A tam o’ shanter (in the British military often abbreviated to ToS), or ‘Tammie’ is a name given to the traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. The name derives from Tam o’ Shanter, the eponymous hero of the 1790 Robert Burns poem.
The tam o’ shanter is a flat bonnet, originally made of wool hand-knitted in one piece, stretched on a wooden disc to give the distinctive flat shape, and subsequently felt. The earliest forms of these caps, known as a bluebonnet from their typical color, were made by bonnet-makers in Scotland. By the year 1599 five bonnet-makers guilds had formed in cities around the country: Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth, Stirling, and Glasgow. At the end of the sixteenth century, it was said that the Scottish caps were the normal fashion of men and servants, and they remained so throughout the seventeenth century.
Similar in outline to the various types of flat bonnet common in northwestern Europe during the 16th century, the later tam o’ shanter is distinguished by the woolen ball or cookie decorating the center of the crown; the name itself did not enter common usage until the early 19th century, subsequent to the popularity of Burns’ poem. The term came to denote a hat, usually associated with Scottish military regiments, derived from the old bonnet, along with the Glengarry and the Balmoral bonnets. The Balmoral was sometimes simply described as synonymous with the tam o’ shanter.
Before the introduction of inexpensive synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century, the Scottish knitted bonnet was made only in colors easily available from natural dyes, particularly woad or indigo (hence “bluebonnet”). Since that time the tam o’ shanter the Scottish hat has been produced in a wider range of fabrics, such as serge, as single colors, as well as. Women have also adopted a form of this hat, known as a “tammy” or “tam”.