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This invention relates generally to garments intended to provide a wearer with protection in cold weather, and more particularly to an ear-insulating garment that is designed to be worn in combination with close-fitting headwear such as a brimmed hat or helmet.
Close-fitting, brimmed headwear such as cowboy hats provide excellent protection from the weather, such as rain, snow, wind and sun. Many people choose to wear cowboy hats, whether for the innate protection they provide from the elements or simply because they choose the headwear out of a personal preference for the style. Because they offer significant protection from all kinds of weather, cowboy hats are worn by many workers whose jobs require that they spend significant amounts of time in the outdoors.
Cowboy hats do not of course cover the wearer's ears. As a result, when the weather is cold the wearer may find that it would be desirable to have some kind of a garment that would cover the ears. But because cowboy hats and the like necessarily fit the wearer very closely, and because such head wear often are relatively stiff where the hat rides on the wearer's head and may include a relatively stiff sweatband, garments such as skull caps, headbands and the like that would cover the ears are all but impossible to wear under a cowboy hat. The same is true of any close fitting hat, including helmets such as equestrian helmets, other brimmed hats and the like, regardless of whether the hat is flexible at the sweatband or relatively stiffer.
There are a variety of ear muff products on the market. Some traditional ear muffs have a metal spring band that interconnects the two ear warmers, and which extends over the user's head. These metal bands, while relatively thin, preclude the garment from being worn with a hat such as a cowboy hat because the metal bands are inflexible and interfere with the hat fit.
Other ear muffs are designed to be worn around the rear of the user's head without an over-the-head band. These products rely upon inwardly directed pressure applied against the wearer's head to stay in place, with or without a hat. However, the inward pressure may make this kind of ear muff uncomfortable, especially when worn for any significant length of time.
There is a need, therefore, for garments designed to be worn with close fitting headwear, where the garment covers the wearer's ears yet does not interfere with the fit or comfort of the headwear, and remains in place and will not fall off, even when the wearer is moving his or her head a lot, or is being jostled about, such as occurs when riding a horse.
In a first illustrated embodiment the present invention is directed to a garment designed to provide the wearer with cold-weather protection for the ears and back of the head, while allowing the user to wear a close-fitting hat such as a brimmed hat, helmet or other headwear they would routinely wear, and want to wear for other reasons (protection from rain, snow, sun, impact; or personal preference). The invention is defined by an insulating member that covers both ears and wraps around the back of the wearer's head. A securing band connects the forward opposite ends of the insulating portion and extends over the head under the sweatband and crown of the hat. The securing band is thin enough and flexible enough that it does not interfere with the fit of the headwear, even when the inventive garment is worn with close fitting hats that have relatively stiff headbands, such as traditional cowboy hats.
The garment according to the present invention has many distinct advantages, including:
(a) It may be worn with a tight-fitting hat of a fixed size (e.g., cowboy hat, helmet, etc.) without changing the fit of the hat, which leads to these advantages:
(b) It is easy and quick to put on and take off, allowing for changes in weather and/or personal comfort, with no need to attach the garment to the hat.
(c) It is small, flexible and soft, so it stows easily in a pocket when not in use.
(d) In a preferred embodiment it does not employ tension to stay in place, therefore it does not produce uncomfortable pressure on the head, neck or ears.
(e) The fit is easily adjustable, and once adjusted for the individual, does not need further adjustment.
The invention will be better understood and its numerous objects and advantages will be apparent by reference to the following detailed description of the invention when taken in conjunction with the following drawings and images.
FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of the ear-insulating garment according to the present invention worn on a user who is donning a typical cowboy hat.
FIG. 2 is a top side perspective view of the ear-insulating garment shown in FIG. 1 with the ends of the securing strap interconnected.
FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of the “inner” side (that is, the side of the ear-insulating member that contacts the wearer's head) of a first illustrated ear-insulating garment according to the present invention, showing the securing strap disconnected.
An ear-insulating garment 1 according to the present invention is shown in the figures. Garment 1 is defined by an insulating member or portion 10, which preferably is fabricated from an insulating fabric that is flexible. Insulating portion 10 may be fabricated from a single layer of fabric, or as illustrated herein, fabricated from multiple layers such as inner layer 11 and outer layer 12 stitched together with perimeter stitching 13. Insulating material may be sewn between the inner and outer layer if desired, and the fabric chosen for the inner layer 11 may be relatively softer than the outer layer 12 if desired since it rests against the user's ears and is more comfortable with soft fabric such as fleece and the like. Outer layer 12 may be fabricated from a waterproof and/or wind proof, technical fabric if desired.
Insulating portion 10 is sized of an appropriate length so that the insulating portion wraps from the front of one ear around the back of the head to the front of the other ear (see FIG. 1). The garment 1 may be made in many different sizes, and preferably a user will select a size so that the insulating portion covers both ears completely. Straps 14 and 16 are attached to the forward ends of insulating member 10 at the opposite upper corner points 20a and 20b thereof, as for example with stitching.
A buckle 18 is attached to the free end of one of the straps, 14 or 16, so that the straps may be interconnected. Buckle 18 may be any type of appropriate buckle, such as a slider-type buckle, and may be metal or plastic. The interconnected straps are herein referred to as the securing strap 17 (FIGS. 1 and 2). It will be appreciated that the buckle is optional, but does allow for sizing of the straps for individual heads.
The straps 14 and 16 are attached to the insulating portion at an angle relative to the longitudinal axis through the insulating portion. Strap 16 typically is longer than strap 14 so that buckle 18 is positioned atop the wearer's head. Thus, with reference to FIG. 3, line L represents the longitudinal axis through the insulating portion. Lines R are axially drawn along the straps 14 and 16. The lines R intersect line L at an angle θ. The straps 14 and 16 are sewn onto insulating portion 10 such that angle θ is preferably in the range of from about 20° to about 60°, more preferably still from about 45° to about 55°, depending upon factors such as the size of the garment 1. The angular orientation of the straps allows the insulating portion 10 to be suspended over the user's head with the body of the insulating portion wrapped around the rear of the head, both ears covered, and the strap extending over the head, as shown in FIG. 1. The angular orientation of the straps is necessary so that the strap rests on the cranium of the user's head superiorly of the forehead, and upwardly of the line where the sweatband encircles the head. Surprisingly, it has been found that with this angular orientation of the straps relative to the axis of the ear-insulating member, the garment 1 will be retained securely in place both with and without a hat being worn, but especially with a hat being worn, and even through extended and brisk movement by the user.
With returning reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, darts 15a and 15b are sewn into insulating portion 10 to define slightly outwardly cupped portions at the darts (outward relative to the user in FIG. 1), shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 with contour lines. The outwardly cupped portions defined by darts 15a and 15b are located where the user's ears fit when the device is worn on the head. This provides for more comfort and enhances the warmth of garment 1 because it tends to eliminate openings between the wearer's head and the garment, thus effectively and comfortably sealing the garment against the wearer's head.
As seen in FIG. 1, the straps 14 and 16 extend over the user's head and under the crown 22 of the hat 26 such that the straps 14 and 16 lie between the wearer's head and the sweatband 24. The material used for straps 14 and 16 is preferably very thin so that the pressure placed on the straps by the sweatband does not lead to discomfort. As an example, cowboy hats are relatively stiff at the sweatband 24. With a thin material used for straps 14 and 16, the hat may be worn without the user noticing the straps in any appreciable way, and certainly without discomfort. In a preferred embodiment the straps should be preferably less than about 2 mm thick, more preferably still in the range of about 1 to 2 mm thick, and even more preferably less than 1 mm thick.
Moreover, the material used to fabricate the straps should be flexible so that the strap may be moved about when the user takes off and puts on the hat, again without discomfort. Finally, the material used for straps 14 and 16 preferably provides a relatively high amount of friction so that the strap tends to stay in place on the wearer's head. Examples of suitable materials include cotton twill, grosgrain, ULTRASUEDE®, etc. The friction is exerted on the user's head by the strap, and between the sweatband and the strap.
The ear-insulating garment 1 according to the present invention provides insulation to the wearer's ears and back of the head when worn in conjunction with precise-fitting headwear (e.g. cowboy hats, baseball caps, equestrian riding helmets, construction-style hard-hats, etc.), without changing the fit of the headwear. Because the straps 14 and 16 are thin and extend over the wearer's head, generally over the cranium, under the crown of the hat, the straps do not interfere with the fit of the hat. The invention is thus specifically designed to not interfere with headwear normally worn by the individual using it. The attachment method, materials used, and positioning is such that the garment does not obstruct the normal use of hats, caps, helmets or other headwear.
While garment 1 is designed for maximum comfort when worn with a hat, the garment 1 may be worn without a hat, as straps 14 and 16 retain the insulating portion 10 firmly in place. However, the garment is designed primarily for use with a hat as described, and when a user wears a hat with garment 1, the sweatband insures that the garment 1 will not fall off, even when the wearer is moving around, as in the example of a cowboy or other equestrian when riding a horse. When worn without a hat, the straps may be oriented forwardly on the wearer's head, on or toward the forehead.
The ear-insulating garment 1 is shaped to cover the ears and to allow room at the lower back of the head for hair and/or high collars (see FIG. 1). Darts 15a and 15b provide a cupping of the fabric around the ear—the ears are completely covered and because the fabric is cupped, there are no openings between the fabric and the user's head. The straps 14 and 16 are sewn into the corner points 20a and 20b at the specific angle range detailed above to supply the correct placement and tension on the head to keep the garment positioned correctly. The straps are fabricated of a thin, high-friction material that provides grip against the wearer's head and the sweatband to keep the hat and garment in place and does not interfere with the fit of the hat. In use, corner points 20a and 20b lie below the lower edge of the sweatband and thus do not interfere with the fit of the hat, although depending on the hat, the corner points may contact the lower edge of the hat. Because the garment 1 is preferably soft, no discomfort will arise even if the sweatband contacts the garment.
To interconnect the free ends of straps 14, 16, strap 16 is passed through the slider buckle 18 to adjust to the size of the individual's head. The strap 16 is then “locked” or made non-adjustable by passing the strap 16 back through one bar of the slider buckle toward attachment corner 20b and pulled taught. The garment is then placed on the head as illustrated, and the hat put on in its usual position. Since buckle 18 is positioned at the top of the user's head, it lies under the crown of the hat and is not felt by the user. As noted previously, the strap may be made with a single piece of material rather than the two straps 14 and 16 described above. When a single strap is used, the material is preferably non-elastic so that the strap does not bear uncomfortably against the head. However, a single strap may be fabricated with material that is slightly elastic so that a single size strap will comfortably fit numerous head sizes. Alternately, when the strap is fashioned from a single length of material, the strap may be made adjustable with a slide-type length adjustment member located intermediate along the length of the strap, atop the wearer's cranium and beneath the crown of the hat. There are many such length adjustment members available on the market.
Those of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that certain alternative embodiments may be made to the invention described herein without departing from the scope of the invention described. For example, the following is a list of possible alternative embodiments:
a. The insulating material may be synthetic, fleece, wool, animal hide, or other insulating and/or wind-blocking material, in single or multiple layers.
b. The outer layer 12 may be a waterproof or water resistant material.
c. The shape of the garment may vary; it may be significantly larger to cover the neck and/or face of the wearer.
d. The buckle may be of a different type and/or material.
e. The buckle may be placed in a different position on the garment, or eliminated from the design altogether, utilizing instead hook-and-loop fastenings, snaps, etc.
f. The securing strap material may be elastic or any other suitable material that is thin enough to pose minimal interference with the user's accustomed headwear.
g. Other means of securing the insulating material in position on the head relative to the hat, utilizing additional straps in an X pattern, a one-piece elastic strap, other materials and/or alternative adjustment devices.
h. The straps could be replaced with a skull cap type of covering that would cover the wearer's head and which would function as means for keeping the garment 1 in place, yet not causing discomfort.
i. The buckle or other length adjustment means for the straps could be located on the outer surface of insulating portion, for example, over the area where the user's ear rests.
While the present invention has been described in terms of a preferred embodiment, it will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill that the spirit and scope of the invention is not limited to those embodiments, but extend to the various modifications and equivalents as defined in the appended claims.