This post is about hats. However, the story we want to tell is not about a specifically womens hat. In addition, it’s pretty much non-existent nowadays except in books and movies, however at one point they were a basic part of school discipline.
We’re talking about what was known as a Dunce Hat or Dunce Cap.
It was tall and conical shaped and made of a stiff material (to keep it from sagging) and was placed on students heads as a punishment, usually accompanied by making the student to stand in the corner.
The obvious question is why were they they called a “Dunce Cap”?
No, the answer is not because they were used to discipline “dunces”. In fact they were more often used to punish bad manners or bad behavior and rarely used to punish a student for failing an exam.
So why the name “dunce cap’?
Believe it or not, it’s simply because of where they originated from.
In the 13th century there was a philosopher whose name was John Duns Scotus. His followers believed that by wearing this pointy hat, knowledge would funnel down from its tip (the “apex of wisdom”) down into their heads.
As time wore on, many of the philosophers ideas were proven wrong, but his followers the “dunce men” stubbornly refused to accept it.
Slowly the term dunce and idiot became intertwined.
So while the “dunce cap” began as a hat worn by students to help them in their studies, sadly it proved unable to bring wisdom to its those who wore it. However, for years it endured as a form of discipline in schools, perhaps warning it’s wearers against becoming “dunce men” themselves!
(Sources include Wikipedia, About.com and Yahoo)