Earmuffs: A heated defense

If you have curly, wavy or carefully-coiffed hair, a conventional winter hat is the enemy: you will suffer hat head. 

Taking off your hat is like unveiling a homely monument, every flaw displayed. Women in restaurants, hands tugging at their hair, inevitably resign themselves  to a disheveled mess.

So, I wear earmuffs. I walked into an upscale boutique last week and was told by the saleswoman, "My, I haven't seen a grown woman in earmuffs in a long time."

At moments like this one must summon self-esteem of steel.

Minkie muffs
It might have helped to flaunt mink earmuffs, like these from Carolyn Furs, with the hard-to-find mink band; price, $85.

I was wearing the sportier sheepskin variety in black. 

You can order them (join me, I need help here) from Shepherd's Flock, a Vermont maker; you'll find lofty choices in both sheep-naturals and colours like navy, pink and wine from $13 to $30.

Shepherd's Flock sheepskin muffs
What else is light but warm? (Lightness is essential, but so is space, to prevent compressing hair.) Cashmere beats anything else.
Bompard cashmere beret
Deep enough to sit atop the 'do: Eric Bompard's beret, knit in various stitches, €58.

Golightly cashmere beret

Golightly Cashmere's beret–in two circumferences–is $105. (Note: Any Golightly hat, though produced to order, can be returned.)

Cashmere headband
A headband is another strategy; Golightly's 6-ply cashmere also comes in regular and large sizes. Depending on your hair, you might abide hairline squish in exchange for its sweet hug.

I can think of–and reject–other ideas; a folded silk scarf is too easily damaged and slips off in wind. 

Going hatless, the choice of teens? No fun once you've suffered frostbitten lobes.

So earmuffs it is. 

Foxy fox muffs
If any earmuff might change the saleswoman's perception, a pair of ruby fox ones with a velvet flower, by Cassin (price, $395) from Bergdorf Goodman ought to do it. 

The earmuffs of a queen, let alone a grown woman.


Hear, hear! Or should I say, "ear, ear"?

And on a similar note, on your recommendation, I bought myself a cashmere tuque from Golightly and it is divine. Absolutely. My toasty ears thank you ("the ears have it"--please stop me). And I have a pixie cut so I am impossible to squash (literally, metaphorically I am very squashable).
Splurgie said…
A couple of winters ago I bought a faux fur bomber hat from Eddie Bauer. It's the hat I wear when I'm not fooling around with frostbite. Wrecks the hair but it's for times that home is the next stop. If I could have any earmuffs from your post it would have to be that ruby fox number. I didn't even know such a thing existed. That's why I always check out your blog!
I'm too frileuse to join in your defence of earmuffs - I find my angora béret doesn't muss my hair very much, and doesn't bestow the dreaded hat-hair. I also have the large cotton Parkhurst béret for milder weather.

I would like that cashmere béret, in the larger size. The Bompard doesn't look large enough for my head and hair.

I guess a béret doesn't fully cover earlobes, at least on the more exposed side of the head, but I also wear a warm scarf. One of my prouder charity shop finds - a beautiful muffler in some South-American creature wool.

It is bloody cold here today, and we got a dump of snow. Damn. Splurgie, I have hoods for forays outside in viciously cold weather, usually to go shopping. The problem is if one is heading out for a work-related or social occasion in the cold.
Duchesse said…
Dorky Medievalist: So glad you love your tuque! Pixie cut women don't have to worry about hat head.

Splurgie: Cute! I have a raccoon hat but it wrecks my hair, too.

lagatta: Earmuffs are almost unbelievably warm, especially those big puffballs Shepherd's Flock make. Warmer than a beret. Le Duc in Mtl this weekend looking at a few places.
Deja Pseu said…
It's not just curly hair; my fine, straight hair tends to get smooshed down even further under a hat. I bought a pair of fur earmuffs (not on the band though, love the ones you've shown!) a few years ago during a winter business trip to NY. There I saw men and women wearing earmuffs with some frequency. I have the opposite problem as lagatta: my head is very small, and I have trouble finding berets that don't wind up on the bridge of my nose.
Artful Lawyer said…
I was thinking of this the other day here in Michigan - hats render my head not-business-appropriate, and scarves over the head are rather babushka, so earmuffs it is. What else can a woman do? The men I work with, with their short hair or bald heads, can wear nice classical felt men's hats (any one of which would totally give me hat hair).
materfamilias said…
I'm guessing she wasn't their best saleswoman and I hope she works on commission . . .
It's usually too wet here for most of your suggestions, and I rely either on felted wool hats with brims or a felted wool beret (Holt's has some great ones in their store label). Yes, they do flatten my hair, so I always carry my pick and try to restore some volume discreetly as soon as the hat comes off. In dry cold, though, I'd very happily wear any of the gorgeous ear-muffs you've tracked down.
Belle de Ville said…
Oh those mink earmuffs are wonderful. I would wear them in a heart beat.
Northmoon said…
My down coat has a hood that works very well, and probably wouldn't cause 'hat-head'. I too have a pixie cut, so couldn't say from experience.

I see nothing wrong with sheepskin earmuffs though. In winter warmth is primary, not fashion!
Jill Ann said…
I am lucky to live in a warm climate, because I have the unfortunate combination of a very large head, and curly/wavy hair. When I used to go skiing, some years ago, I did wear earmuffs because ski hats fit my head too tightly.

My good friend in Washington DC, who has very curly hair, just told me she'd invested in some earmuffs, and loves them. Those mink ones you showed are fabulous, by the way!
Beatnheart said…
start a trend! come by for my GIVEAWAY
Demi-pointe said…
I like the ones from Shepherd's Flock. I spent sometime reading the diatribe on their homepage (entertaining!) - by the end of that I decided I liked their slippers too :)
Frugal Scholar said…
I LOVE them! In fact, I'm going to see if Miss Em (who has had major ear surgery and can't let cold air get near her ear) if she likes them. Love the business too--wonderful website.

P.S. I think they're quite sophisticated.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Thanks for your loyal support!

Artful: You mean you wear them? Feeling better. But don't men freeze in those hats, with bare ears? (I grew up in No. Mich.)

materfamilias: Wet is a whole other set of challenges for curls. A pick, clever.

Belle: Well then! I might have to order. (You have to be really careful with earrings when wearing earmuffs, something that you likely do not have to tell your BH clients.)

Northmoon: I don't use my attached hoods, like to able to freely swivel my head. But think fur trimmed hoods look romantic on others.

Demi-pointe: Yes, I almost mentioned that front page...

Frugal: I almost lost my sheepskin earmuffs shopping today and panicked. (They were in fact around my neck, duh.)
Marsha said…
My daughter, a clotheshorse since infancy, now lives in New York and all she wanted for Christmas last year were fur earmuffs - which she got and wears constantly. My faith in her taste is infinite - so, earmuffs it is!
Duchesse said…
Marsha: Fur earmuffs are often made from recycled coats, so that's another point in favour; thanks!
Rebecca Mielke said…
I am completely with you on ear-muffs. This year I bought a pair of the kind that wrap around the back of your head. They are great! From the front, you can't even tell I'm wearing anything!

I do admit to wearing a wool cowboy type hat, when I really have to have one. Fortunately, my hair can take a little bit of abuse. Funny thing is, when I wear it, people look at me very particularly - in a friendly way!
Lindy said…
Fur earmuffs are a great stylish solution. I have a friend who was born in Germany and raised in Venezuela. Now living in the USA, English is his third language. He mistakenly calls his headgear "earmuffins."
Duchesse said…
Rebecca: The behind ear ones are only worn by men, here (but they seem unisex to me.)

Lindy: I love these malapropisms. A French friend who calls he bangs "bangles".
Kristine said…
I'm someone who has never been able to wear traditional, or even the newer ear muffs, not for lack of trying. The bands just never have fit my head well so that they stay on or if they do stay on, they are incredibly uncomfortable. Living in a northern climate and having ears prone to earaches in temps much below 60F, I need ear protection. I am so glad to have discovered Ear Pops a few years ago. There are others out there that are similar, but these are great. I highly recommend them. http://www.earpops.com/
Duchesse said…
Kristine: Wow-a revelation to me! Glad to hear they work.

You might also be able to wear the behind-the-head style Rebecca mentions, see www.180s.com; there's even a down model!

Turns out there are more earmuff fans out there than I dreamed, I'm grateful.
Aunt Snow said…
I'm terrible with hats. I love a beret for the winter, but you're right - wear a hat, get hat-hair.
Anonymous said…
If they have not seen a grown woman in ear muffs in a long time they have not gotten out much. As small as we are we can't keep up with orders and folks swear by them. Word of mouth has been our best reference. Thanks for the link. We do appreciate it.
Shepherd's Flock, Townshend Vermont, USA
Duchesse said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duchesse said…
Shepherd's Flock: Since the post, I've been seeing them everywhere- and am ordering a pair of your super-puffballs.
Rubiatonta said…
I had to wear my hat a lot over the weekend in Montreal, and so just put up with the indignities of hat hair, but I'd have loved some dashing earmuffs! I'll have a gander at the site you linked to, since shearling would be just the ticket. (Not a mink person, me.)

Then again, we can take a page from our Grandmothers' books and choose a becoming hat, coordinated to our clothes, which we can then leave on indoors. I have a pretty handmade wool felt number that I sometimes remember to do this with.
Mardel said…
Well I adore earmuffs as my ears are always cold and I get terrible earaches if I don't protect them. I have lots of hair to insulate my head, but if my ears are cold I am cold.

Now that my hair is longer and painfully flat, I am wearing hats more in winter, I like the look, but my ears suffer so I am considering looking into some of those ear pops someone mentioned.

Since I need new earmuffs, I am checking out some of your links. Earmuffs will always be my winter head protection of choice.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: Fur ones are fabulous if you wear fur; I do.
Mardel said…
I do wear fur, and I have ordered the ones with the fur band. My old ones were mink with a velvet band. This is better. I am contemplating the shearling ones as well. Considering how I kept having to hide my earmuffs from daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandson during the holidays, I think that multiples may be necessary.

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