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Beret, Tam, or Slouch?

Jul 13, 2012

You all know that I love knitting hats. They're cute, quick, and can be easy or challenging.

As hats become more fashionable, there are more types of them out there. For myself, I favor a beret or slouch; definitely not a beanie, which makes me look like a basket ball head! My mom and sister, on the other hand, look great in beanies (and every other type of hat—lucky dogs!).

I'm lucky, too though, because there are so many fun knitted hats, slouches, and berets out there. I know there's such a thing as a tam, too, but it looks exactly like a beanie to me.

I came across this article in Knits Accessories 2011, though, which explains the difference. Here it is:

Clockwise from top right: The Linocut Beret is a beret with less drastic shaping and blocking. The Corinthian Tam features true beret shaping and flat blocking. The Intaglio Hat is a slouchy hat.

In knitting, we throw around the terms beret, tam, and slouch as if they are synonymous. Are they?

Historically, "tam" is short for the Tam O'Shanter, a Scottish wool hat with a pom-pom. These hats were worn by men and became part of the Scottish military regalia during World War I. "Tammies" are the more universal version of the tam, being worn by both genders and all ages in the United Kingdom. The body is roughly twice the circumference of the band, similar to a beret in proportion.

The beret emerged in Bronze Age Europe and later became typical to France and Spain. The Scottish tam is considered a specific, regional type of beret. Traditionally, a beret would be worn tilted to one side, while a tam would perch straight on the head.

The slouch is a contemporary hat style. It can start as a regular beanie in shape but then is worked to greater circumference and depth to create the characteristic slouch at the back of the head—as the Intaglio Hat above. Or it can be worked as a beret with less drastic shaping and blocking.

The trend of blocking berets over dinner plates seems to have waned, creating a trend of handknit berets that are more slouchy than disk-like. And we certainly don't attach pom-poms to all our tams. So, for knitters, the terms are loose and can be interchangeable.

Maybe we should be saying tammie in place of tam, however! Berets and tammies are generally twice as large around the body as they are at the brim. The brim should fit snugly around the head.

—From Knits Accessories, 2011

Interesting, right? I guess my hat of choice is the slouchy beret.

All three of these hat knitting patterns plus several more are available in Knits Accessories, 2011. It's available for download, so get yours today!


P.S. What's your favorite type of hat? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Ruth Ly wrote
on Jul 18, 2012 12:40 PM

Slouchy beret, for sure!

Ilehlia wrote
on Jul 15, 2012 8:40 AM

I like cloches, with a rolled brim.  Sometimes I fold the brim down in one spot and attach a crocheted flower.  Berets too.  Toques too, with earflaps, 'cuz I'm Canadian too eh and it can get cold here in the winter eh.  :-D

moey100 wrote
on Jul 14, 2012 5:48 PM

My favourite hat is a toque!  Because I'm a Canadian

cindyann01 wrote
on Jul 14, 2012 4:30 PM

Slouch, easier to wear for any occasion.

annellis1 wrote
on Jul 14, 2012 11:15 AM

French beret of course; they look even grander on men then they do on women. Does anyone know where I can obtain a pattern for a little cap they wore in the 40s. It's just a knit cap with a ball on the end; it doesn't cover the whole head. Judy Garland wore it; the costar in "The Bishops wife " wore it. It's kind of silly but I'de love to make it. Don't know how else to describe it. thanks

Courtney@2 wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 6:24 PM

My favorite hats to knit for myself are men's hats.  In the first place, I don't have to futz with the gauge and pattern to make them large enough for my head.  They are also closer fitting, more like skull caps.  They usually have some kind of clever construction or detail to compensate for the deadly colors that are required so that a man would actually wear them.

I simply make them in exciting colors.

Not every woman wants lace, slop, and from-frou.

CarolynS@45 wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 5:17 PM

My favorite hats have a brim, a somewhat exaggerated cloche - easiest to do with a felted hat. I find surprisingly few patterns for this type of hat. Fortunately, it's not hard to do without a pattern.

Homeshppr wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 1:56 PM

The young women snatching up my knitting hats are all going for the slouch hats!  Some prefer a slight fullness, where other like the full slouch.  I've tried lots of new patterns on my hats, so no two are ever alike.

EvelynR wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 12:29 PM

I love hats--just wish they looked good on me.  I like seeing hats of all kinds on other women, whether handmade or ready-made.  May be time for me to take the plunge, then!  Thanks, Cissy

on Jul 13, 2012 10:59 AM

Hey Themommage. Here's a link to the magazine preview page. Scroll down and click on the "supplies list" link and you'll see lots of bigger photos on the project page.

Hope this helps!

themommage wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 8:00 AM

I have a question. Why should I buy KnitScene when the only pictures of the projects are too small to see? I want to be sure I am interested in at least two patterns when I buy a magazine. There is no way I can determine ANYTHING through the teeny little pictures shown in the ad. How about allowing the pix to be enlarged for detail?