Making the Mountain Man Wolf Ears Style Hood

Painting.

The mountain man wolf ears style hood is a good example of how resourceful the men were.

One of the biggest challenges when doing historical research is sorting through the evidence to find truth. Oftentimes this means disregarding incorrect information we have learned from well-meaning teachers, friends, relatives, movies, and authors. Oftentimes out of no ill will, we learn things that have been passed down as true, but ultimately prove untrue. When doing research, it is best to stick with sources that are reliable, withstood the test of time, and have multiple sources of confirmation. Recently, one area of research I’ve been spending some time is looking at the head gear of mountain men.

While trying to learn more about the lives and skills of traditional hunters, you will invariably start to learn about their clothing. Personally, I feel a much stronger desire to learn and practice traditional skills, than I do to learn about what people wore. It just seems more important. That being said, I feel like I understand the idea that if you really want to accurately understand a time period, the clothing is important. Especially when it comes to the outdoors, clothing is gear. If you want to understand how a mountain man really lived, you have to use their gear.

During the process of preparing my mountain man camp, I came upon the problem of head gear. I was having trouble locating a wool felt hat that I liked. Also, rather than just buying everything, I like to take the approach of learning how to actually make things rather than just buying them. That being the case, I decided to build a wolf ears mountain man hat out of some brain tan I had lying around.

Historically speaking, the wolf ears hat seem to be fairly well recorded. It makes sense, as if a man lost his hat, or it was worn out, he would have been forced to reconstruct one by his own hands. There is evidence that various Native American tribes wore hoods made from natural materials. And although it was written nearly a century later, in his book Wildwood Wisdom, Ellsworth Jaeger also mentions Native’s wearing the Penobscot hunting hood, which is very similar in design. For people interested in mountain man clothing specifically, the paintings of Alfred Jacob Miller offer up some very good resources. 

The Trappers Bride.
The Trapper’s Bride. Image via Wikicommons.

Miller was an artist from the east who jumped at the chance to head west and document the wilds of the west. Several of A.J. Miller’s paintings depict mountain men with these, or similar style, hoods worn. These hoods seem to be both liberty style and wolf ear style. In The Trapper’s Bride for example, you can clearly see the companion wearing a wolf ears style cap. This is just one example, and anyone looking for more examples can find them easily by browsing A.J. Miller’s works online

Another source that I used when creating my mountain man style wolf ears hat was James Hanson’s Mountain Man Sketchbook Volume 1. In this book they are described as being frequently worn, but generally being made out of blanketing material. This book also offered up a rough pattern for the hat which I used when constructing my own.

Making your own mountain man wolf ears style hood is very easy if you have the material. They are composed of 2 pieces of material, one that drapes down the back of the head, and one that goes over the top from shoulder to shoulder. The dimensions of these pieces will depend on your specific body and how you would like the hood to fit. Each piece also has matching “ears”. From what I can tell, the ears generally were somewhat small, and unpronounced.

Pattern
Here are the two pieces you will need to cut. The longer piece is the back, while the wider piece drapes over your head.

Once you have the pieces cut, you simply begin sewing at the top in order to match the ears up. As with most sewing projects, work on the hood inside out, so when you wear it the stitching will be invisible. Next, begin sewing down the sides as long as you see fit. At that point you have a simple, unadorned, and historically accurate mountain man hat.

Here is the my completed hood. The extra section at the bottom was added due to the dimensions of the buckskin I had available.

Personally, at first I didn’t like the idea of a wolf ears style hood. It didn’t match up with what I thought a mountain man was supposed to wear. Eventually though, I realized that my perception of what mountain men wore, and what they actually dressed in, were different. Although it may not look “cool”, this type of garment really symbolizes what the mountain men were about. They needed solutions for when their head gear wore out, and those solutions needed to be available in the mountains. The wolf ears style hood is just one example of the answers they had for living disconnected from general society.

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I’d love to hear what you think about the mountain man wolf ears style hood in the comments section below.

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you like the content you may enjoy this article Understanding the Mountain Man Possibles Bag.

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