For her 15th birthday Bloom has given his daughter a "tam."
The word is short for "Tam o' shanter," a flat wool cap from
Scotland similar to a north French beret. It appears to have
been a fitting way to honor Milly's growing independence.
These hats have been around for many centuries, but they
acquired their current name from Robert Burns' 1790 narrative
poem Tam o' Shanter, about a bonnet-bedecked farmer
who encounters some witches, warlocks, and the devil himself.
In the early 20th century tams were adopted by some Scottish
military regiments and they also became fashionable for women.
Both men's and women's bonnets sported a "toorie" on top—a
fluffy ball, usually red, made of yarn.
Bloom's decision to give his daughter one of these new,
sporty, mannish fashion accessories—so different from the
large women's hats of the Victorian era—suggests a sympathetic
wish to encourage her daring young womanhood. As Milly says in
her thank-you letter, "Everyone says I'm quite the belle in
my new tam." The importance of her growing female
independence comes up several more times in the novel,
beginning with the moment in Hades when Bloom toys
with the idea of walking or cycling west to Mullingar to visit
his daughter: "Perhaps I will without writing. Come as a
surprise." A few moments later, it occurs to him that this
would be a very bad idea: "She mightn't like me to come that
way without letting her know. Must be careful about women. Catch
them once with their pants down. Never forgive you after.