A snood is a type of headgear, worn by women over their long hair. In the most common modern form it resembles a close-fitting hood worn over the back of the head. The band covers the forehead or crown of the head, goes behind the ears and under the nape of the neck. A sack of sorts dangles from this band, covering and containing the fall of long hair gathered at the back of the head. A snood is sometimes made of solid cloth, but sometimes of loosely knitted yarn, or other net-like material.
The word is first recorded in Old English from around 725 and was widely used in the Middle Ages for a variety of cloth or net head coverings, including what we would today call hairbands and cauls, as well as versions similar to a modern net snood. Snoods continued in use in later periods especially for women working or at home.
In Scotland and parts of the North of England a silken ribbon about an inch wide called a snood was worn specifically by unmarried women as an indicator of their status until the late 19th or early 20th century. It was usually braided into the hair.
Snoods came back into fashion in the 1860s, though the term "snood" remained a European name, and Americans called the item simply a "hairnet" until some time after they went out of fashion in the 1870s. These hairnets were frequently made of very fine material to match the wearer's natural hair color (see 1860s in fashion - hairstyles and headgear) and worn over styled hair. Consequently, they were very different from the snoods of the 1940s.
Snoods became popular again in Europe during World War II. At that time, the British government had placed strict rations on the amount of material that could be used in clothing. While headgear was not rationed, snoods were favored, along with turbans and headscarves, in order to show one's commitment to the war effort.
Today snoods are also commonly worn by married Orthodox Jewish women, according to the religious custom of hair covering.