How To Buy a Beanie

Bear­ing new fea­tures and improved mate­ri­als, bean­ies have become more than just the knit­ted win­ter caps your dad used to wear. Our guide will help you choose the best beanie for your sport and your steeze.

Comfort/Fabrics: Itchy bean­ies have plagued fore­heads for decades pro­vid­ing much in the way of warmth but lit­tle com­fort. Meri­no wool, fleece, and lin­ers have addressed the issue and there’s now less head-scratch­ing.

Tra­di­tion­al Knit and non-per­for­mance wool: Tra­di­tion­al hand-knit bean­ies, such as those you might see at a Sat­ur­day Mar­ket, are com­mon­ly made of wool or acrylic yarns. Knit bean­ies have long been pop­u­lar choic­es for their casu­al and funky hand-knit designs but these two mate­ri­als, while warm, are heavy, frizzy, and often loose-fit­ting. Wool and oth­er nat­ur­al fibers main­tain ther­mal qual­i­ties even when wet, which helps explain why this coarse mate­r­i­al has remained stead­fast in beanie com­po­si­tion despite its itchy nature.

Syn­thet­ics (Fleece, poly­ester): New­er, syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als now com­bine func­tion and com­fort. Wind­stop­per fleece blocks wind and pro­vides bet­ter insu­la­tion in breezy con­di­tions. Syn­thet­ics also offer equal warmth with less mate­r­i­al, cut­ting weight and fit­ting tighter to the scalp. With a close con­toured fit these bean­ies are pop­u­lar for cycling, climb­ing, pad­dling and oth­er sports involv­ing hel­mets. Many of these syn­thet­ics are also designed for mois­ture wick­ing, which helps per­spi­ra­tion evap­o­rate dur­ing run­ning and oth­er aer­o­bic sports. Unlike nat­ur­al fab­rics, syn­thet­ics lose ther­mal val­ue when wet.

Meri­no Wool: Meri­no Sheep have soft coats ide­al­ly suit­ed to out­door gar­ments. While notice­ably more expen­sive, meri­nos blend the func­tion of nat­ur­al mate­ri­als with the com­fort of syn­thet­ics. An eco­nom­i­cal way to reap the rewards of these high-tech fab­rics is blends of the two. 


Fea­tures: Beanie-mak­ers have adapt­ed their styles to the desires of theirs cus­tomers to the point that now there’s a style to match every nog­gin.

Lin­ers: Many bean­ies, espe­cial­ly those of coars­er fab­ric, keep scratchy fibers off your bare skin by stitch­ing a lin­er into the inside of the hat. Lin­ers are gen­er­al­ly fleece, but can also be cot­ton, meri­no wool, or poly­ester and can either line the inner cap entire­ly or as a head­band. Anoth­er ben­e­fit of lin­ers is longevi­ty, as the added mate­r­i­al helps pre­vent the cap from stretch­ing around the head­line.

Ear Cov­ers: Bean­ies can leave ear­lobes exposed, which is uncom­fort­able when trav­el­ing at high speeds in cold tem­per­a­tures. Skiers and snow­board­ers (par­tic­u­lar­ly when not wear­ing a hel­met) enjoy ear cov­ers for this rea­son. Long tas­sels some­times accom­pa­ny ear flaps for two pur­pos­es: to be tied beneath the chin to keep cov­ers down when mov­ing quick­ly or in high winds or to be tied above the head to keep cov­ers off the ears when tem­per­a­tures rise.

Visor: Pulling design from the billed cap, some bean­ies come equipped with a short sewn-in visor. Visors are a nice fea­ture for block­ing sun­light or keep­ing bean­ies high­er above the eyes, which helps to keep gog­gles flat against the face. Aes­thet­i­cal­ly mind­ed, visors offer the look of pop­u­lar base­ball or cadet-style caps.

Head­phones: Ear cov­ers are prac­ti­cal­ly made for head­phones so it’s no sur­prise that some bean­ies come equipped for audio.