When you were younger, you probably had a parent or family member who would insist that if you were going outdoors in cold weather, you had to wear a hat. Were they right? How important is it to keep your head covered at chilly times of the year?
Head warmth and evolution
One thing that makes humans unique among primates is that we grow much more hair on our heads than we do on our bodies, and theories vary as to why this is the case. Charles Darwin, for example, argued that humans have learned to cut and groom their hair to look attractive, and thus increase their chances of reproducing.
Many people believe that there may be a more practical reason why humans are blessed with a good head of hair, though. The website Hairfinder.com is something of an all-purpose resource for hair advice, pictures and frequently asked questions. In answering the question of why humans have so much hair on their heads, the website notes that hair provides warmth, since around a quarter of body heat is lost through the scalp, and that it can also offer protection against UV rays.
Humans have lost most of their body hair and replaced it with clothing, but unless we wear a hat, the head remains exposed. This suggests that some form of covering for the head is necessary and the body has evolved to recognise this.
A head for research
A 2013 BBC article discusses experiments carried out in Patagonia to determine how and where the human body loses heat. In the tests, subjects are immersed into freezing water, some of them wearing full-body clothing, and others wearing swimming costumes. This means that some lose heat only through their heads, while others lose it through their whole body.
Results show that it is those with their full bodies exposed who lose body heat the most significantly, and that the rate at which heat is lost through the head is not higher than for the rest of the body. However, bear in mind that the head accounts for up to 9% of the surface of the body, so if uncovered, this is a significant proportion for heat to escape from.
Another point to note is that although it is not completely accurate to say that more heat is lost through the head than anywhere else on the body, what is true is that the core temperature of the body drops more quickly than expected if the head is exposed and the rest of the body is insulated. If you go out on a cold day without a hat, you’re likely to feel the cold most around your ears and face, as well as on the top of your head – particularly if you don’t have a lot of hair.
If you have ever cut your head, you’ll know that it can bleed very heavily. This is due to the high number of blood vessels located very close to the scalp. On cool days when your head is exposed, the weather or other cold environment will cause the blood passing through your head to get colder, meaning colder blood is then being passed back through your body, thus decreasing your overall body temperature.
When the body is cold, it tends to draw heat away from its extremities and into its centre, which is why the hands and feet often feel particularly cold on wintry days. Gradually, the head, being reasonably far from the centre of the body, becomes affected by this as well.
Scientists have also observed that when every part of the body except the head is covered, people do not shiver. Shivering in itself raises the body temperature, so not doing this is likely to make you colder.
All in all, while we should not exaggerate the importance of head warmth and should acknowledge the need for warm clothing throughout the body, it seems obvious that wearing a hat can go a long way towards ensuring we stay as warm as possible outdoors.
How do hats help us stay warm?
A hat, whether it’s a baseball cap or a knit, offers a layer of clothing for a part of your body that’s normally exposed to the elements.
If you’re looking to stay warm, it’s important for all the clothing you’re wearing to fit you as snugly as possible. If it doesn’t, you leave yourself more open to what’s known as the ‘chimney’ effect, where heat can be lost in the spaces between your clothes and your skin, such as the cuffs of your coat.
Flexfit hats such as the Flexfit 110 and Flexfit 210 are designed to achieve a perfect fit for a variety of head sizes, ensuring that they fit securely without leaving big gaps for heat to seep out of.
Keeping warm and keeping dry come hand in hand too. The effects of hypothermia are much more immediate if you are wearing wet clothing, which is why even the snuggest of clothes will be ineffective if you get caught in the rain and they are not waterproof.
If you choose the Flexfit Delta, you are opting for a top-of-the-range hat built with waterproof technology, making sure that you won’t feel the full effects of a wet day if you wear one. It’s important to remember too that even on a cold day, heavy physical activity will make you sweat. This stops you overheating, but can have a detrimental affect afterwards, when you’re left wearing cold, wet clothing. The technology behind the Delta means that it is built with a moisture absorbing sweatband to wick it away from your hair, scalp and forehead, and the thermal regulation behind the cap should mean that you sweat less anyway.
For the outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t want to let cold or wet conditions spoil their enjoyment of a day out of the house, a top quality hat is a must. Why not explore the Flexfit range and find the perfect cap for your needs? With customisation an important part of everything we do, you can get a hat as individual as it is practical.