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It’s time to start sporting a beanie.
There’s the obvious seasonal imperative: we’re into November now, and the weather isn’t fooling around anymore. But then there are the very 2020 reasons, like: your quarantine haircut could use a couple more months of recovery; a single space heater isn’t enough to keep everyone at the table warm, and adding one to your WFH fit is a cozy flex.
If you do jump on the men’s beanie train, though, just do yourself a favor and commit to a good one. There’s no need to jam the scratchy, acrylic cap you were once given at a conference over your ears. Especially when many of the best brands in the menswear space make beanies, and make them with the same amount of care (if not the same exact materials) they use for their best sweaters and sweatpants.
To help you find the perfect beanie, we recently tested 10. Some are performance-oriented, most are just plain handsome, and all will keep your noggin toasty this fall and winter. From Filson to Mack Weldon to Tracksmith, find options from a variety of celebrated brands below.
In-house Huckberry brand Wellen is known for its willingness to experiment with alternative (and often more sustainable) fabric blends, like hemp and organic cotton. But this cap takes that pedigree to another level. Wellen sourced recycled plastic water bottles and upcycled oyster shells for its appropriately-monikered Seawool Beanie, and thanks to an accompanying viscose-nylon blend, the hat is also quick-drying and antimicrobial. Even with all that new-age tech, we loved the old world feel of this hat. If you wore it to a port pub along the North Atlantic you’d fit right in.
From the minimalist fair-trade SF brand, the Cashmere Rib Beanie is made with Grade-A cashmere from Inner Mongolia, which pills less and ages gracefully. (As cashmere has become ubiquitous over the years, it’s gotten more difficult to trust you’re getting the good stuff. Rest assured, Everlane isn’t cutting corners.) This was easily one of the softest beanies we tested. It’s also on the smaller side, but thanks to built-in stretch, it can accommodate bigger/taller heads. It comes in six different colors, which is also a plus.
The most versatile option here, period. From On Running — an independent Swiss running brand that makes those beloved Cloud series shoes — this beanie was optimized to regulate temperature, ward off odor and dry quickly under pressure. That means it’s perfect for long trail runs in the Alps, where it was literally engineered and tested. But it can also handle any comprehensible workout, errand, or couch lounge. We’re huge fans of the Merino wool used here, which looks dapper and prevents your head from ever overheating.
Huckberry sells a ton of other brands’ beanies (they’re all here) but it also teamed up with a Japanese textile manufacturer to design its own. The result is a quintessential fisherman design, made from a blend of acrylic, wool, nylon, and spandex. This isn’t exactly an all-purpose beanie — it’s a little too dressed-up for a workout, with the tree tag and the speckled design — but that’s not a bad thing. This is a no-brainer accessory for any number of jacket-jean combinations you might create via Huckberry. It’s another “shorter” beanie, too, which means it’s conducive to that high-on-the-forehead look.
The one pitfall to the “better beanie” movement: at the end of the day, it’s still just an accessory. It can be difficult to commit $50 or more to an item that small, even if you’re wearing it multiple times a week. Thus, it helps to know how to find hip, reliable options without breaking the bank. Snowboarding brand Burton has a treasure trove of such beanies, most of them in funky colors and all of them in the $20 range. We’re fans of the Kactusbunch, which calls out the brand’s origin story (Burlington, VT, 1977) and the pronounced fold-up cuff. This one is a little larger, so it works especially if you have a bigger head or some epic ski bum locks.
Mack Weldon really overthinks its basics — in a good way. We’re huge fans of the brand’s undershirt, boxer briefs, face mask, and now beanie. Concerned that cashmere alone wouldn’t be enough to keep heads toasty, Mack Weldon decided to create “tech cashmere,” a blend that mixes cashmere with Merino wool and nylon. It was one hell of a call. While this was a top-three-softest beanie we tested, it boasts the performance qualities — repels rain, keeps your head at a reasonable temperature — of other Merino wool options on this list. We also like the stylish decal on the front of the beanie, which gives it some extra character.
The “watch cap” — a dark wool beanie worn purposely above the ears — goes farther back than early 2000s Williamsburg. Check out this Life Magazine photo of a Navy crew during WWII, where watch caps abound. Heritage Seattle brand Filson has been around since 1897, so it’s well-attuned to such traditions. Its Watch Cap Beanie is made in America and made using 100% virgin American wool. It’s thicker and more hardwearing than some of the cashmere options on this list, but that’s by the design. This is a proper military-style cap, built with the elements (or outdoor dining, at least) in mind.
Don’t let the classic logo or handsome stripes fool you. From our friends at Boston running label Tracksmith, this cap is built specifically for performance. It’s another one stitched with 100% Merino wool, and was originally trialed over two straight 18-degree New England days. Suffice to say, it passed the test. The beanie filters sweat, repels odor and keeps dry. It’s available in seven different colorways, and the Ivory and Black options both feature reflective detailing, in case light’s a little low once you finally get off work and onto the roads.
Similar to Burton’s approachable-priced Kactusbunch Tall Beanie, Topo Design’s take on the watch cap is an affordable option from a reliable outerwear brand. The Fort Collins, Colorado, adventure label is best known for its backpacks (they make ripstop nylon packs that last forever), but it makes jackets, tees, and headwear, too. This 100% acrylic yarn beanie is made in America and comes in a satisfying grey-black marl colorway, which we didn’t find from any other brands. Nota bene: this beanie is a bit chunkier than the other options here — you could take a football to the temple and not notice — but if that’s your vibe, fire away.
The most expensive beanie we tested. What makes it so special? Wills is another Huckberry brand, born from a desire to link up with the world’s best purveyors of three hyper-soft materials: merino wool, Supima cotton, and quality cashmere. The end result: an impressive collection of cable knit sweaters, crewnecks and waffle stitch pullovers. Wills now affords its beanies the same attention it gives its sweaters. The Cashmere Ribbed Beanie (which edged out Everlane’s Cashmere Rib Beanie, by a nose, for softest overall), features a blend of wool and hand-combed cashmere from the Zalla Jinst white goats of the Mongolian steppe.
We've put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you'll need this season, whether it's for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.