A Menagerie of Kids’ Winter Hats

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Knitted with the force. / via
Knitted with the force. / via

The cold weather’s here, and once again animals are in the streets. So far, among those running wild, I’ve spotted an owl, a couple monkeys and a lion. I’ve also seen Yoda, of all unexpected extraterrestrials. And this is only the beginning.

What I talking about, of course, are knitted hats for children. Wherever the climate is cold, they can be seen in abundance. I don’t remember when I saw them for the first time ever, but I don’t think it was more that five or six years back. And good luck to anyone looking into the initial appearance of the entertaining apparel. I haven’t been able to ascertain the origin.

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For all I know, a mom clever with knitting needles had the idea, ran up a cow or a crocodile for her kids, and became the envy of other mothers, inaugurated a sizable cottage industry.

I’m writing about knitted hats because every time a child wearing one from the animal kingdom goes past me in a baby carriage or a tricycle or scooter, I laugh. There’s something ineffably cheerful about it. I can be in a rotten mood, but should a tiger come by holding an adult’s hand, I’ll pulled right out of myself and back into good humor.

Part of the fun for me is wondering whether the adult who’s chosen the hat thinks his or her child is like the animal in some way. If it’s an older child, I wonder whether that child sees himself or herself as like the animal — wanting to be more like, say, an eagle.

Of course, the occasional adult indulges as well. Rightly or wrongly, I assume he or she is either very young at heart or in cahoots with his or her kids. I’m amused by that as well.

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Since I’m so taken with animal hats, I began to look around for point-of-purchase sites. I didn’t have to look any farther than my local supermarket, where a rack of hats and gloves had been positioned not too far from the checkout counter. When supermarkets realize how popular certain items are and decide to exploit them, you know a movement has truly caught on.

I think it was while scoping those hats that I became aware — belatedly, I suppose — that some knitted hats have long earflaps meant to represent paws and to double as mittens. Concerned fathers and mothers must like that amenity, since it alleviates the need to pin mittens to sleeves.

The hats I was handling had tags identifying them as manufactured by High Desert Gear and ranging from $7.99 to $12.99. Those are generally also the prices for hats I found online, probably because they’re usually made of polyester or acrylic or both. Faux fur is also big. Hats with vest-like accessories that provide a fuller animal experience found at Oriental Trading are also reasonable. Their camel and dove models are $10.

Then there’s bidding on eBay, where a Hello Kitty number bids for $10 (or was when I looked). Also available are adult sock monkey mittens that you know will be coveted by the children in the house. Amazon is in on the animal-hat traffic, too, though some of their items are slightly more expensive. One goofy-looking penguin had me chuckling, but on Amazon that was on one of many pages of possibilities.

There’s another way to go about the hat trek — or, if you will, hat trick. An ambitious parent with skillful hands can consult All Free Crochet, where patterns are (you guessed it) free and listed in abundance. They have an Instant Giraffe Hat, a Fuzzy Wolf Bonnet, a Honey Badger Crochet Beanie, a Ladylike Ladybug Beanie and a Fun Dragon Hat. The illustrations on the site of their cow and Mickey and Minnie Mouse caps are good for instant smiles. (The Mickey and Minnie may not actually be Disney approved. Not that that matters.)

Since I get such a kick out of these hats, it’s occurred to me that were I to pick up one for myself, I could give others a laugh. Or two. I don’t think so, though. I may be man enough, but I’m not animal enough.