50 Shades of Aleks Grey — Meet the Norwegian Artist

Aleks Grey
Category: People:Passion People:Passion
| June 3, 2022

Four years old, in my small Norwegian West Coast township, I often put on a vest and played keyboard for my family. My mom has said I would always pretend to be Elton John. Nowadays it’s shoes off and red hat up top — and my name is Aleks Grey.

Red beanie hat Norwegian music artist
Recording “Myself Hurt” in a Vikingship.

My grandfather played the accordion, his brother the traditional Norwegian violin, hardingfele. My mom plays the violin, and my father plays piano and sax. Suffice to say, I have always had a lot of music around me.

I grew up in a beautiful, quiet township called Heggjabygda, located near Nordfjordeid on the West Coast of Norway. The size and remoteness of the community meant that I often found myself with a lot of time on my own — time I spent making my own melodies and eventually lyrics.

Aleks Grey is dropping a new single at the release date of this article.

I took piano lessons, taught myself how to play the guitar. I was always singing as well, although not publicly until I was 15 or 16 years old. I was, and still am, shy, but at the same time there is no greater feeling than being on stage.

The size and remoteness of the community meant that I often found myself with a lot of time on my own — time I spent making my own melodies and eventually lyrics.”

Aleks Grey

The Grey sound

When I was 20, I got accepted to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. That same year I started my own solo project under the stage name Aleks Grey.

People always ask, “Oh, Aleks, what’s the story? Does it have anything to do with 50 Shades of Grey?!”

Well… anyway…

From 2013 to 2016 I lived in Liverpool making music, friends and a lot of good memories, and somewhere along that journey I discovered my sound. As it turned out, it was way more connected to my home and roots than I thought.

Norwegian musician wearing a red hat in the Mountains
My roots consist of Norwegian fjords, valleys and mountains.

Some people roll with the bands and artists they heard at home growing up, but my parents listened to Katie Melua, Gypsy Kings and Dire Straits. Don’t get me wrong, they have some good songs, but it just didn’t click with me when I was in my teens — I was still searching.

Oh man I feel old, thinking back on MTV, TV ads for new CD’s, Absolute Hits, McMusic… That was how I discovered new music. There was no New Music Friday or Discover Weekly.

For my own songwriting I never knew exactly where I was going. Drawn here and there, and inspired by different sources at different times, I meddled in dubstep, folk rock, singer songwriter ballads, house/EDM, jazz and more, but there wasn’t any consistency.

“The more I experimented, the more I realized I wanted to make music with my hands.”

Aleks Grey

Moving back to Oslo in 2016 I really wanted to make more electronic pop, really “up to date”/ top 20 kind of music. But I quickly found out that I don’t have it in me to become like Martin Garrix, Calvin Harris, Ryan Tedder and those guys.

I always seemed to move towards something more organic. The more I experimented, the more I realized I wanted to make music with “my hands.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking a dig at EDM producers or other producers that only use electronic devices and programming — they can have just as much talent as the next guy.

I just found out it’s not really my sound. 

I had to follow the calling back to my roots.

Norwegian music artist Aleks Grey as a child

I grew up singing, and playing piano and guitar. It was with these three tools I wrote songs. And I always wrote my lyrics by hand. It was a more analog approach.

Through my explorative journey I’ve found my sweet spot between the modern sound, and modern tools, and connected it with my roots. In my song B.A.B.Y. I wanted a violin solo, performed by my good friend Madelene Berg. It’s pretty unusual for a pop song in the 2020’s to have a violin intro, but that is the personal twist that comes from my roots.

Norwegian musicians in the studio, with a violin player.
Madelene Berg recording violin for “B.A.B.Y.”

Inspired by the Norwegian mountains and fjords

Most days I do my writing in the studio, but I like the idea of going to my family’s cabin. Well, it’s more like a small hut. A 45 minute walk from our ranch, we have a 200 year old cabin. No power, no water. Just a wood stove and candles. And the idea of being there, with a notebook and an acoustic guitar and still being able to write my music, might be the purest reconnection with my roots.

But I have more ways than one.

Norwegian artist Aleks Grey in his home town in Norway.
In the mountains of Norway.

To do my best work I need to have the right atmosphere. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I built my own studio together with two mates. We tore down walls, rebuilt, did soundproofing, and painted the place. We call it Pytt Studio. Pytt is the Norwegian word for a puddle. So the Norwegian nature intrudes on the music again.

We built our own studio desk using the top of an old table, combining it with some modern, slender “legs”. At the most we’ve had over 30 plants in the studio. It’s green from the floor till the roof. We even got plants in the ceiling. Most studios I’ve been in are very clean with led lights and black acoustic panels. We’ve gone in the opposite direction.

We get coffee beans from Sognefjord Kaffibrenneri, so every morning we grind beans and put on a fresh pot of coffee. I then sit down by the piano, an old thing from East-Germany. It sounds old and “rusty” but yet it has a certain tone and warmth that I love.

The painter Erik Bergan has painted a puddle (the “pytt”) on one of our walls. So we’ve really made it our own and we’re very happy with that. No matter the weather outside, or whatever is going on in the world, I can always go there and get the same good atmosphere every time. 

Norwegian musician Aleks Grey at the grand piano.
At the grand piano.

What’s up next…

In August 2021 me and two friends went to Ocean Sound Studio at Giske, just outside Ålesund. This studio is the perfect combination of a world class, up to date studio, with just mesmerizing surroundings.

Together with Iselin Solheim, we wrote two new songs. One song is releasing today (!), the other will follow soon after. I’m also heading to Germany to play my first festival of the year, and when fall hits, I’ll be playing in Oslo.

And as always I will try to find that balance between the modern, electronic music, and blend in sounds from my 100 year old piano and my grandfather’s accordion.

Written by Aleks Grey
Published on June 3, 2022 in People:Passion
Aleks Grey is a Norwegian pop-artist, hailing from a small town in the west. In 2021 Aleks Grey was listed on major Norwegian radio (NRK P3) as well as airplay on BBC Radio in the UK and German radio. In 2022 he signed a record deal with MTG Music and i soon set to release new music.

Conquer Your Fear of Beanies in 3 Simple Steps

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Red Hat Culture Red Hat Culture
| May 27, 2022

Growing a beanie company and staying true to your authentic core is actually very hard. It requires taking deep breaths, hydrating frequently, and considering all things before acting. This is a story of when I almost went astray.

Averagely one third of your life is spent working, so I refuse to spend that time with something I don’t care about. I will say what I believe, and I will believe what I say, even when running a brand.

But one has to adapt.

For you to even know that our beanies exist, I have to do certain things. Like focus on beanies only, use the keyword beanie, like I’m doing right now. Maybe even bolden or italicize the word beanie.

Sometimes, this tinkering with words and trying to reach out through the internet, goes too far.

Thus the title of this article.

How Beanies Saved My Life

Colorful hand knit beanie
Find this beanie on the Market.

Back to that title…

I was learning about Instagram, algorithms, numbers and stats and blah blah blah. Then, somewhere deep down the wormhole, I encountered this link, saying “Headline Generator.

My curiosity was piqued, so I gave it a click.

It’s one of the funniest, stupidest so-called tools I’ve ever seen.

First click created the headline I used for this article, then…

“The Truth About the Beanie Industry”

“5 Things the Media Hasn’t Told You About Beanie”

“How Beanies Saved My Life”

“How to Have a Healthier Relationship With Beanies”

“11 Ways Beanies Can Suck the Life Out of You” — this one gave me a chuckle for sure.

“The Devastating Environmental Impact of Beanies”

We could go on forever. I was chuckling every time I hit generate titles.

The funny thing is, I would have loved to read most of those articles. And I could write them if I wanted to. Maybe use The Truth About the Beanie Industry to expose how my mother’s wrists aches from knitting too much. Or 11 Ways Beanies Can Suck the Life Out of You to tell of how my dad, groaning, has to size-test a new beanie design yet again.

I mean, I’m already writing from the first generated title.

How to Have a Healthier Relationship With Beanies

Four colors of hand knit wool beanies
Our collection is always growing.

There is always something to learn (one of my core values) even in a stupid title generator. There is something there about how we humans are wired, and what we find interesting.

But more than anything, I am learning more and more that Red Hat Factory is no longer my company. It belongs to each of you beanie and handcraft enthusiasts out there, who have taken part by getting one of our beanies.

And I’ve learned that writing what you like to read, doesn’t have to oppose what I like. We’re all human, and we can find something beautiful we call common ground.

The common ground we aim for is well wrapped up in the words patience, passion, hiking and handcraft.

Patience, because we honor old tested and tried values — like the patience it takes to develop a skill and craft a good product.

Passion, because we love other humans, and are interested about the moments when they create something with passion.

Hiking, because we love the outdoors (as every Norwegian is obliged to say).

Handcraft, because we believe there is something special about things made by human hands, and not machines.

Since we’re building this brand as a community, I hereby invite you into an open conversation — any and every feedback you have (whether on email, Instagram, or right here in the comments) is valued and considered carefully. And if many speak the same thing, I will more easily find those things that both you and I like.

As long as we center around the core values of patience, passion, hiking, and handcraft… and of course beanies.

Do you feel a little less afraid of beanies now?

I thought so.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on May 27, 2022 in Red Hat Culture
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

“If It’s Not Beanies, I Don’t Care” — A 2021 Recap

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: News Reel News Reel
| April 1, 2022

The picture above marked the beginning of an incredible journey. But before that, we did something we should have done a long time ago — hone in our focus on one single thing: Beanies.

This article is a look back on 2021, but to get this story right, I have to rewind to something I merely brushed past in our 2020 recap article, but turned out to be pivotal.

“This fall, I chose to put many side projects on ice, to let Red Hat Factory get the love it deserves.”


That right there is the greatest choice I have done in many, many years. Focus, it turns out was the one missing ingredient to bring Red Hat Factory from a side gig, to something that has started snowballing.

A terrible summer with great results

I was honestly doing terrible the summer of 2020. The last month before vacation, I woke up with panic attacks more nights than I didn’t, feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

So when vacation time arrived, I took a firm grip. I uninstalled social media and embraced the feel of grass beneath my feet and spent hours just looking at my nine month old son trying to traverse the lawn outside my parents’ house.

Honestly, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I needed a severe stress detox.

I decided to take exercise more seriously. I began running, though my asthma threatened to choke me every time. And I added some healthy food habits to complement it.

It was immensely hard to change those few core habits, but eventually it began paying off, and many of those changes have stuck with me, so now I’m stronger than before this panic ridden season began.

It was also an amazing summer, as described in that 2020 recap — but reading that article now, I feel like I painted a very one-sided shallow picture.

Playing in the garden of the beanie factory
My little guy helping my dad with garden work. (Photo is from 2021).

It’s better to have one bird in the hand

Me and my wife usually do a yearly review of all the activities we’re doing. We just sit down and rattle off everything we do, while the other takes notes. Are we doing too little of something, too much of something?

This year, I was tired. Tired of trying too many things. Tired of seeing a low return on work hours. I arrived at an epiphany. If it doesn’t hurt, I’m not killing my darlings properly. So I gathered up all my little pet projects, said a teary eyed goodbye, and promised myself I would not touch them ever again.

And I haven’t.

There were a lot of small projects that hurt to let go, but most painfully, I decided that I would stop pursuing new clients for my freelancing, and only focus on the ones I have, plus Red Hat Factory.

Red beanie
This is me focusing.

This freed up about 50% of my work time for Red Hat Factory. In the beginning it was yet another detox. I had to let idea after exciting idea die. Then a few days later that energy would resurrect inside of the confines of Red Hat Factory.

“I had to let idea after exciting idea die.”

There is a Norwegian proverb that translates to it’s better to have one bird in the hand than ten on the roof. Turning my back on those ten birds to nourish the one in my hand, is the best choice I’ve ever done.

Since then, the continual challenge has been not to heed their desperate bird calls. But the more I fall in love with that little bird in my hand, the less the call beckons.

Kevin — the best beanie photographer known to mankind

Ok, let’s get back to 2021.

I’ve learned since we began in 2016 that it all stands and falls on the presentation of the product. Our beanies have always been the same (with very minor adjustments), but our presentation has gotten better over time — and with it the reach of audience has grown.

That brings me back to that photo in the header.

I first heard of Kevin through a friend of a friend. It came to my ear that some guy in America (who happened to have a Norwegian heritage), loved what we were doing, and wanted to exchange product for photos.

Gray beanie
Kevin drinking soda on a hike in Maine.

So I sent him a beanie or two.

What I got back would actually change the course of Red Hat Factory. This was at the very tail end of 2020.

It is the picture we’ve been talking about all the time, and this picture marked the first time we got a Facebook ad to actually sell to you guys. We (both me, and you reading this) probably agree we have great beanies. But as I said, it comes down to the presentation. And on Facebook you have a split second to make that impression.

So long story short, we are working with Kevin all the time now. He now works with us, and crafts about 80% of all our content. He is just a swell guy, and the Norwegian heritage of this American fellow makes him an even more fitting member of the crew.

Do yourself a favor, get to know this man if you ever have a chance.

Kevin wearing the Westcoaster beanie
Kevin out doing one of his favorite pastimes.

The focus compounds — if it’s not beanies, I don’t care

“So we decided to just become the best hand knit wool beanie provider the internet has ever met.”

If the first stage of focus was Red Hat Factory. The second stage was honing in on beanies only. 2021’s mantra soon became, “if it’s not beanies, I don’t care.”

In 2020 we introduced wool socks and sweaters. Guess how many pairs of wool socks we sold… One pair (let me know if it’s you that have them). And wool sweaters? Zero.

With my newfound time to pour into Red Hat Factory, I had time to think things through, and look at analytics to find out where you guys actually connect with us. And I realized a couple of things.

You that find us on Google mostly care about beanies (and many of you love Steve Zissou and/or Jacques Cousteau, which is why our paths collide).

So we decided to just become the best hand knit wool beanie provider the internet has ever met, then we can consider other endeavors after that.

What is life without a mate?

In the summer time of 2021, the snowball had been rolling for a while, picking up speed, and we began talking to an old friend of mine about an investment into the company. He runs a business that further ahead in the tracks than ours, and I have often gone to him for brand building advice.

The conversations stretched out, and it took quite an unexpected turn. By the end of 2021 my old friend became a partner in Red Hat Factory — and he brings a lot of goods to the table: Experience, feedback, and most of all the sense of strength that is only found in companionship.

We’re growing, and it’s a lot of fun to have y’all along for the ride.

It was together with him that I made the final decision — to hide away the socks and sweaters for later, and have one single focus — beanies, beanies, beanies.

To clean up our trail

So what have we actually done in 2021? It’s simple.

  • Enjoyed the restfulness that comes with a clearer focus.
  • Polished up our website, instead of coming up with new ideas. (Finally get to do all those small things I’ve wanted to do forever!)
  • Written new articles. (Writing is the number one thing I enjoy doing and want to get better at.)
  • Polished up old articles that already get traffic from Google. (Oh, man it feels so good to improve on stuff that felt a bit off.)
  • And most of all, we’ve prepped our Kickstarter — but that story belongs mainly in the 2022 recap.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Main thing being that focus is a key to combat stress.

If I can manage to let a good idea go, I am set for success. We all have our cruxes to get to the next level —this one turned out to be mine. If I can’t do it properly, I’m not doing it. And if anything steals focus from presenting those beanies in the best possible way, I’m scrapping it.

“If I can manage to let a good idea go, I am set for success.”

Hopefully you notice that this article is more worked out than earlier ones. And this is due to one thing: Focus.

Man lærer så lenge man lever. That’s a Norwegian proverb, and it simply means you learn as long as you live. There is no “reaching the top,” so why stress to get there. I’d rather do a few things well, than spread all my energy like butter scraped over too much bread.

And if Bilbo (the hobbit behind that butter-allegory) would pick a beanie, I pray he’d pick a Red Hat Factory one.

Yeah. That’s a good focus going forward.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on April 1, 2022 in News Reel
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

In Search of Stories — Behind the Westcoaster Film

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Adventure Stories Adventure Stories
| February 25, 2022

“The eastern face is rotten. It falls apart beneath your fingers.”
I was listening to an experienced mountain climber as he dreamed about about an old rugged mountain he had conquered near the western coast of Norway.

“The other side of the mountain however,” he continued with stars in his eyes. “It’s west-facing, you know. One kilometer of straight climbing, and not one rotten section.”

The finished Westcoaster video.

Instantly my mind wandered to the western fjord-ridden coast line of Norway. And I saw the dark storms; the hurricane gales bringing along a whipping sea spray, scouring clean the western cliff faces, until climbing conditions become pristine.

I might be completely wrong about why the west face is scoured clean — but about the gales roaring, and the sea rising to beat against mountain sides, I am not.

I have been in the midst of hurricane gales, braved dizzying heights, and stared out over inaccessible, bare cliff faces. And it was in this landscape the Westcoaster was conceived of.

Beanie in Norwegian fjords

One long beckoning coastline

The West Coast entails so much when one speaks of Norway. We’re a long, narrow country, and the coastline runs all the way from deep in the eastern Oslo fjord, around the southern tip of Norway (where I grew up) and continues all the way to the northern tip, and even beyond, wedging down south against the Russian border.

Once we Southlanders travel west, and round the south-western bend, the weather becomes wilder. The mountains steeper. The road starts needing ferries, bridges and unbelievably long tunnels to connect. And the further north you go, the more dreamlike it becomes.

I have not spent half the time I want in the fjords of western Norway, or on Lofoten, the northern protruding island cluster, famous among Norway travelers, but any chance to go there, I take.

So when my mom and I started developing a new beanie model, I looked for an opportunity to travel out there again to go and tell the story. And what a story it became!

Beanie testing in Norway

To the West Coast in search of stories

We tell each other stories to enrich each others’ lives. When it came to bringing the Westcoaster to the public, I wanted it to come along with a story of Norwegian heritage. Or rather, I first and foremost want to tell a story of my Norwegian heritage, and the beanie is there as a tangible touch point between you and our tale.

A thick beanie to face the wild winds of the West, was the concept we came up with. And we crafted our first winter beanie — inspired by the wild weather of the Norwegian West Coast.

And here came my excuse to venture out once again. We needed a video to present the project, and I instantly knew where to go.

The iconic Pulpit Rock. On normal days, it’s full of like minded adventurers, but since we were travelling in the thick of winter, we hoped we would be alone. It turned out our wishes would come more than true, but more about that later.

The new Westcoaster beanie in a Norwegian fjord.

First things first — a knitting mother documented

From we started Red Hat Factory, we knew we needed a brand that was as hand crafted as the beanies we knit. I want every picture, every graphic to be original content. So of course, we use my actual genuine mom for the knitting shots.

Filmed in my parent’s house, with my mom knitting a Westcoaster, this was a project for the history books.

Me and my good friend Ethan travelled from Stockholm, Sweden where we live, a ten-ish hour road trip to my childhood home on the Norwegian South Coast. We rested for a while, prepared a studio (moving furniture, decoration and lights around, getting it all right for the shots.) Then a day later the videographer arrived from Sweden as well.

We filmed all evening, trying to keep track of all the necessary shots, get the lightning right, nieces, nephews, children running around. (My mom suddenly wanting to go on an errand, and we having to deflect her.)

It was a wild ride, but it was just the beginning.

A Westcoaster beanie being knit.

The West Coast in a day

6AM the day after, we had uncovered our cars from the heavy snow fall of the night, and we travelled the nearly 5 hours to the foot of the Pulpit Rock hike. Daylight wastes quickly in a Norwegian December, so I was a bit stressed to capture the good light before it set.

When we arrived at the parking lot (conspicuously empty) we were first met by a woman coming out of a booth and looking us up and down. “There is a man,” she said, “that walks up to the Rock every day. He says the winds are particularly violent today, and he wouldn’t recommend anyone going up. And absolutely not going out on the Rock!

She looked us over again.

“At least you’re well dressed. If you go, at least rent some spikes.”

A few moments later, four guys (me, Ethan, videographer Simon and his cousin Emanuel) ventured up into the mountains dressed in four pairs of brutal looking ice spikes.

The hike is first on the lee side of the mountains. It wasn’t until we were near the top that the wind picked up. When we crossed the threshold of the storm, a grin spread across my face, as the wind violently whipped icy grains into my face.

The Norwegian was back in his element.

The Westcoaster beanie braving hurricane winds.

Hurricane winds and the might of the mountain

Before you go out to the Pulpit Rock plateau itself, there is one single place where you have to go past a narrow ledge. On one side a 600 meter drop, on the other a straight wall that you cant go around or up.

And this is the one spot that still haunts my dreams after this trip.

The gusts reached what we later learned were actually near hurricane speeds. And we were literally pushed around out there. But I had seen a gorgeous light on the other side of the Pulpit Rock plateau, and I wanted desperately to get out there and see.

So we moved out past the narrow point, crawled our way out and lingered.

I looked at the edge. And everything within me wanted to get out on the rock and just stare into that enticing light. There was something about the unreachability of it. The exclusiveness of the mighty mountain in a storm.

But right before I went for it, I was called back by my friends. And the chilling words that brought me back still gives me a shiver.

“If the wind picks up more than this, we’ll be stuck here.”

The Westcoaster beanie almost blowing off.

I knew it to be true, so we began fighting our way back. And all the while we shot footage here and there. The golden light lay over the fjord on the other side. The wild winds of the Norwegian West Coast truly blew — more than we could have asked for, and though none of our plans came to fruition, I think the film followed the script even better than planned.

And that final moment when I had to watch the others wait for the gusts of wind to die down, and leap past the narrow point — that is what still haunts me. It’s just too easy to imagine a hurricane gust pounding into my friends just at the right time, and down they go.

But we are all still here.

That same night, Simon and Emanuel drove all the way back to Sweden, spending 13 hours in the car tag teaming behind the wheel, and me and Ethan drove our 5 hours back to my parents.

We were spent! And I can’t imagine how the Swedes felt.

Gales of wind.
The yellow warning showed up on our phone. The numbers in parentheses are the gusts. 24–27,5 m/s equals a 10 on the Beaufort scale, and comes with the following warning: “Trees uprooted, considerable damage to buildings.”

Epilogue — it’s not over yet

The following day we rested a bit and cleaned up the studio. Then we travelled back to Sweden. And the day after that, we all (me, Ethan, and my wife) played our instruments at a Christmas charity concert.

The only reason we managed the trip was due to meticulous planning. But no matter how much one plans — one can’t tame the mountains. And my biggest memory from this trip is the feeling of exclusivity. We fought our way up in hurricane winds, where no one else went. And we were alone, above the golden light of the fjord, knowing we were at a place and time that will never be experienced again.

And the respect for the might of nature, and how small we are when the winds pick up in exposed places, is now ingrained in my Norwegian soul, deeper than ever.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on February 25, 2022 in Adventure Stories
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Beanie is the Word — The Linguistic Roots of Beanie, Hat, Toque and Cap

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Red Hat Culture Red Hat Culture
| February 7, 2022

When we first began to shape the language around Red Hat Factory, there was one word in particular that became a struggle — and it’s right there in our name.

A car is a car, a shovel a shovel, but a beanie…

It can be a beanie, a toque, a hat, a regular cap, a watch cap, a knit cap (all kinds of cap really). Some have told me “beanie” sounds cheap, but then “hat,” to me, just sounds like a brimmed hat a la Indiana Jones.

So what were we to choose? I went back and forth many times, changing wording on our website, until I finally did the rational thing. I checked what shows up in search results for the different words, and went with the one that fits best our product.Beanie” is now our main word, but with the occasional “hat” or “knit cap” to spice things up.

Red beanie hat in canoe
Whatever the name, the beanie hat is there to heat your bean. Photo: Kevin Erdvig.

The etymology of beanie

I love to look into the meaning of words every now and then. I am writing a fantasy novel on the side, and the quest to find the most precise word for the situation, is something I often indulge in.

So where does the word “beanie” come from?

Short answer: Nobody knows. But that doesn’t stop language professors from speculating. And speculating is fun.

Oxford English Dictionary says it probably comes from bean as a slang term for head. Pulling out the good old Occam’s razor, we should maybe surmise that this is where our search ends. (Though in truth, it ended at “Nobody knows.”)

“The fact that the slang term bean was used for head as early as 1905, is fascinating to me.”

There are other theories, but let’s ignore them. The fact that the slang term bean was used for head as early as 1905, is fascinating to me. I might have read too much Lord of the Rings, but I always had the sense that in the early 1900’s nobody used slang, and everybody were well versed in proper use of grammar and walked around in suits, checking their little pocket watches at every street crossing, while the camera dramatically pans in at their shocked faces when they realise they’re late.

A beanie
A beanie for your bean! Photo: Kevin Erdvig.

Well, we all have different kind of assumptions about history, and it’s healthy to poke holes in them every now and then.

The terms was originally a baseball term. A bean-ball was a pitch thrown at the batter’s head. From there we see it used more generally as in Bill the Conqueror, a novel (that I have absolutely not read or ever heard about) from 1924: “Have I got to clump you one on the side of the bean?”

So it makes total sense that a beanie would be the little thing your put on your bean.

The etymology of hat

Going to our second most used word for our head-apparel, I assumed we would be brought much further back in history. And in fact, we were brought so far back that the trail vaporises into the mist of history.

“From hat to hæt to hattuz, all the way to Proto-Indo-European root kad.

From hat to hæt to hattuz, all the way to Proto-Indo-European root kad. And that root word might, in my opinion, have the best, simplest and clearest meaning to what a hat is: “To guard, cover, care for, protect.”

So if you’re one of those non-existant people who insists on calling their bike-helmet a bike-hat. Well, you won! Enjoy it.

A beanie hat
A hat cold be so many things. Photo: Kevin Erdvig.

The etymology of toque

Going into this one I was curious. From interacting with Red Hatters across the globe, I’ve understood that the Canadians use this term. Canada has French parts, and toque sounds very French.

“It turns out I was right (pat-pat).”

It turns out I was right (pat-pat). The etymology of the word is simply “from French with unknown origin.” So that’s boring.

But don’t despair. There is fun to be had here too. I learned that in all parts of the world except Canada, the usage of toque refers to a cook’s hat. If you google “toque,” a lot of beanies with Canadian flags show up.

Given this, you understand why we refrain from using the word toque overly much.

A classic toque
If this man was a Canadian, he might call it a toque. Photo: Kevin Erdvig.

The etymology of cap

My favorite term to use for our beanies is the most precise one: Knit cap. Since our beanies are actually hand knit, this suits us exceptionally well. The common terms watch cap and knit cap both have one thing in common: Cap.

Cap is also, like hat, a very base word.

We can trace the roots of this word through Old English cæppe to Latin cappa, through some uncertain paths that lead us all the way back to Proto-Indo-European kaput — which means head.

Funny in and of itself that kaput means head. So if you say, “is your bean kaput?” you’re literally saying is your head head?

Anyway. Don’t go around saying that to each other.

Hope you enjoyed nerding out with me.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on February 7, 2022 in Red Hat Culture
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

5 Timeless Red Beanie Outfits

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Essentials Essentials
| October 16, 2020

There is something about a red beanie that stands out, yet fits well with almost every outfit. Let’s explore 5 outfits that go well with a red beanie, and — if we’re lucky — meet some of each style’s poster children.

#5: A red beanie and earth tones — get grounded

We begin with the simplest style. You can’t go wrong with brown and beige along with the red beanie. Here you even sneak a peek at the blue denim shirt, which we will get back to later on the list.

#4: A red beanie on a black sky — let it shine

Moving even further into the minimalist zone, we’ll explore the breaking point between black and midnight blue. Both of these provide the same result — a maximum contrast for your red beanie. Like a star in the night sky, the red now shines.

#3: Red beanie, army green jacket — Kanye West’s timeless choice

Before we move on to the more bold and iconic color combos, we want to visit one of my all time favorites. Army green.

In nature, the red beanie stands out against the green forest. So when you wear them both, you blend in, the beanie stands out. I think Kanye’s choice of apparel here is from 2017, but we are proponents of timeless apparel — and the red beanie and army green are both as timeless as styles come.

#2: Red beanie, yellow rain jacket — two icons clashing

Yellow has become the iconic color for rain jackets. Red is the same for beanies. Two bright icons together creates a colorful collision.

Thinking of the fisherman beanie as a concept, it makes even more sense. The rain jacket is a fisherman’s working wear, and thus draws out the history of the fisherman beanie in your outfit.

A red beanie with a yellow rain jacket.
Red beanie with yellow rain jacket. Fun fact: The depicted beanie, is the first model we ever made of our Southlander. (Sorry for the low quality picture.)

#1: Red cap, blue denim shirt — the Marvin Gaye, Jaques Cousteau and Steve Zissou choice

They are poster children for the red beanie, and are mentioned a lot in Red Hat Factory stories.

What Jacques Cousteau, Steve Zissou and Marvin Gaye’s iconic outfits have in common is the red/blue contrast, which is one of my personal favorites. If you add the texture of a denim shirt to a well textured beanie — you have an instant classic.

Bonus round: Confidence

Here at Red Hat Factory we are much more interested in seeing what you can come up with.

How you integrate our beanies into your style is way more fun than telling you how to do it. That is why we deliver our hand knit pieces each as a long unfolded tube of wool that you fold yourself.

After all, though it’s a corny thing to say, the best pieces of apparel are the ones worn together with confidence and comfort.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on October 16, 2020 in Essentials
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Jacques Cousteau — A Deep Dive

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Red Hat Culture Red Hat Culture
| October 6, 2020

He gets a lot of mention on Red Hat Factory. The legend, the sea farer — or more accurately, below-sea farer — the style guru for Red Hatters across the world and diving equipment development pioneer. But was he also a megalomaniac? Let’s find out.

Born 1910 in France, his career first pointed him towards the air. He had completed mostly every step on the way to become a naval pilot, when luck struck him.

He broke both his arms in a car accident.

Jacques and his son Philippe Cousteau
Jacques Cousteau and his son Philippe Cousteau.

It broke him out of his current career path, and maybe it made him think twice. After that accident, he chose to pursue his passion for the ocean, for which he would devote his whole life.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau the documentary film maker

At the beginning of WWII, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his wife Simone took refuge in Megève, a small village near the French Alps — not far from Mont Blanc. Here he met Marcel Ichac.

Cousteau and Ichac had one thing in common — documentary films. Ichac’s passion for showing inaccessible mountains to the public, and Cousteau’s passion for the depths, made for an interesting duo.

Jacques Cousteau filming under water.
Jacques Cousteau filming under water.

It began a long line of documentary releases, some of which made film history.

“Every explorer I have met has been driven—not coincidentally but quintessentially—by curiosity, by a single-minded, insatiable, and even jubilant need to know.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau — The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus

In 1943, they won their first prize for a co-made documentary called Par dix-huit mètres de fond, or in English, 18 meters deep. It was filmed on the French Embiez Islands with no breathing equipment.

The camera was always with Cousteau, and his two main interests remained diving and film making through his life.

His most significant release was without a doubt The Silent World, which won an Academy Award for best Documentary Feature, and was the first ever documentary film to win an Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was cut from 25 kilometer of film reel, filmed over 2 years, and brought the depths to the public like never before.

The Silent World, by Jacques Cousteau movie poster.
The Silent World movie poster.

Cousteau, inventor of the Aqua-Lung

The desire to go ever deeper and unveil hidden depths to the public, drove Cousteau and his crew to ever greater lengths. The next film Épaves, or Shipwrecks, was filmed using the first ever Aqua-Lung prototype.

The Aqua-Lung is the invention that brought air-tank based diving equipment to the general public, and Émile Gagnan, a French engineer, together with our man Cousteau are credited with its creation.

Jacques Cousteau dressed up in diving equipment
Jacques Costeau dressed up in diving equipment.

The Aqua-Lung was not a completely new idea — few inventions are — but it came from a couple of other genius contraptions combined to maximize the time one could spend underwater.

Once again it was Cousteau’s desire to go deeper that drove the innovation forward. And it would be far from the last time.

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau, Captain of the Calypso

For some years Cousteau worked with the brand new Underwater Research Group, which was created by the French navy to add force behind his endeavors to explore the depths.

His time within the group led him on everything from mine-clearing missions, to rescue operations, to spying endeavors across the entire world. All along, he pioneered underwater technology and explored further possibilities.

The Calypso, Jacques Cousteau's ship
The Calypso, the iconic home base of Jacques Cousteau.

After a few years he left the navy and leased his now infamous ship, the Calypso. The lease was one franc per year — a mere symbolic sum — and the ship became his home base. A research vessel fitted for diving and documentary film making.

“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau, maker of the diving saucer

It was during his time on Calypso, after years of experience and clout generation, that he teamed up with Jean Mollard, and they built the commonly dubbed “diving saucer.”

It was exactly what it sounds like — a flying saucer that could go to 350 meters of depth. The official name was SP-350 and the nickname, Denise. It could handle a crew of two, laying down, and was famously used by Cousteau to explore the wreck of HMHS Britannic.

Jacques Cousteau's diving saucer, SP-350, or "Denise."
The diving saucer, SP-350, or “Denise.”

Actually, the search for Britannic, which is a sister ship of the Titanic and the Olympic, began under quite interesting circumstance.

Jacques Cousteau was in Greece looking for Atlantis. Yes, that Atlantis — the legendary city, sunken in the sea.

He didn’t find the city, but during his time there, he was contacted by the Titanic Historical Society, who wanted him to search for Titanic’s lost sister. The Britannic had sunk at some unknown location while serving as a hospital ship during WWI. This one he did find, and its discovery began what would mount up to 68 manned dives to the wreck by Jacques and his team.

One of these dives, in Denise, happened when Jacques was 67 years old, and it became one of Cousteau’s deepest dives ever.

Cousteau, creator of the Conshelf underwater colony

Astronauts actually owe a lot to Cousteau. He was among the first to spearhead a humane habitat in an atmosphere not fit for human life. Under the sea, he built a village, where him and his crew could spend months at a time.

Jacques Cousteau diving down to the Conshelf II
The Conshelf II.

There has been a Conshelf I, II, and III built and launched.

Jacques Cousteau's Conshelf I
The Conshelf I.

One of the shelfs even had a docking station for Denise.

Obviously, the adventurers were studying ocean life while they lived down below, but also, their living situation provided insight into how a different air pressure affected humans. Their hair and beards grew slower, but cuts healed quicker. It was an alien world, and they made it habitable in a whole new way.

The Conshelves are covered in much more detail in this brilliant Medium article.

“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.”

Jacques Yves Cousteau

Cousteau the megalomaniac

There is a Jacques Cousteau quote that’s circulating the internet. It’s pretty shocking, and after some research, it turns out it’s completely genuine.

“In order to save the planet it would be necessary to kill 350,000 people per day.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The quote in its context is just as bad as it sounds. Talking to UNESCO about what we could do to eliminate human suffering and disease, he replied that it was probably not a great idea to do, since for the planet to survive we would have to eliminate 350,000 people a day. (My understanding of the quote is that we should let nature run its course on the sick, and don’t interfere.)

Lightly perusing Jacques Cousteau’s life, you see an otherworldly, almost painting-esque adventurer, but if you dig a bit deeper, his humanity shines through, in all its imperfection. And as you’ll see, he was a man willing to admit to his shortcomings.

I am not a fan of holding a man to his mistakes, but this is a side of the picture that needs painting as well, if we’re doing the deep dive.

Costeau the environmentalist

Many connect Jacques with a fiery engagement for nature — as we saw on the earlier quote — but for him to become the spokesman for mother nature that he became, a complete u-turn was required.

During the filming of The Silent World, Cousteau and his crew famously injured a whale on purpose, thus attracting sharks who ate the poor fellow — all for the movie shots.

At another time they used dynamite near a coral reef to study the species that come floating to the surface — something that to your modern ears may sound worse than the filthiest swearword.

Jacques Cousteau diving with flares.
Revealing the world below.

However, later in Cousteau’s life he did a 180, and began speaking up for the ocean big time.

To such a point was his turnaround that he is said to have insisted on sharing the clips where him and his crew mistreats oceanic life to create great shots — instead of attempting a cover up.

Though he tried to dive ever deeper, he was willing to let his humanity float to the surface.

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”

Jacques Yves Cousteau

In the beginning of his career, movie making seems to have taken the front seat, and the ocean was only a tool to be manipulated in ways to get the best shot. However, as his understanding of the ocean, and its relationship to humankind deepened, the focus turned.

His turnaround engagement resulted in the founding of the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, which still is actively teaching people across the globe about the ocean and its ecosystems.

Costeau the Red Hatter

Here at Red Hat Factory, of course, we connect with Jacques not only as fellow adventurers with a passion for creating wilderness-related media, but also through our namesake red hat.

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
Jacques becomes a tv-series host.

The red knit cap that Jacques Cousteau wore became an icon, very much because of the man himself (and his crew, who also wore them). (Wes Anderson also had a role in bringing it to the next generation.)

After having spent most his life on sea, he slowly became a tv-personality and a household name. Through both film and tv he made his way into people’s living rooms, thus connecting the red hat with adventure forever and after.

The red hat has a whole story in itself, running back through the navy, but that’s a subject for another article. All we need to cap this article off (pun not intended), is a fantastic quote from one of Cousteau’s tv-appearances.

“The Calypso crew and I will be undertaking a series of voyages of exploration and discovery in all the seas of the world. We have few rules and no uniforms, only the right cap.” 

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

And so do we. The world is at our feet, and we have few rules — only the right cap.

Cousteau continues to inspire, not only for his hunger for the deeps, and skill in the craft of film making, but for his willingness to change as he went along in life, and to not attempt a perfect façade.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on October 6, 2020 in Red Hat Culture
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

The Shaping of Our Beanie Models

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Essentials Essentials
| September 4, 2020

When we set out to design the first ever Red Hat Factory model, we didn’t go looking for the spectacular. Quite the contrary.

Looking at products and heritage items we consider absolute classics, we noticed one commonality. The classic yellow rain jacket, rough worn oak tables, faded leather belts, the knives that my dad has hanging on his wall, that we have used on all my childhood adventures — they all share one trait.


From the outset, we knew we were making a product the old way — the way it’s been done from generation to generation. And wanting to also create a product that would be appreciated for generations, I let my mom take me back in time, showing me an array of basic simple knitting methods and their aesthetics.

Red beanie on Norwegian traditional wool sweater.
What we in Norway call ribbestrikk. It’s one of the basic tools of the craft. Here a Southlander is laying on a Norwegian Setesdalsgenser — a regional traditional sweater pattern.

Following the red thread

I’ve learned through both design and writing, that the creative process often starts with a more bloated product, and then is slimmed down through the cutting off of unnecessary features.

I am sure a lot of you can relate that to your own work. We often over-design — then cut back.

For the first Red Hat Factory cap, we went through 5–10 different models, and model by model we dropped things. First the unique knit pattern along the edge, then the shaped panels that gave an approximate head shape to the product.

Four red beanie styles
An extremely rare photo of some of the pre-production experimental models. My wife right there in the middle. Most, if not all these beanies are given away a long time ago.

Finally, after hours upon hours of work, I dropped a final idea on my mother. “What if we just make the hat a tube, and let the owner shape it by wearing it.”

It sounds boring, but in all its simplicity, it actually worked best.

And the people loved it.

“The quality is amazing, and I know I’ll be able to use it for years to come!”

Morten Furre, Australia

“Fantastic quality, durable and stylish. Each Red Hat has been hand crafted with love and attention to detail.”

Greg Burkin, Canada
Red beanie on Norwegian traditional sweater.
The final beanie is just a tube sown together on the top. You create the fold yourself.

“[The Southlander] is by far my favorite – it’s quality top notch and unlike my other beanies it feels just perfect. Whether you’re dressed up and going out on the town or just heading to the store this is a must for any occasion.”

Nathan Pearson, USA

“I am using the Southlander pretty much every day.”

Asbjørn Østreim, Norway

“Like a good wine, this gets better with age.”

Billy Chester, USA

We knew we had hit something.

First model down

Finally the first of what was to become the Southlander was off the needles, knit using the technique called ribbestrikk in Norwegian, and sowed together in an x on the top. Nothing more nothing less.

Red beanie in Stockholm
Me randomly snatching brand photos while hanging out with friends in Stockholm. This is the first Southlander ever made (at the time called “the Rounded”) and I still have it at home.

The tube shape makes it look small when you get it, but once it’s had some time to shape itself to your head, it becomes better fitted to you than any pre-formed shape could bring.

Also, since the cap is a simple tube with no defined edge, you control how you fold it. We have another article that dives deeper into possible folding styles.

From fishermen to carpenters, the simple, yet gritty style of a workman’s beanie has been a hallmark of the hard working craftsman.

Simple is classic.

Simple hats, simple brand

When we first released the beanies to the webshop, the Southlander was simply named the Rounded. And paired with the simple design and the simple name, came a very simple sketched icon.

First brand of the rounded red beanie.
The first Red Hat Factory product — the Rounded.

The whole brand was built and centered from the historic notion of the old beanie, knit by a wife before she sent her husband out on the sea to haul fish nets in the pouring rain.

While he is out fishing, the woman gets a business idea, and hastily she sketches down a few beanies with her pen. Then she sighs and peers out the window, wondering whether he will return today or not.

Little did that proverbial woman know she was planting the seed of Red Hat Factory to come.

That is the story behind the type of assets we use in the brand to this day. They have evolved a lot, but the style remains. Mom-made. Home made. Simple lines.

Three red beanies.
The three beanie models we have today, with the overhauled brand names.

A Point to the Round

The North Cap was at first a failed attempt to cap off the beanie in a round fashion. It became pointier than it was supposed to.

When my quirky brother in law saw it, however, he loved it more than what I considered the final product. I soon realized we needed a second model. Based on the first, but with a touch of different, for the more explorative soul.

In line with the simple brand, we just named it the Pointy Tip.

Red beanie.
The second model’s initial branding.

Its base was, and still is, exactly the same as the Southlander, but it caps off in a peak rather than a half circle, making it the first choice of the ones who wants a basic cap, but with a slight edge to it.

Red beanie brand
The simple branding process. In the first round of branding material, not much changed from final sketch to digitalized asset.

It still is a classic though, and draws much of its inspiration back to the movie The Life Aquatic, which itself draws on the real life character Jacques Costeau.

Children Invade the Brand

A long time we only had two models, one color. And I refused every suggestion for additional colors and other products — very purposefully. I felt like if we were going to be the Red Hat Factory, we need to have at least a year, where we are just that — a factory of Red Hats.

As a side note, we aren’t really using a factory — it is true hand knit. But that is a different story.

The third beanie model, the Bay Bee, has a boringly simple history. When a friend, in our early days, asked if we had one for children, we said yes, and made a smaller version of the Southlander.

Not much more to say on that.

There is an interesting feature to the baby model, however. You know how I told you that the wool beanies are very small, and stretches a lot to fit your head. This is just how wool needs to be to properly fit you. On the Bay Bee, this makes the beanie fit from babyhood to 3-4 years old, but look very different at each stage.

You can see we stuck with the simple names, but you’ll notice, the following drawing is a little more polished around the edges than its predecessors. This actually inspired me to rebrand and rename all the beanies in turn.

First branding of the red beanie for babies.
The first Baby model.

Talking of that stretchiness

Most our customers express surprise when they see the size of the new beanie. It is small.

Your average cotton beanie doesn’t stretch a lot, so what you see is what you get. A wollen knit cap will grow with you, and take its shape from your head. In the beginning, the hat can even be a bit slippy for some people, especially when your hair is newly shampooed.

Like a good pair of selvedge jeans, or a new set of leather boots, it needs to be worn in. After that, it will be your most trusty friend.

No brand for a reason

Many also express surprise at the lack of any brand assets on the cap. You get a Certificate of Authenticity upon purchase, and there will be stickers in the box — but the beanie itself is completely bare.

Red beanies in a stack.
The branding is found separately on the box and on stickers — but the beanie itself is bare bone.

We chose this because of the history of the brand. Taking the experience of growing up with a knitting mother and bringing it to you. When she knit me a piece, there was no brand. It was pure, just a gift of love from a parent to a child, and therefore we keep the beanies pure.

Washing instructions are found on the web.

With the lack of brand, the texture of the beanie needs to stand out even more, and so it does. We chose wool partly for its features (isolates even when wet), but also a lot because of its look. Gritty and rough, connecting you with the hard worker on the seas a hundred years ago, the construction workers balancing the beams of Empire State Building when it came up, and the kind hands that knit it — stitch by stitch, with care.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on September 4, 2020 in Essentials
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

How to Wear a Red Hat Factory Cap

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Essentials Essentials
| April 15, 2019

There are actually more ways than you might think, and the choice is all yours.

Our models deliver as a tube that you are free to fold as you like, and the lack of any tags on the edges makes your freedom total.

One thing I’ve noticed through selling beanies all across the world — no one wears it the same, and that is the beauty of it.

With that said we have three basic ways of wearing a Red Hat Factory cap.

The North Cap vs. the Southlander

The difference between our two most sold models, is only in the very tip. The North Cap is joined tighter to make the tip more sharp. The Southlander, is smoothly rounded. Other than that, the main body of these two beanies are the same, and can be worn in an array of different ways.

The single fold

The single fold might be worn either over the ear or behind it — in both instances it can be a good look. It is more common to wear the North Cap this way, since it makes the spike more distinct.

Remember, both your head shape and hair style add additional uniqueness to your beanie’s shape.

The North Cap being worn with a single fold.

Fold your cap twice

Probably the most common way to wear a Red Hat Factory cap across the world.

Sophia and Kevin are sporting two Southlanders,

North Cap Light Gray Beanie
A doubly folded North Cap. Here it’s really clear how the tip remains on this model, but flattens out on the Southlander.

The third way to wear a Red Hat Factory cap — the roll

I honestly can’t tell if this picture a roll or a sloppy double fold, but I like the idea of rolling the edge, as opposed to doing sharp folds. And I have seen it done, looking great!

How to wear your red cap: Rolled up

Conclusion — wear your cap your way

Just to underline how different we are, and how the caps we wear shape to our style and head shape – here is a bunch of people wearing it their way.

Be like them – unlike each other.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on April 15, 2019 in Essentials
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

The Red Beanie as a Symbol of Adventure

Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Category: Essentials Essentials
| December 19, 2017

Red beanies stand for adventure and exploration. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, but it also has roots digging through Norwegian folklore into underground WWII resistance groups. How did it become such an iconic piece of headwear, and what is the origin of the red beanie?

Traditionally, a beanie, or a knit cap (which is the most accurate term), is a working man’s outfit. Fishermen, foresters, farmers, explorers — anyone spending their work days outside in the Scandinavian climate would preferably have a cap in handy to regulate temperature.

In the Viking age, the caps were crafted using nålebinding — “binding with a needle”. This is a single-needle form of knitting, less efficient than the modern style, but with its own look and feel. It was around the 16th century that modern two-needle knitting entered Scandinavia, and slowly took over as the primary way of knitting caps.

Wool has historically been the choice of beanie material in Scandinavia, both because of its availability and its superior insulation in wet or moist conditions.

That’s just a quick introduction to knit caps — now, why are they red?

Askeladden — the original Norwegian red hatter

Askeladden, wearing a red beanie with a pom-pom.

In Norwegian folklore there is a recurring character — seemingly present in every great fairy tale. His name is Askeladden — “The Ash Lad.” A simple working class hero, famous for outwitting a troll, flying a magical ship, and wearing his infamous 70-kilometer boots. And at the end of each tale he iconically wins the hand of the princess and half the kingdomall the while wearing a red knit cap with a pom-pom.

Askeladden with a red beanie
“Gutten som kappåt med trollet.” A 1967 animated version of one of the Askeladden fairy tales.

The beanie with a pom-pom is incredibly Norwegian — though all of Scandinavia probably could claim it as theirs — and I did absolutely grow up wearing one of those.

We call them topplue — “top-beanie.” The top refers to the pom-pom. The one I wore the most growing up was sadly not a red one, but a black cotton beanie streaked with really ugly pink lines. It was a beanie I snagged out of my dad’s drawer. I will spare you the picture for now.

Etymological Sidetrack: The word “adventure” shares a common root with the Norwegian word “eventyr.” The Norwegian word means both “adventure” and “fairy tale.” And that connection makes sense. Almost all Norwegian fairy tales is about someone going on an adventure. And their main poster child is our red beanie wearing friend Askeladden.

The fjøsnisse — the Norwegian mischievous version of Santa Claus

Looking at Askeladden, a Norwegian mind cannot help but see a bit of the classic Norwegian fjøsnisse — just from a visual perspective I mean.

And if you think this is deviating from the purpose of the article — just you wait. I will blow your mind.

The fjøsnisse — apart from being a classy Norwegian insult — is a little guy that is presumed to live on the hayloft of farms, and come out at night. Based on how you’ve treated him, he helps or sabotages things around the farm.

Before the image of the fjøsnisse coalesced into what we imagine today, it had many forms. A mischievous spirit. A small goblin hiding in the hayloft. But Christmas was special — one would then put out a little porridge on the porch to thank him (and bribe him into not sabotaging you in the future).

The Christmas tradition of putting out the porridge was the last fjøsnisse-related activity to be observed. Therefore the fjøsnisse in the public imagination, became synonymous with Christmas. And when the red Coca-Cola empowered version of St. Nicholas arrived in Scandinavia, it blended together with our own nisse, until the goblin/spirit version of the fjøsnisse, had been fully enveloped.

Now we Norwegians confuse our nisses — but it was not always so.

The red fjøsnisse-beanie as a WWII resistance statement

We’re getting into the Norwegian true meaning of the red beanie — and though you won’t believe it yet, it all ties back to the fjøsnisse.

Norway was occupied from 9 April 1940, when official armed resistance seized, until 8 May 1945. During these times the fjøsnisse became a symbol of Norway. As an example, mentioned by Pål on his Norway blog, a Christmas card print batch featuring the fjøsnisse was outlawed shortly after its printing in 1941, due to its patriotic nature.

And stemming from the nisse as a symbol of Norway, people began wearing red hats as a silent protest against the occupation. Shortly after, this too was outlawed, as is shown on this museum exhibit on WWII in Norway.

Red beanies outlawed during WWII in Norway
The red hat was outlawed as an act of defiance against occupation.

So here we are. The Norwegian roots of the red beanie as an adventurous, rebellious, and bold symbol. And now it’s time to zoom out and look at the red beanie in the rest of the world.

Honorable mention — Olav Thon

Olav Thon wears a red beanie

Before we zoom out, I just want to add a shout out to a modern day Norwegian red beanie legend.

Olav Thon is a hotel owner in Norway — Thon Hotels — and he embodies the chill Norwegian soul, and the nearness to nature we all seek.

Olav Thon was color blocking long before color blocking was hip.

He wears colorful suits to high end business meetings, and is quoted saying something like the following.

If I had to wear those regular black suits, I would be bored to death.

My Paraphrase of Olav Thon

He is an honorary member of the Norwegian tourist union, and spends huge amounts of time in nature — a true son of Norway. But this, of course, is not our favorite part of him. We have to look higher.

He faithfully wears a red knit cap. He has proven one can wear a knit cap to business meetings and still be successful. Thank God!

So when I wear my red Southlander in Norway — no surprise — people keep calling me Olav Thon.

Anyway, let’s move on to the international section.

Jacques Costeau — bringing the red beanie to the big screen

Red beanie on Jacques Yves-Costeau.

If we are talking about one person in the entire world that made the red knit cap into a symbol of exploration, one must not forego Jacques Cousteau.

Jacques Cousteau
Jacques Yves-Cousteau

Diving equipment pioneer, driven by his desire to film the undersea world, and make it into documentaries. He went from a passionate film creator to a household name around the world, with his own tv-show. And the red beanie never left his head.

The red beanie was standard issue for divers in the British Navy, and from there became an icon of divers across the world. It was this culture Jacques Cousteau tapped into when wearing his wool cap all the way into the limelight.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

Jaques Yves-Cousteau

Cousteau became a face for adventurers all across the globe, and the red hat did not go unnoticed. And most impactfully, was its picking up by Wes Anderson.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Steve Zissou and his red beanie

Featuring the red beanie in the 2004 movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson brought the connotation between red hats and adventure to a new generation across the globe.

The movie is a case study in red beanies. Their crew colors in the film are blue shirts and red knit caps. Some of them wear rounded caps like the Southlander, and Zissou himself wear an iconic pointy-tip one that was part of influencing the design of our North Cap. Also one can see a really nice pom-pom flapping around in the movie.

The film is completely based off of Jaques Cousteau, and is in fact dedicated to him.

Dedication to Jacques Cousteau in Life Aquatic

Every time you put that hat on, you move the culture forward

Why did red end up as the symbol of adventure? I mean, why did people choose red in the first place, and why does the color keep drawing people, though they know nothing about its history.

Well, I don’t mean to sound snide, but it’s just a color. And it happens to be one that stands out. Now the symbolism we add to it is ever changing, and with each person wearing one, you add to the legend.

I have noticed the effect of the stand-out nature of red. I am a relatively tall guy, and whenever I am to meet somebody downtown, they instantly spot me from a distance because of the red hat. It is more than a hat, it’s a GPS! The red really stands nicely out against more muted colors, and makes it a crown piece of your outfit.

Honorable mention #2 — Mora Nisse

Lars “Mora Nisse” Karlsson with a red cap with a pom-pom

One of Sweden’s great sons, Mora-Nisse — a famous cross country skier — became known for wearing his red beanie as part of his competing outfit. He is one example of those that bring the culture into the limelight again, by sticking with one and the same style.

He won the infamous Vasaloppet in Sweden year after year, all in all nine times! And all of this while wearing a nice red beanie with a pom-pom dangling from the top. I bet he was easy to spot in the track with that red hat against a backdrop of white snow.

I don’t know if the red hat is why he was named such, but if you’ve read this far, you will notice “nisse,” in his name. Hinting at the roots of his choice.

Adventures, fairy tales, bold colors, red knit caps! It is all connected like the stitches that make up one of our hand knit caps.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen
Published on December 19, 2017 in Essentials
Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.