Memories, Oh Ja, Stearns, Wobegon Trail

Hat Hair 101

I’d forgotten about hat hair.

It wasn’t until I returned from a Lois Walk in St Rosa, having removed my sister’s pink crocheted headband and the hood of my booger, that my knowledge about hat hair flooded back. Too late, on this occasion.

My hair was flat and sweaty in some places and stood up in others. Static-laden strands floated in all directions. I got a shock when I touched a metal doorknob.

Smoothing, patting, running my fingers through the impossible knots – nothing made it better.

If you wear hats in Minnesota, I realized, unless you plan ahead you're going to have hat hair.

How can you prevent this unflattering look, or at least restore a normal appearance after removing your headwear?

This is a daily reality if you’re a Minnesotan.

We always had winter hat hair after returning home from skating, sledding, skiing, walks, ice fishing, outdoor play, scraping the windshield, taking out the garbage, shoeshoeing, shovelling the sidewalks or driveway, snowball fights, or making snowmen or snow angels.

During the really cold months in Minnesota, hat hair is the lesser of two evils.

You don’t want to be cold in Minnesota.

A snug hat, hood, earmuffs, headband, balaclava - wearing these singly or all at once wins the day over chattering teeth, frostbitten ears, and icicles in your eyebrows, mustache and prominent nose hairs. I don't admit to having all of these, but for those who do, go for the balaclava.

The accumulated wisdom of winter-wise folks can save you from bad hat hair, or help you recover from its worst visual effects.

Allow me to share my recovered memories and the guidance of Stearns County friends to prevent hat hair this year.

Unless you don’t care about it.

This makes you one of the wisest of us all and will save you a fortune in headwear made of natural fibers and a medicine cabinet filled with spendy hair products. Your indifference will also have mental health benefits by warding off hat hair anxiety.

Stearns County people often care about what others think of them, though. Our tips may help.

Laurie and Cherie, pixie cuts courtesy of our sisters Marilyn and Marti. If you have short, badly cut hair, you’re not going to worry about hat hair – it will be a fact of life until your hair grows back, or you get a better haircut, or someone teaches you the hair hat tips and tricks we freely share with you today.
  1. The simplest way to prevent or control bad hat hair is to have short hair in winter. Not all of us suit a gamine pixie cut, as we little Hilsgen girls learned when our older sisters sheared our Germanic blonde tresses one year. They still feel bad about it, yet this is one of my favorite pictures of my younger sister Cherie and me. Nowadays none of us need proceed with a dramatic new style without checking whether it suits us: visit your App Store to find tools to help you test cuts, styles, and colors before you go to the hair salon. Who knows – you may be one of those rare people who can rock really short hair. Today, Cherie and I both have long hair. We learned the hard way. Oh ja.
  2. Use a nourishing shampoo and conditioner. These products will keep your hair soft and pliant, able to withstand extreme temperature changes and frequent use of winter headwear.
  3. Dry your hair completely before you put your hat on. This makes Minnesota sense on a few fronts – you won’t risk sickness, or lock in moisture that will result in flat, bent hair when you take your hat off.
  4. Don’t apply hairspray. You’ll sweat beneath your hat while reeling in your crappie, and hairspray will add to the stickiness, and you’ll get bad hat hair. Experiment with products to keep your hair fluffy while wearing a hoodie or beanie.
  5. Try frizz and static control spray to minimize flat hair or an explosion of hat hair when you’re indoors again.
  6. If you have longer hair, pull it into a ponytail, bun, or braid before covering your head. This will keep things tidy under the fake fur and pompoms while you’re outdoors, and make it easier to tease your locks back into shape later.
  7. Beauty experts say you should part hair in the opposite direction than usual before putting your hat on. Once you’re home again, flip your flattened hat hair back to its usual part, restoring hair volume. I’m not girly enough to bother as a rule, but I tried this tip and it works.
  8. If it’s not too cold outside, wear a headband, earmuffs, or ear mitts instead of a hat. These will keep your ears warm with minimal hair disruption. Some headbands feature rhinestones and sparkly embellishments, and some earmuffs are sold with built-in headphones. Many variations are sold in Stearns County – go wild!
  9. Buy headwear made of natural fibers like wool or cashmere. You’ll reduce the risk of annoying static, and these fibers are soft, comfy, and kind to your hair. Merino has the advantages of wicking moisture and repelling sweaty odors.
  10. Reduce static build-up by rubbing the inside of your hat with a dryer sheet before you go out. Or rub one of these sheets over your hair after taking your hat off when you’re inside again. Some swear by pinning a safety pin inside their headwear to ‘ground’ static so hair remains free of flyaways. It’s easy enough to carry a dryer sheet in your wallet or purse or cubbyhole in case you have a static hat hair episode while out and about. I like the idea of a safety pin – a durable multi-purpose solution that’s also environmentally friendly. Unless there’s lightning.
  11. Choose looser hats. It makes sense that the tighter the hat, the greater your risk of hat hair later.
  12. Scarves or berets aren’t practical in Minnesota during blizzards, when skating or sledding or skiing, or in extreme wind chill situations. Go for something warm that covers your face and ears – hat hair is preferable to frostbite.
  13. Shovel, skate, or hike along the Lake Wobegon Trail before you wash your hair. Sweat-producing activities will always give you hat hair.
  14. Accept that hat hair is a reality for Minnesotans. Be at peace – sometimes we just have to roll with the hat hair.

Stearns County Hat Picks

Scarves and Mittens with Strings

You’ll never lose your mittens with these cuties made by Helen Graittinger of Baldwin City, KS. Buy them on

If you’ve found the perfect hat, don’t forget a warm scarf and toasty gloves or mittens.

It’s so easy to lose a mitten, don’t you think?

With seven children, this single truth used to drive our mother crazy.

Where’s your other mitten?” is a question I heard often. I did lose a lot of mittens.

I recall Mom resorting to mitten strings, which keep paired mittens together when threaded through your coat sleeves. This allows you to make a quick exit, pulling on your coat while sliding your hands into the conveniently dangling mittens on their knitted or crocheted strings. 

Don’t make or buy strings with those strange metal suspender clips – they always break, and you will eventually lose your mittens. Instead, use buttons or industrial sized safety pins to secure your strings to your mittens.

I like Helen’s sock pattern mittens complete with handcrafted string, sold on Etsy.

People like my sister Marilyn, who Grandma Lena taught to sew and knit and crochet and quilt, can easily make their own mittens with strings.

By the time we young ones came along, Grandma Lena was tired of teaching her many grandchildren to sew and knit and crochet and quilt.

So I developed an important Minnesota survival skill, learning to just buy such things, or press Marilyn into making them for me.

I once bought corduroy, notions, and a Simplicity pattern to make a nifty pair of winter pants with pleats and fancy belt loops. I showed these to Marilyn, who belly laughed at the thought that I would make those complicated pants with my rudimentary sewing skills. 

So Marilyn made the pants.

And I know she would make me a pair of these mittens, too.

But it’s embarrassing to always ask Marilyn.

So I’ll order mine from Helen in Kansas.

6 thoughts on “Hat Hair 101”

  1. Marti says:

    When I came home tonite it was 3 degrees outside. I had a tight tassle cap on w a big pompom on top. Since I am now 75 and live alone I was just so happy to be back in the warmth I didn’t care about the static of my hair. Nowadays I just think it’s funny. Best to keep your sense of humor as you age. It conquers all.

  2. Lois Thielen says:

    I have had to cover my head during my 35 years of farming. So my rules are: pull the hair back into a knot first; wear a natural fiber kerchief over your hair; then wear a hooded jacket so you can skip all those tight knitted caps. Synthetic anything really activates the frizz. I know Lena was a great seamstress but I never figured out where she got it from. All her sisters were mediocre in this department. I got to be a good seamstress by high school and made most of my clothes through my 20s. I also did custom tailoring in college and after. I thought I got it from my mother’s side; grandmother Moeller was a great seamstress and especially a great quilter. But Lena was very talented. In my Freeport book I recount Katie’s wedding, for which Lena made both the wedding dress and wedding cake. She learned to play the piano at the country school. None of her sisters took advantage of lessons from the school teacher. There was a lot of determination there.

    1. Editor says:

      Great to hear all this Lois. Grandma Lena could also make hats and even gloves – she had a job when she was young where she learned these things. Thank you for sharing your memories. I remember Lena serving Grandpa Joe pickled pigs’ feet for lunch, and making him gingersnaps to dunk in his coffee (and will share your recipe!), but not that she made fancy cakes, or knew how to play the piano. The earlier generations of Minnesotans were often musical, you could have whole bands playing different instruments with those big families. Lena and Joe’s house on 26th Avenue North in St Cloud was tiny; where would they have put a piano? But Grandma Lena did know how to play the harmonica, which fascinates me as she was very proper, always beautifully dressed with tidy hair. I never saw her with hat hair!

  3. Cherie says:

    Laurie, I remember getting either mittens with the crocheted chain of stitches to fish through our winter coat sleeves, or slippers from them for Christmas. Mom usually made us pajamas and if it was a slipper year, they always matched in color. As for hats, I must be lucky not to get hat hair? I wear a lot of hats, but not in winter here in NC. Lots of straw ones in the summer, or baseball caps pulling a ponytail through the back. My hair seems fuller after wearing those, and I need all the help I can get after Covid had my hair falling out. All my sisters get that beautiful thick hair just like Lena had. Mine was baby fine and on the thin side even before I got sick.

    1. Editor says:

      And yet. I see you as the sister with the beautiful thick hair. And the only one who does twirly things with her hair. You are the Hilsgen hair maven. Embrace it.

      1. Cherie says:

        Smoke and mirrors girlie.

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