All About the Snood

7th October 2009

A snood is a type of headwear which is designed to be worn over the back of the head, covering a woman’s long hair and keeping it together. It is a garment which has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity throughout a long history, and is recently enjoying resurgence into mainstream fashion with hybrid snoods that double as neck tubes.

In its most common type, the snood takes the form of a solitary hood with an elasticated band. This band runs across the forehead, or crown, and runs down behind the ears and along the back of the neck. This design leaves a sack dangling behind the neck, which usually contains the wearer’s long hair. The snood can be made from cloth or from other materials into a specific design.

The term snood can be traced back to the Old English word ‘snod’, meaning ‘a ribbon for the hair’. The original snoods, first seen in medieval times, would be made of knotted lace and would be worn to cover the hair and keep it in place, which was especially useful for women who would work using any kind of practical role, for example, in food preparation. A garment known as a snood was also worn widely in and around Scotland and Northern England around the turn of the 20th century, by young, unmarried women as a sign of chastity. But this snood was merely a ribbon worn around the head, and which was sometimes woven into the hair.

During the 1860s, the snood enjoyed very high popularity in Europe and America, though in America it was known as a hair net, due to the way the hair piece was worn throughout this decade. After a woman had styled her hair, using various oils, pins and pomades, they would cover it with a decorative snood, which would often match the natural colour of the wearer’s hair. These snoods would be made of a very fine material which made it resemble a net, and would be edge with fine, decorative ribbon.

The snood then went out of fashion in the 1870s, and remained dormant until World War II where, in Europe, snoods were worn out of necessity rather than as a fashion statement. Although clothing was rationed, there were no limits placed on headwear. Snoods and headscarves began to be worn as a sign of your commitment to the war effort. They were also very popular in factories, where women would keep their long hair in a snood to stop it getting tangled up in machinery.

Today, snoods are very popular amongst orthodox Jewish women to help them comply with ‘tzniut’, a term used to describe the doctrine of modesty and humility, and the code of conduct between men and women and how they may dress. The snood is seen by orthodox Jewish women as a way of fulfilling tzniut in terms of covering their hair. It is now also a very popular winter garment, especially the kind made of wool, which protects the head from the conditions of winter and keeps the hair in place. It has found another niche amongst motorcyclists, who make use of the modern snood’s ability to be rolled down around the neck as a scarf.