Almanac People: The Beanie

Dad migrated from Italy to Australia in 1956 and like many new migrants, soon became involved in the excitement and wonder that is, Aussie Rules.  Although he adopted many new ways of living in his new country, he never became part of a footy tribe and could never quite decide which team to follow either-so he would generally abuse all teams.

Despite his lack of ‘team support’ and frustration about forwards failing to kick between the ‘two big sticks’, he showed his support for the sport and wore the ‘must-have’ footy fashion accessory of the day – the beanie.

In fact, Dad owned several beanies and these became part of his daily identity come rain, hail or a hot Melbourne summer’s day.  He wore them as part of his everyday builder’s uniform.  It was common to see him on the building site, up on a ladder, with a hammer in his hand and a dusty beanie on his head.

My brothers barracked for Essendon and I, in an attempt to stand up to my older siblings, chose to follow Footscray.  This caused problems for my parents as they found it difficult to split their parental loyalties between us.

Mum solved this problem by telling us all that she barracked for our team.  Of course our team was Essendon when speaking to my brothers and Footscray when speaking to me.  We fought hard to get her on side, with the three of us trying to tell her which team was better and why, but she never relented and refused to disappoint either of us.

Dad’s solution was to swing either side depending who was winning and wear the victor’s beanie for the good part of the week following a win.

In those days, Essendon was running hot and Footscary languished at the bottom of the ladder, so to my dismay, the black and red got a longer run than the red, white and blue.

Dad put those knitted fibres through a lot; sawdust, plasterboard, cement, and over time they developed their own special scent – a kind of musty, woody, workman’s smell.  He wore them regardless of their appearance and it was only when he couldn’t find one handy that mum would seize the opportunity and pop into Forges to buy him a new one.

Secretly-I think she hid them on purpose.



  1. Mulcaster says

    A live in North Queensland, where we are experiencing the two weeks which we laughably referred to as winter. The sky is a flawless blue from horizon to horizon. The houses are designed to catch every breeze through the long steaming summer. So now when the temperature hits 12 degrees at about 5 am we yelp. Doonas are aired and bed socks required.

    As I look out my window, I see lovely girls wearing come-hither Boots, bomber jackets and scarfs. But the true evidence of winter is the lad I just saw wearing a lumberjack coat, a beanie , ugg boots and footy shorts….go figure.

  2. I love wearing a beanie to the footy; the best piece of mercandise ever made by my club was a simple purple beanie with the old Fremantle badge and a big FREO knitted underneath. Lost in a pub after a rare 90’s win, I still miss it.

    Unfortunately as with Mulcaster in Brizzie the only time it can really wear it is when it gets cold which in Perth is only at night, and we don’t have many night games.

  3. Careful Jonathon. Implying North Queensland and Brisbane are one and the same is a dangerous practice.

    I’m hearing it is quite chilly in Qld, both north and south. In this northern hemispherical outpost of Abu Dhabi, daytime temps are hitting 50+ and night time is a between 33 – 38.

    In much the same way that North Queenslanders don’t stop for the rain in wet season, we are forced to cope with the heat however we can. Watersports, or night time golf are my chosen outlets. Neither requiring a beanie..

  4. Mulcaster says

    Spoken like a gentleman Gus.

  5. Jonathan says

    My sincere apologies to Mulcaster. Nth Queensland, Brizzie jeez.

  6. Long live the “beanie” , great piece.

  7. Thanks Anna, Loved your post, if only The Beanie could talk what a tale it would tell.

  8. Good to get this piece back into circulation. Shows how timeless the beanie is. I found beanies made my head itchy as a kid. They have always produced beanie-hair as well.

  9. Neil Anderson says

    davep stole my thunder a bit about if only the beanie could talk. If I was a teacher trying to engage those restless jocks down the back of the class, I would ask them to write a piece about a day in the life of a beanie in the colours of their favourite team.
    Probably be seen as a bit lame with today’s cynical kids but at least it’s better than ‘what I did on my holidays.’
    William McInnes on Classic FM yesterday said he had to write that old favourite holiday essay at school and couldn’t think of anything because he never went on holidays and he lived near the beach in Queensland anyway. So he borrowed a ruler off a mate which had all the attractions of Canberra on it and wrote about his holiday in the Capital. Turned out that half the class had been to Canberra when the teacher read the essays.

  10. A day in the life of a beanie…now, that’s a great writing prompt! My 17 year old son recently bought himself a new beanie; Bulldogs of course!

  11. I lost my Sturt beanie whilst sailing in a Heron off Seacliff beach in 1976. I was struck in the head by the boom and overboard it went. I immediately commenced the “man overboard” drill, never taking my eyes off the beanie, arm outstretched pointing at it but the Skip refused to turn the dinghy around. My eyes remained fixed on the beanie but it soon became invisible in the dark blue waters. Lost at sea.
    Sad day.

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