Now that cold weather is upon us, I know one of the best ways to stay warm is with a hat, but what is the best style to choose? I don’t want to look as if I’m trying to be part of a club that won’t have me, or as if I’m about to head to the great outdoors when I am actually going to the grocery store or the office. — Lisa, Boston
That old saw about losing 80 percent of your body heat through your head that your mother would use to scare you into wearing a hat has been debunked by various scientific studies, including one from the University of Manitoba, in a geographic region that knows its cold, but there’s no question that wearing a hat is a good idea in winter.
But there are so many options. The online store Ssense has 15 pages of hats for women and 20 for men. Trapper, fedora or fake fur? Beanie, bucket, baseball, balaclava, beret, bobble or bonnet?
(Why do so many hat names start with the letter “b”?)
At the moment, the most trend-driven style is the bonnet, a hipster version of the headgear popular among Puritans in the 17th century, and its very close relation, the knitted hood, a crafty version of a balaclava without the face covering, also known (albeit incorrectly) as a snood.
The first started its popular ascent after Emma Corrin modeled a summer black-tie version that matched her Miu Miu gown at the 2021 Emmys, an unexpected choice that was impossible to ignore. Faster than you could say “cottagecore,” Miu Miu was making winter versions (Rick Owens, too), and the rest is TikTok history.
Snoods have the benefit of keeping your neck warm without the need for a scarf — or for cinching your coat hood so tightly you can’t see anything on the side — but they can have more complicated associations. Some women have pointed out their similarity to the hijab.
A simple beanie may be the easiest solution. If a snood is the turtleneck of knitted toppers, the beanie is the snuggly sweater. There’s a reason it is one of the oldest hat styles in existence (there is debate over when, exactly, it originated, with some beanie historians tracing it to Neolithic Europe and others to medieval Europe): It’s simply the most versatile.
Also, it never looks as though it is trying too hard, and if it isn’t too tight, it doesn’t create the “hat head” associated with more structured headgear. And it can stretch over ponytails and buns.
Though there are various sizes, the two extremes — tight on the head or with an exaggerated crown — tend to be where fashion, irony and hipster culture lie. Chunky versions with just a bit of room have fewer tribal associations. And just as they come in pretty much every size and color (black or beige being the most versatile), they are also available in every price point, from designer (Alexander McQueen, Prada, Tom Ford, Acne) to Etsy.
Of course, you could always knit your own.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.