How the Humble Crochet Hat Took Over Instagram

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Until, say, March 2020, wearing a crocheted hat on your head could mean several different things. It could mean that you recently shaved your head due to an outbreak of head lice at your elementary school and need to keep your noggin warm in the meantime. It could mean you were forced to wear one to summer camp to avoid sunburn. Or maybe you wore a crocheted hat because you went to Hampshire College, and besides growing a kombucha scoby, that’s exactly what people were doing there. It wasn’t the kind of hat you’d see on, say, Bella Hadid, or some slightly anonymous Italian Instagram influencer who somehow has a million Instagram followers. Until, of course, it was: For the past year, the crochet bucket has been everywhere, and not just among tweens. What changed? Two words: free time.

During the darkest and deepest time of the pandemic — from around March 2020 to… now — Instagram was inundated with people taking up all sorts of DIY hobbies, like birdwatching and baking sourdough bread. People have also taken to stringing pony beads to create funky jewelry. They learned to knit and weave. A select few learned to crochet, and crochet accounts soon started popping up all over Instagram, advertising handmade hats in all sorts of weird colors and shapes.

Two of Emily Dawn Long’s hats.

Courtesy of Emily Dawn Long
Courtesy of Emily Dawn Long

There was a precedent for all of this. The crochet beanie trend started a few weeks ago before the pandemic, when Emily Dawn Long, designer and former celebrity stylist, debuted her hat called Wanda on Instagram. The hat, which you can mold into all sorts of shapes (bucket, “Pharrell” and more), comes in earth tones, with a simple and eye-catching dotted pattern. It gives off a kind of 90s To bloom vibe, but feels contemporary – it’s the kind of piece that looks especially good when worn with a pair of lightly faded jeans and a large button down shirt. Long’s inspiration for the hat, she explained, came from a vintage prototype she saved a few years ago, on which she constantly received 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 an almost instant success. “The hat just took off,” she told me.

Shortly after Long’s hats started trending, 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 again during the pandemic to keep her hands busy. She started by making crochet bags for her friends, then moved on to making hats and bras. 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 medicine canisters. Crocheting items for her friends eventually sparked such interest that Gouw quit her job to pursue her side business. “I realized this crochet thing could be a full-time thing,” she said. “It was no more: I was making hats on the side. I could do it full time.

Long and Gouw are not alone. Rat Hat’s Alice Sofia Navarin makes her own in loud Rainbow Brite neon; they sometimes feature hearts, moons and suns. In addition to making crochet bobs, Navarin also makes Scrub– hats inspired by rabbits and small balaclavas for cold weather. Husband and wife duo STORY mfg also make a few different crochet hats. Their most popular include small black snails. It’s probably the best-worn gardening, but it will definitely work for drinking wine in a park.

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The quarantine crochet fancy hat is surprisingly genderless. More than that, it’s the opposite of sexy, one of those pieces that looks inherently virginal. They are everywhere. In the small enclave of Brooklyn where I live, I have seen teenagers wearing crocheted hats. When I ventured into lower Manhattan, I saw them on stages on all sides, sneaking down Canal Street, probably also wearing baggy jeans. And of course, they are all over social media. Just look at the photos tagged on any of these designer accounts and you’ll see countless people, young and old, of all genders, wearing these infamously chic hats. When I reached out to a few people who joined the trend, they cited functionality and nostalgia as the main drivers. Emma, ​​a 23-year-old who lives in Orange County, owns hats from It’s Memorial Day and Emily Dawn Long. Sun protection is important to Emma, ​​and they believe that if they want to splurge on a fashion item, it must 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 he embraces in his personal style.

The fact that cheeky throwback hats are all the rage says a lot about where fashion is headed. People care about practicality and think more than ever about where their clothes came from and how they were made. Crochet hats fit right into this narrative, right next to quilted Bode jackets, recycled Marine Serre jeans, the “Gorpcore” multiverse, and Zoomers fighting for “thrift store gentrification” on TikTok. In that sense, the humble crocheted hat evokes a bigger moment in fashion as the pandemic begins to wind down. A sustainably made crochet hat worn on the beach this summer is just about the most stylish way possible to ward off sunburn.

Unless, of course, you’re buying a crocheted hat for a different, more personal reason. Silas, who is 24 and works in the nonprofit sector, also loves the trend and has taken on his own hat. It reminds them, they said, of when they “constantly had lice for, like, two years.”

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