12th century hoods

During the early 12th century, working men began wearing a type of hat that was a dominant fashion for several centuries. It was worn in different ways, sort of like the baseball cap.

It was made of either linen or wool, and it began with a semi-circle of fabric sewn into a cone. Near the point of the cone, they cut a face-size oval. They weren’t trying to hide identity like caped crusaders, they were just trying to keep warm and not let midges get in their ears, so the full face showed. The flaring end of the cone draped over the shoulders, often slit in the front to allow it a bit more room. Some hoods flared out into broad capes that extended beyond the shoulders.

It’s a very familiar look from Robin Hood cartoons. We’re used to seeing the hood’s pointy end drooping down at the back, and we expect the wide end of the cone to have some decorative shape, like zigzag. When we see the hood worn like this, it’s not clear that it’s really a cone. Of course, tailors may have modified the cone over time to fit the human body better. The decorative touches we see in cartoons generally came about in the 13th century; working hoods were still plain at first.

Hoods were all-weather, all-purpose menswear. Made of fulled wool, they shed water. Made of linen, they kept the sun off while not overcooking the head. During the 12th century, they were worn straight-up the way God intended. Creativity would wait about 200 years to take notice of such a boring hat. (We’ll get there.)

Nobles did not wear hoods. They had full mantles to cover the whole body, and from pictures, it seems that at this time they wore uncovered heads of usually-long hair to copy Byzantine styles. Beards came and went; old men tended to wear beards more often than young men. Clean-shaved faces were more often the style than not.

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