Nightcap (garment)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol wearing his nightshirt and nightcap. Illustration by John Leech.

A nightcap is a cloth cap worn while sleeping, often with pajamas or a nightshirt. They are similar to winter "beanies" worn in cold climates of Northern Europe. They were especially common in the British Isles and Scandinavia before central heating became available, as temperatures would regularly unexpectedly plummet and wildly fluctuate during winter months.

"I have here delineated a night-cap, fixed in such a manner as to serve as one of the best bandages for the head." (1801)[1]

Women's night caps usually consisted of a long piece of cloth wrapped around the head. Men's nightcaps were traditionally pointed, with a long top, usually accompanied by a small ball of some sort, which was used similar to a scarf. It kept the neck warm while not being so long that it could wrap around and become a strangulation hazard.

In the Tyburn and Newgate days of British judicial hanging history, the hood used to hide the prisoner’s final agonies was actually a nightcap supplied by the prisoner themselves, if they could afford it. When they had finished their prayers, the hangman simply pulled it down over their face. In some cases, women might choose a bonnet with a veil instead. From around 1850, a white linen hood was provided by the authorities as part of the execution process.[2]

Nightcaps are much less commonly worn in modern times, but are often featured in animation and other media, as part of a character's nightwear.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bell, Benjamin (1801). A System of Surgery. VII (7th ed.). Plate CVII, Fig. 1. Description on p. 455.
  2. ^ "History of British judicial hanging". Retrieved 2012-02-20.