History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

08 November 2009

Can the Snood Save Christmas?

What a surprise---I checked out The Wall Street Journal Yesterday to see the headline in the style section: Can the Snood Save Christmas?

Really????? The SNOOD?

Now as a medieval writer, the snood conjures something entirely different from what was shown in the style section. I was more than surprised to see the tube-like scarf I used to wear on the ski slopes take a new form into this massive, blanket-like head-scarf…a hot fashion item, according the Journal, that designers are determined to foist upon us during the economic down-turn, because it represents an apparel item that is new, that we don’t already have.

Naturally, the History Hoyden in me drove me to do to a little research about snoods:
From the all web-encompasing summary source, Wikepedia: A snood is a type of headgear, historically worn by women over their long hair. In the most common form it resembles a close-fitting hood worn over the back of the head. The band covers the forehead or crown of the head, goes behind the ears and under the nape of the neck. A sack of sorts dangles from this band, covering and containing the fall of long hair gathered at the back of the head. A snood is sometimes made of solid cloth, but sometimes of loosely knitted yarn, or other net-like material---now this, as a historical writer, is what I call a snood.

More: “The word is first recorded in Old English from around 725 and was widely used in the Middle Ages for a variety of cloth or net head coverings, including what we would today call hairbands and cauls, as well as versions similar to a modern net snood. Snoods continued in use in later periods especially for women working or at home.

In Scotland and parts of the North of England a silken ribbon about an inch wide called a snood was worn specifically by unmarried women as an indicator of their status until the late 19th or early 20th century [1]. It was usually braided into the hair.

Snoods came back into fashion in the 1860s, though the term "snood" remained a European name, and Americans called the item simply a "hairnet" until some time after they went out of fashion in the 1870s. These hairnets were frequently made of very fine material to match the wearer's natural hair color (see 1860s in fashion - hairstyles and headgear) and worn over styled hair. Consequently, they were very different from the snoods of the 1940s.
Snoods became popular again in Europe during World War II. At that time, the British government had placed strict rations on the amount of material that could be used in clothing. While headgear was not rationed, snoods were favored, along with turbans and headscarves, in order to show one's commitment to the war effort.
Today women's snoods are commonly worn by married Orthodox Jewish women, according to the religious custom of hair covering.”

And with regards to The Wall Street Journal’s fashion commentary, I think below explains it all very nicely:

“The word has also come to be applied to a tubular neck protector or warmer, often worn by skiers or motorcyclists. The garment can be worn either pulled down around the neck like a scarf, or pulled up over the hair and lower face, like a hood. A commercial company making women's clothing also uses the word as a trademark and sells a decorative variant of the sports snood as its signature product.”

Retailers today are apparently trying to give the snood a new name (have to admit, it’s a fun word to say)---they want to call it the “infinity scarf, or infinity loop”---not so fun, IMO.

At any rate, I still prefer the historical and traditional version of the snood---the lovely hairnet, oft adorned with pearls or beads, used to capture the cascading tresses belonging to the ladies centuries past.

Will the snood, in any variety, save the Holiday Season of 2009? One can only hope. I think there is something romantic in general about a lady covering her head or capturing her hair.
Have any of you ever worn the modern or the historical version of the snood?

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Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I love historical fashion posts, Kathrynn. I seem to recall that a few years ago the snood endeavored to make a comeback, but it wasn't a success. Not many women want to resemble Louisa May Alcott.

And in NYC, the fashion capital of America (so says me, the native New Yorker), it's hard to make snoods appear stylish when they're often the headgear of choice for many Orthodox Jewish women who are compelled by religious law (if you're Chasdic) to cover your head all the time. It's the reason they wear sheitels or wigs over their actual hair, and the Chasidic women are hardly fashion icons, because they are not supposed to tempt men with their outward appearance.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Erastes said...

I used to ride, and wore a netting snood a lot to control the hair, quite the best way of having tidy hair on a horse.

A few years ago, they became very fashionable to wear here in the UK too - I really like them.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love historical fashion posts too! Years ago at an RWA conference a very stylish author friend was wearing her long blonde hair in a beaded black snood at an evening event. I thought the effect was quite petty, and I actually looked for one myself, but I wasn't able to find one.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Kathrynn Denns said...

Hi Leslie...I have to agree, I like snoods as a part of a middle-ages or victorian costume---and they are quite nice on a well turned out eqestrianne (I remember now, Erastes, I wore one then too!)...they lend a certian conservatism to modern apparel. The snoods in department stores this season (I mean the "infinity loops---a name that's loopier than snood, IMO---" look warm, but er, I guess I don't see them saving Christmas!

7:07 AM  
Anonymous kathrynn dennis said...

Tracy, if you Google medieval headgear you will find many costume sites that sell some beautiful netted snoods for $20 or less. I saw some that were sooo pretty, with seed pearls (very Tudor) and beads in the netting. Check out: themedievalmarket.com

7:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Back in the hippie 60s when crocheting was a big thing, we crocheted small snoods to encase a chignon or bun worn low at the back of neck. I liked them because I had very thick straight hair that stuck out of anything I tried to catch it up in. The snoods made me look neat and well put-together.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The word has also come to be applied to a tubular neck protector or warmer, often worn by skiers or motorcyclists.

Really? Everyone I know who rides calls them "neck ups".

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Kathrynn Dennis said...

Betty, I love look of the small snood around a low bun...very lady like.

Neck-ups? I like that, Kalen! For the Holiday Season, snoods, neck-ups, and infinity loops to the rescue!

8:56 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I always call the neck protector/warmer thing I wear on the back of Scott's motorcycle a "gorget," which is really an armorial term for the protective gear worn about the throat. I've never heard motorcyclers using "snood" in any context.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've never heard motorcyclers using "snood" in any context.

Can't you just see a big, bad biker asking if anyone's seen his snood? *rolls eyes* When I google it, they mostly seem to be listed as "neck warmers".

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Kathrynn said...

A biker asking for his snood! Makes me grin...

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd love to find tighter-weave snood than what's out there. I do the medieval costume thing, and love how a snood gets my long hair out of the way.... until my curls find their way out of the netting.

10:12 AM  

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