The Bycocket, or “Robin Hood Hat”

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The hat which is often known today as a “Robin Hood hat” – as it often appears in storybook illustrations and films on Robin Hood – may have been known in medieval England as a bycocket, or in medieval France as a chapel à bec.

Note also that a style of helmet was known as a “bycocket”; in the 1464 Expenses and Accounts of Sir John Howard, there is a reference to an amount “Payd to the goldsmythe that made the bokelys, pendawntes and barrys to my masters salat and his byecoket.” (And another reference in the Cely papers also references a bycoket as a piece of armor.)

In fact, the only firm Middle English description where I can find a hat of this pointed-front style represented in an illustration is that of the Merchant in the Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury Tales, where the illustration apparently corresponds with a description of a Flemish beaver hat (“Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,” Prologue l. 274). So there you go: the Middle English term I can most confidently provide for this style of hat is, in fact, hat.

In any case, this style of hat seems to appear most often in outdoor scenes, such as hunts.

The links on this page show the range of styles of such hats in medieval illustrations, and various contexts in which they appear to have been worn.