Skully hats, also known as skullies, skull caps, and beanies, are brimless hats designed to hug the skull and keep the head warm. These hats can be knitted or crocheted using wool or cotton yarn, as these materials achieve a snug, close fit. The look was first associated with blue collar workers and sailors who needed to keep their heads warm without the distraction of a brim. In contemporary fashion, skully hats are an indispensable part of casual urban wear. Certain styles have also been appropriated as sartorial symbols by various urban subcultures.
The earliest versions of these hats were worn by women in the 12th or 13th centuries. They were made of embroidered velvet, taffeta, or satin and worn over a head veil. Men and women both wore black velvet skull caps in the 16th century, but women later went on to trim theirs with lace and fur throughout the 19th century. At around this time, knitted skull caps served a practical purpose for dockworkers, welders, and other blue collar workers. Skully hats kept the hair out of the eyes and protected the head from the cold during chilly days.
In the 1990s, the popularization of cold weather sports like snowboarding and the grunge clothing trend catapulted skully hats into the mainstream fashion. The modern skull cap is made of fleece or other synthetic fabrics that remove moisture, coming in various designs. Woven hats that resembled tobogganing caps also became popular among athletes who participated in snowboarding and other winter sports. These hats were made of chunky wool and served the practical purpose of keeping body heat trapped rather than a sartorial statement.
The 1990s also saw the appropriation of skully hats by urban skateboarders. They started calling the caps "beanies" and, like many other street slang terms, the name stuck. Beanies came in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but the most distinct feature they had was a patch, logo, or brand name woven where the brim is supposed to be in conventional hats. The visibility of the brand was important, as skaters preferred matching their beanies to their boards or skate shoes. In fact, almost all manufacturers of skate shoes have skully hats with colors and styles that match.
When big-name rap artists started wearing skully hats, the beanie became a popular accessory in the hip-hop community. Since hip-hop fashion is largely influenced by sportswear trends, the beanies they wore often came from skate brands. Sometimes their hats would carry statements like "thug life" instead of a sportswear logo.