How the humble crochet hat took over Instagram
Until March 2020, for example, wearing a crochet hat on your head could mean several things. It could mean that you recently shaved your head due to a lice outbreak at your elementary school and need to keep your noggin warm in the meantime. It could mean that you had to wear one to summer camp to avoid sunburn. Or maybe you wore a crochet hat because you went to Hampshire College, and besides growing a scoby kombucha, that’s exactly what people did there. It wasn’t the kind of hat you’d see on, say, Bella Hadid, or a slightly anonymous Italian Instagram influencer who has sort of a million Instagram followers. Until, of course, it did: For a year now, the crochet bucket has been everywhere, and not just among tweens. What changed? Two words: free time.
During the pandemic’s darkest and deepest time – from around March 2020 to … now – Instagram has been inundated with people engaging in all kinds of DIY hobbies, like bird watching and baking sourdough bread. People have also taken to stringing pony beads to make funky jewelry. They learned to knit and weave. A few learned to crochet, and crochet accounts quickly started popping up all over Instagram, advertising handmade hats in all kinds of weird colors and shapes.
There was a precedent for all of this. The crochet hat trend actually started a few weeks ago. before pandemic, when Emily Dawn Long, a designer and former celebrity stylist, debuted with her hat called Wanda on Instagram. The hat, which you can mold into all kinds of shapes (bucket, “Pharrell”, etc.), is available in earth tones, with a simple and eye-catching dotted pattern. It gives off a sort of 90 Flower vibe, but feels contemporary – it’s the kind of piece that looks especially lovely when worn with a pair of lightly washed jeans and a large button-down shirt. Long’s inspiration for the hat, she explained, came from a vintage prototype she had saved up a few years ago, on which she was constantly receiving compliments. She decided to collaborate with knitwear designer Maria Dora to put it into production, and by February 2020, you could buy one. It was a success almost instantly. “The hat just took off,” she told me.
Soon after Long’s hats started to go trendy, other designers, like It’s Memorial Day, started selling very similar pieces on Instagram. It was Memorial Day’s Delsy Gouw who learned to crochet as a child, she told me, and picked it up during the pandemic to keep her hands occupied. She started out making crochet bags for her friends and then started making hats and bra tops. She was inspired by the colors of packages that arrived at her apartment during the pandemic, such as purple and white FedEx boxes and orange drug cans. Making crochet items for his friends eventually aroused so much interest that Gouw quit his job to pursue his side business. “I realized that this crochet thing could be a full time thing,” she says. “It was no longer: I made hats on the side. I could do it full time.
Long and Gouw are not alone. Alice Sofia Navarin from Rat Hat makes hers in noisy Rainbow Brite neon lights; they sometimes include hearts, moons and suns. In addition to making crochet bucket hats, Navarin also makes Gummo– inspired bunny hats and small balaclavas for cold weather. Husband and wife duo STORY mfg also make a few different crochet hats. Their most popular features small black snails. Gardening is probably best, but will definitely work for drinking wine in a park.
The quarantine fancy crochet hat is surprisingly genderless. More than that, it’s the opposite of sexy, one of those pieces that seem inherently virginal. They are everywhere. In the tiny Brooklyn enclave where I live, I’ve seen teenagers wearing crocheted hats. When I ventured into lower Manhattan, I saw them on stages of all stripes, strolling down Canal Street, probably wearing baggy jeans as well. And of course, they’re all over social media. Just look at the photos tagged on one of these designer accounts and you’ll see countless people, young and old, of all genders, wearing these infamous chic hats. When I reached out to a few people who have joined the trend, they cited functionality and nostalgia as the main drivers. Emma, a 23-year-old girl who lives in Orange County, owns It’s Memorial Day and Emily Dawn Long hats. Sun protection is important to Emma, and they believe that if they want to splurge on a fashion item, it has to have a purpose. Lindsey, who works as a publicist for emerging designers, has a few Emily Dawn Long hats, and he loves how they reflect a utilitarian quality that he embraces in his personal style.
The fact that cheeky hats are all the rage says a lot about the fashion trend. People care about practicality and wonder more than ever where their clothes come from and how they were made. Crochet hats fit perfectly into this narrative, alongside Bode quilted jackets, upcycled Marine Serre jeans, the “Gorpcore” multiverse and Zoomers battling “gentrification of thrift stores” on TikTok. In that sense, the humble crochet hat speaks of a bigger fashion moment as the pandemic begins to end. A sustainably made crochet hat worn on the beach this summer is the sleekest way possible to prevent sunburn.
Unless, of course, you buy a crochet hat for a different, more personal reason. Silas, who is 24 and works in the nonprofit sector, also likes the trend and has picked up his own hat. It reminds them, they said, of the time when they “had lice constantly for, about two years.”
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