Rough, sturdy and simple — the working class fisherman and his rough knit cap has ever been an inspiration for how we knit our products. But how deep into that history can we dig?
We already wrote a whole article about the Steve Zissou hat, and how that has shaped our beanies. Steve is a fictional character who draws his inspiration from red beanie wearing, submarine genius Jaques Cousteau. But what inspiration was he drawing on? — what connected beanies to the seafarer in the first place?
History of the fisherman beanie
I’d love to come up with something deeply symbolic, but I think history is very simple — yet beautiful — when it comes to the fisherman beanie.
Imagine coastal society. It’s a time when most women are the keepers of the house, while the men are out providing for the family’s economical needs.
Say what you want about gender roles — I’m not here to discuss that, but simply to dig into history.
There are deep historical roots to why knitting is prevalent among women in Norway (where Red Hat Factory comes from) to this day. I know my mother learnt it from her mother, who again probably learnt it from hers — the roots stretch far back.
Those days were a time when the woman was tasked with actually protecting the household against the elements — and among the responsibilities was keeping her family warm at the onset of winter.
In our imagined little coastal society, not all the fishermen could afford a water proof sou’wester, so the next best alternative stood in line. Wool was readily available, and the property of wool that isolates even when wet made it a fine second choice.
So she knits him a beanie, tight knit because of years of skill (she has knit for every one of her seven kids) and full of care because she desperately wants her man to come home from the sea, today as every day before.
In this way the hand knit fisherman beanie represents a simple life of hard work and survival that most people through history has lived.
It is good to look at history for perspective, and maybe to gain some gratefulness.
Real fishermen beanies
Finding images of actual fishermen, wearing beanies is tremendously hard. The modern trend of the fisherman beanie has taken over image searches, pushing the black and white genuine photos aside.
Mostly whenever I find a picture of what we would call a fisherman beanie today, it turns out to be a modern day portrait, taken with a vintage style. The real pictures I’ve found however, reveals something very interesting.
It seems that people put whatever they wanted on their heads before heading out to sea. And that is just how we like it.
The super long fishermen beanies with pom-poms
You might have noticed on the first picture, beside Cousteau, that the fisherman has an incredibly long beanie with a pom-pom at the end.
The style derives from fishing societies in Portugal, specifically the Povoan culture.
The culture was centered around fishing. Their legends and their religion — it all swirled around the sea, sea creatures and fish. Saint Andrew was believed to fish the souls of the perished at sea into heaven, and they avoided work on Sunday because of an old legend about a sea serpent punishing people who violated the holy day of rest.
Most importantly though, they wore the longest fishermen beanies the world has ever seen with pom-pom and all — and with that they sported the wildest sideburns known to man.
Deeming from the last illustration, the beanies were even red. And you know exactly how we feel about that!