There are myriad ways to wear a beanie if you’re a man, which is most unfortunate. It’s not man’s fault, though – rather, it’s the fault of the men who wear them. And just as Russell Branding fobbed us off with the idea of “pillowcasing” (packing your massive hair into a beanie), and David Beckham sold us “haggising” (like pillowcasing, just with shorter hair), we have Harry Styles to thank for “helixing”, the new beanie standard.
Helixing is the counterintuitive practice of wearing a beanie towards the back of your crown, so as to expose the helix – or outer rim – of your ears. Styles has been helixing since 2014 (before he looked like a lion) and models on the Richard Nicoll catwalk were doing it in 2013. Simon Chilvers, menswear editor at Matchesfashion.com, dates it back as far as the 1990s, citing River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho as the original helixer. It’s a scrambled logic that leaves your head hot and your ears cold, still it’s here and it’s mass, so let’s dig deep as to why.
It’s worth mentioning that fashion is not always rooted in pragmatism. But, like non-prescription spectacles and most heeled shoes, there are some trends that positively mock utility and helixing is one. Unsurprisingly, Urban Dictionary, the entry point for hipster antipathy, describes it as Hipster Hat, arguing that many men are prepared to get earache from the elements because warmth is so mainstream.
Sam Wolfson is a journalist and hat fan who has been wearing his beanie like this for years. It’s nothing to do with being able to hear, he says. Rather, it sets you apart from basic beanie wearers: “It’s like the difference between like sticking a hat on a little kid for a boxing day walk so that he stays toasty, and wearing a beanie in a trendy-first-year-at-St-Martins way. Ears in is, like, too John Lewis catalogue, you know?” Chilvers agrees: “The pulled over the ears look definitely has the tendency to look a bit teen angst.”
Helixing requires a shallow beanie (Lyle Scott does a thin, stretchy version that works well) or a fisherman beanie (ribbed, a bit smaller). Alternatively, you can fashion a regular beanie into one of the above by rolling the rim up. Fashion is divided on the amount of rolls – the blogosphere goes for double-rolling, whereas Chilvers recommends three rolls: “Beanie science – another groundbreaking turn from menswear.”
Obviously, with all hat-related trends, its success hangs on head shape, hairstyle “and in this particular incidence,” continues Chilvers, “ear shape”. There are two hair camps: long-haired wearers, such as Kurt Cobain, whose “hair generally looked good anchored down, ears in, hair poking out at the bottom” and those with “slightly shorter but still messy hair [see Harry Styles], for whom the ears out option looks infinitely neater and more grown up.” Something for everyone, then.
On one hand, we should be grateful for helixing. The more beanies there are in existence, the fewer flat caps. Think about it.