Portrait of Henry Shaw wearing a nightcap.

A nightcap is a cloth cap worn with other nightwear such as pajamas, a onesie, a nightshirt, or a nightgown; historically worn in the cold climates of Northern Europe. Nightcaps are somewhat similar to knit caps worn for warmth outdoors.


Women's night caps were usually a long piece of cloth wrapped around the head, or a triangular cloth tied under the chin.[1] Men's nightcaps were traditionally pointed hats with a long top, sometimes with a pom-pom on the end.[1] The long end could be used like a scarf to keep the back of the neck warm.[1]


From the Middle Ages to the 20th century, nightcaps were worn in Northern Europe, such as the British Isles and Scandinavia, especially during the cold winters before central heating became available.[1] People tended to think that cold air was harmful, so a nightcap protected them.[2]

In the Tyburn and Newgate days of British judicial hanging history, the hood used to cover the prisoner's face was a nightcap supplied by the prisoner, if he could afford it.[3]

Nightcaps were worn by many women in the Victorian era, but were seen as old-fashioned by the Edwardian era.[4] Some women still wore nightcaps, similar to mobcaps, to protect their elaborate curly hairstyles that were fashionable.[4] Edwardian men wore nightcaps as well.[5]

In the 1920s and 1930s, the boudoir cap became popular among some European women.


Nightcaps are less commonly worn in modern times, but are often featured in animation and other media, as part of a character's nightwear. Nightcaps became associated with the fictional sleepers Ebenezer Scrooge and Wee Willie Winkie.[5] The hat has become typical nightwear for a sleeper especially in comical drawings or cartoons along with children's stories, plays, and films; for example, in several Lupin III animations Daisuke Jigen has worn one as a continuation of the "hat covering eyes" gag, and in The Science of Discworld Rincewind has one with the word "Wizzard" stitched onto it.

Related caps

People with curly and Afro-textured hair often wear a form of night cap to protect their hair while sleeping, typically a silk or satin wrap or bonnet.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b c d Chico, Beverly (2013-10-03). Hats and Headwear around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia: A Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 351. ISBN 978-1-61069-063-8. Archived from the original on 2023-02-21. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
  2. ^ Nieto, F. Javier; Petersen, Donna (2021-11-11). Foundations of Sleep Health. Academic Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-12-815502-8. Archived from the original on 2023-02-21. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
  3. ^ Clark, Richard. "The history of judicial hanging in Britain 1735 - 1964". Capital Punishment U.K. Archived from the original on 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  4. ^ a b Lina (2019-06-07). "History Of The Nightcap - Victorian And Edwardian Hair Care". Sew Historically. Archived from the original on 2022-12-05. Retrieved 2022-12-26.
  5. ^ a b Adlington, Lucy (2015-10-08). Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4735-0509-4. Archived from the original on 2023-02-21. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
  6. ^ Maddix, Vanese (2022-03-14). "The best silk hair wraps for sleeping in to protect your curly or Afro hair (from someone who wears one every night)". Glamour UK. Archived from the original on 2022-12-26. Retrieved 2022-12-26.
  7. ^ Dawson, Lamar (2018-04-12). "5 Essential Rules for Growing Out an Afro". GQ. Archived from the original on 2022-12-26. Retrieved 2022-12-26.