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One popular style of the beanie during the early half of the twentieth century was a kind of skullcap made of four or six felt panels sewn together to form the cap. The panels were often composed of two or more different contrasting colors to give them a novel and distinctive look. This type of beanie was also very popular with some colleges and fraternities, as they would often use school colors in the different panels making up the hat.
Another style of beanie was the whoopee cap, a formed and pressed wool felted hat, with a flipped up brim that formed a band around the bottom of the cap. The band would often have a decorative repeating zig-zag or scalloped pattern cut around the edge. It was also quite common for schoolboys to adorn their beanies with buttons and pins.
In the late 1940s, science fiction fanzine artist Ray Nelson (himself still in high school) adopted the use of the propeller beanie as emblematic shorthand for science fiction fandom. This was in self-mockery of the popular image of fans as childish and concerned with ephemera (such as science fiction). References to the distinctive headwear are ironically now used to identify old-fashioned fans, as opposed to more modern fans of media SF.
The propeller beanie increased in popular use through comics and eventually made its way onto the character of Beany Boy of Beany and Cecil. Today, computer savvy and other technically proficient people are sometimes pejoratively referred to as propellerheads thanks to the one-time popularity of the propeller beanie.
In the 21st century, propeller beanies are rarely seen on the street, and are primarily worn for satirical or comedic purposes.