I am an expert on skullcaps and have just finished a book on the history and socio-political significance of them. Skullcap is the appropriate formal name for a beanie- "beanie" was coined in the US in the 1920's. "Dinky" or "Dink" was also used to signify a beanie. In my tradition we wear skullcaps though not as religious articles. They are all essentially identical-seen one, seen 'em all. Now I make my own patterned after any tradition. As a child we wore the brown beanies with the buttons or bottlecaps. The Babylonians had skullcaps, but we know little of these. The first popular beanie was the Greek PILOS, borrowed by the Romans and rendered into PILIOS. This is the skullcap that spread far and wide. Today it is seen on the heads of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics, Druze, Zoroastrians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews. It is true that no other country has a purely "pop" beanie fad as America once did- but almost every nation in the world has a skullcap tradition and the boys begin wearing them as soon as they can walk." Rev. Hernandez tells us that he hs posted a free copy of his book on skullcaps and beanies is availabe online. (The reader needs Adobe to read this book.)

Litigation

The humble beanie has even reached the U.S. Suptreme Court. In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Rabbi S. Goldman, who sued for the right to wear a yarmulke under his Air Force uniform. The Court ruled that yarmulkes while in uniform are illegal, and this decision stands.

Research

Unfortunately reserching beanies on the internet is fruitless as their are thousand of "beannie baby" sites that come up. A HBC reader suggested searching on "beanie cap" may help. We tried that, but most of the sites that came up were companies wanting to sell beanies. There seem to be quite a number.

Individual Boys

There are several photographs of boys wearing beanies archived on HBC. They are all American boys. A good example is an unidentified American boy in 1921.

Sources









HBC





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Created: August 27, 2000
Last updated: 12:56 AM 11/6/2008