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Snoods: Beautiful Hair Adornments From The Middle Ages To Modern Times

Karen Marie Shelton - Copyright - All Rights Reserved 
Revised Date:  02/02/09 - Original Publication Date: 1/3/2001

Introduction

Back in the early1970s hair snoods and the smaller cauls were all the rage at the University of Missouri where I attended classes.  All of my friends would sit in the student union on study breaks and would knit or crochet snoods or cauls of all sizes, shapes, colors and variations. 

(Photo courtesy of SposaBella - all rights reserved).

In the early winter of 1970 I wore a full sized beautiful black see-through net and lace adorned snood.  It was absolutely stunning.  The snood was  encrusted with small shiny black pearls over my French braided golden hair.  I was flooded with compliments over my unusual look.  I was thrilled. 

The snood was specifically custom designed to match my hair and my long black lace gown.  It was hand made by one of my talented seamstress friends. My friend loosely copied the design of a beaded snood she found in a book about Elizabethan times. She decorated the snood with lace that exactly and splendidly matched my dress.

Although that was many years ago, I have always loved snoods. I even bought a full sized crocheted snood several years ago at an annual Renaissance fair held near Dallas. Although it was not nearly as spectacular as my original lace and beaded snood, I really enjoyed the crocheted version for a long time.

Snoods For Weddings & Proms

Recently I received email from some HairBoutique.com visitors who were exploring the possibility of wearing snoods as either bridal headpieces or for their bridal attendants. 

Snoods have once again become popular headgear for weddings, formals and other special events.  Just this week I received email from a Prom bound teen  who wanted to wear a gold mesh snood with her beautiful gold beaded gown.  She wrote to ask if it would be "in fashion" and how to wear her waist length hair inside the snood.

After some correspondence she decided to wear her hair in a soft fishtail braid with the gold mesh snood lightly covering the braid.  I can't wait to see the photos of this creative hair design.

Even though I keep my eyes constantly on the alert for high fashion photos of runway hair snoods or bun covers, I rarely find them.  The image at the top of this review was presented in a very recent European bridal fashion show.  I was stunned to find it considering how rare it is to find great images of snoods from the runways. 

Snoods are such a fabulous way to instantly dress up any hairstyle.  It also offers the advantage of being completely different.  Many Prom goers write and ask me to help them find something for their hair that is unusual, different and creative.  A custom bejeweled snood could be the perfect solution. 

Continued below ↓
 

What Is A Snood?

While researching the availability of hair snoods on the web, I found the Lady MacSnood (aka Sara Dunham) site which is a really great web site that offers a variety of wonderful handmade snoods. 

(Photo courtesy of LadyMacSnood - all rights reserved).

I also found Drea Leed's Elizabethan Costuming Page that has a great section about the history of snoods, cauls and related hair coverings.

Snoods are not new. According to Drea Leed's site and additional research that I have completed, snoods first appeared in the Middle Ages. During various periods of time since about the 1500s both women and men have worn a variety of different hair covers that loosely fit into the "snood" family of hair accessories.

So what exactly is a snood?  Historically snoods were a type of hairnet made of large loose "bags" that covered most of the hair. Crocheting was not invented until after the 17th century.  Therefore snoods from the Middle ages were often made of fillet-knotted lace.

Snoods were related to the smaller "cauls" which were beautiful pieces designed to encase a specific section of the hair.  While snoods appear to cover the majority of the hair, cauls,like bun covers, are much smaller and more focused in the area of the hair that they adorn.

Snood Variations?

Like everything else in the hair world there were variations to the snood and the caul.  Italy in the 16th century had a type of snood known as the "balzo".  From what I can determine, the major difference between the two hair accessories was that the balzo was worn higher on the head and appeared to be a type of roll. 

Another member of the early snood family was the "Italian coif" that was a little bigger than a caul but not quite large enough to be a full snood. The "Italian coif" was reported to be popular in Flanders during the 1570s time frame.  Men as well as women wore this type of hair covering. 

Snoods, cauls, balzos and Italian coifs were made from a wide range of materials such as netting, cloth, cotton, muslin, lace, silk, velvet or ribbon.  Cauls and snoods would sometimes be paired with a hat or other head covering.  Hats would be worn over the cauls.  The snoods would often be attached to the bottom of the hair.

Sometimes snoods would be designed to lightly cover, yet display, the hair.  Snoods designed to show off the hair often had accent beads, jewels and precious stones sewn onto the headpiece.  Such snoods were elaborate and gorgeous works of beauty. 

Other snoods were designed more to hide or protect the hair and were created out of materials that were not translucent.  Protective snoods would often be made of muslin or heavy cloth.

Whether worn as decoration or protection, most snoods were positioned at the middle of the head.  During the Middle Ages snoods were pinned in place or held with ribbon or cloth. The 2001 version of the snood or caul is more often held on the head by means of nylon or elastic cord.  To achieve authenticity some modern snood fans will still use ribbons.

Bun Covers

Sometimes small cauls were worn tightly around just the top of a bun.  These hair accessories were known as "bun covers".  The popularity of bun covers also seems to come and go throughout different historic periods.   Like the snood, they seem to have also enjoyed a recent renewal.  Bun covers can be made out of a variety of materials ranging from chain metal to lace and silk.  

Lady MacSnood: Maker of Fine Handmade Snoods

model1.jpg (3548 bytes)Besides offering some gorgeous hand made snood designs, the Lady MacSnood Web site has lots of great photos and information about snoods.  (Pictured to the side is Lady MacSnood's daughter modeling one of MacSnood's beautiful designs.  All rights reserved).

Lady MacSnood has been making and selling her fine hand crocheted snoods for over three years.  Her snoods are  made completely from scratch. Only the finest quality crochet cotton and metallic thread are ever used. The last row of the snood normally has elastic cord woven into it which helps it stay in place without the need for using hair pins. The elastic cord is barely visible yet offers freedom from pins to hold the snood in place. Historical purists can request ribbon in place of the elastic.

High On The Hair Friendliness Scale

Lady MacSnood who sports beautiful waist length hair, completely understands the need to pamper beautiful long hair with comfort and hair friendliness.  While it is possible to buy less expensive imported machine crocheted snoods, the nylon construction has a tendency to grab and pull strands of snood encased hair.  Not only does this phenomena make the snoods less comfortable, there is the possibility that precious long hairs can be endangered in the process.

The hand-crocheted MacSnood creations are very comfortable and hair friendly.  They also tend to hold up after prolonged use holding their shape nicely after repeated washings.  The same can not be said for the machine created snoods.

Perfect For All Hair Lengths

If they are made correctly, snoods can be worn by anyone with any length of hair from very long to short. In some cases people with extremely long hair might have to pin it up to wear a smaller caul.  Most people, even with very long hair, can wear a snood without    any pins at all. They can just tuck their hair snugly into the snood and tie it into place.

Although is it rare that someone would have too much hair to wear a snood, extra long snoods for people with longer and/or thicker hair are also available from Lady MacSnood. 

HairBoutique.com often recommends that visitors stop by and see Lady MacSnood for her creations.  We appreciate the fact that she takes pride in her work and backs every snood made with a satisfaction guaranteed warranty. Check out her great web site for all the details. 

Delusions Of Long Hair

As Lady MacSnood explains on her site  "ladies and girls with shorter hair will find a snood gives the illusion of longer hair.  The natural spherical shape adds fullness and body". 

Also, "in some eras the back of the snood would be stuffed with artificial hair or other material, giving the illusion of even fuller hair."

Anyone wanting to help give their hair an instant growth spurt should consider wearing a snood.  

Modern Snood Designs

Modern snoods can be knitted, crocheted or made out of netting.  They can also be hand sewn.  There is no limit to the type of snood that can be created.   Snoods made with thin thread look more delicate and are especially gorgeous when created out of silk or silk combined with lace.

Hair can be worn a variety of ways with a snood.  Hair can be worn soft and loose.  It can also be worn in fat soft braids that nest loosely into the netting of the snood.  Smaller snoods can be worn over a loose chignon or soft fishtail braid. It doesn't matter whether hair is curly, wavy or straight.  It can be gathered softly into a snood.  The only thing that limits a snood is the imagination of the person wearing it.

Events That Are Perfect For Snoods

A wedding or formal is a perfect place for a gorgeous snood.  More brides are having custom snoods made with the lace that accents their gowns. A snood can be made out of gorgeous netting with hand-sewn beads to give the bridal ensemble a very romantic period look. (Pictured to the side is Lady MacSnood's Cinderalla II snood in gold with 6mm pearl beads. All rights reserved).

Snoods can also dress up any evening gown or wedding attendant gown.  

Besides formal events, snoods are fabulous for long haired folks like myself, that want to keep their hair off their face yet still wear it down and soft.  While buns and braids are an easy "out of the way" option, having a snood as an alternative solution is great.

It is also perfect to hide hair that is "acting up".  If your hair just won't behave, pop a beautiful snood on it and create a hot new look.  No one will suspect that your hair is misbehaving. They will probably just assume you are starting a hot new hair accessory fad.

Summary

The snood and its relatives (cauls, bun covers) have been very popular since the Middle Ages and continues to be popular even today in 2009.  Snoods are a cross between a soft bag, a hairnet and a hat of sorts.  

Snoods can be made for any length of hair, in just about any type of fabric and can be worn in a variety of styles. Anyone wanting a gorgeous unusual hair accessory should consider wearing a fabulous snood.

Note:  A very special thanks to Sara Dunham aka Lady McSnood for the time and help she gave me with this article about snoods.

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