A flat cap is a rounded cap generally male worn, especially in England, with a small brim in front and a somewhat stiff peak in the back. Materials range from wool, tweed and leather to lighter summer versions in polyester, perforated tiny vents to allow air to circulate.
The style can be traced back to 14th century Britain
and may have emerged from the French 'bonnet'.
A 1571 Act of Parliament to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade decreed that on Sundays and holidays that all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and persons of degree, were to wear caps of wool manufacture on force of a fine (3/4d (pence
) per day).
The Bill was not repealed until 1597, though by this time, the flat cap had become firmly entrenched in English psyche as a recognized mark of a non-noble subject; be it a burgher
, a tradesman
, or apprentice
Flat caps were almost universally worn in the 19th century by working class men throughout Britain and Ireland, and versions in finer cloth were also considered to be suitable casual countryside wear for upper-class English men (hence the contemporary alternative name golf cap). Cloth caps were worn by fashionable young men in the 1920s.
The labeling of the flat cap as purely 'working class' is problematic. Many landed gentry wore flat caps due to their practicality as they sufficiently keep rain and sun out of the eyes when shooting, it doubles as a handy rag and keeps the head warm from frequent chilly winds. Mather states, "A cloth cap is assumed in folk mythology to represent working class, but it also denotes upper class affecting casualness. So it is undoubtedly classless, and there lies its strength. A toff can be a bit of a chap as well without, as it were, losing face. The British workman no longer commonly wears a flat cap, so in the twenty-first century, it has gained an increasingly upper class image.
One of the flat hats worn in academia is known as the bonnet
or Tudor bonnet
and derives directly from medieval headgear of the period of the original 1571 Bill. It remains essential ceremonial wear by members of the academic community, in many countries around the world, usually as the headgear of doctoral graduates
(PhD's). Commonly it has a soft round crown
and a stiff flat brim
. The bonnet
is often made of black velvet
and trimmed, between crown and brim with gold cord
. Some universities opt to trim their bonnets with coloured cord and tassels.
Some stylistic varieties of this bonnet include:
- the Canterbury cap, a flat-topped soft cloth hat with a round headband deeper at the back than at the front;
- the Oxford bonnet, which has a black ribbon between crown and brim;
- the John Knox cap, a soft square cap made from black velvet and worn by the Doctors of certain Scottish Universities;
The other main hat is the academic cap.
In Youth Culture
Boys in the United Kingdom
and North America
of all classes wore this cap in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The hat is often associated in popular culture with city newsboys
(i.e.: street-corner newspaper sellers) in North America.
Some may associate the cap more with working class boys, though this may be purely personal or regional.
In British popular culture
In British popular culture the flat cap has been associated with older working class
men, especially those in northern England
, as personified by Fred Dibnah
and comic strip anti-hero Andy Capp
The strong working-class connection of the flat cap has and the East End of London has depicted by EastEnders
' Jim Branning
and Only Fools and Horses
' Del-Boy Trotter
The popularity of the flat hat also remains strong with fans of English country clothing, rural and agricultural workers, the country set
or those who simply find them practical, though it tends to be associated with an older generation of wearers. The English Royal and Heir Apparent, His Royal Highness Prince Charles is often photographed in a tweed or tartan flat cap at his various country residences.
Taxicab and bus drivers are often depicted wearing a flat cap, as comedically portrayed by Norman Hale and Gareth Pace's (Hale and Pace
) "London cabbies" sketches. The flat cap defines the 'Alex Wooldridge Smith' image in the East Midlands region.
The flat cap today
The style has remained popular among certain groups of people in Europe
and North America. The hat is sometimes associated with older men, but has been popular (along with the newsboy cap) among some segments of younger people, particularly those with working class Irish
heritage, making them very popular in cities such as Boston
with a large Irish-American
population, as well as those associated with skinheads
and the Oi!
and punk subcultures
. The flat cap has also appeared in the hip hop subculture
, worn back-to-front, proving very popular in recent years.
Celebrities who have worn flat caps include: movie star Brad Pitt, comedian Joe Rogan, baseball player Mariano Rivera, AC/DC singer Brian Johnson and former Genovese crime boss Vincent Gigante, comedian Dave Chappelle, singer Madonna and her husband movie director Guy Richie, R&B singer Ne-Yo, rappers Common, Missy Elliott, Notorious B.I.G., Proof (rapper), Babyshambles's drummer Adam Ficek, basketball player Michael Jordan, comedian Chris Rock, German comedian Bodo Bach, professional golfer Payne Stewart, James Bond film actor Daniel Craig, actor Samuel L. Jackson, actor and former pro-skateboarder Jason Lee, Australian TV veterinarian Harry Cooper (veterinarian), CCM artist Tobymac and actor C. Thomas Howell. Although it is mostly worn by men, some women have adopted the cap.
Rugby League team Featherstone Rovers supporters nick name is "The Flat Cappers", due to the fact that every supporter in years gone by used to attend matches in a flat cap.
The black leather flat cap is often combined with a black leather jacket and dark clothes in popular culture to depict a burglar, mugger, or robber, occasionally with a black blindfold (with eye cut-outs).
The United States team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing wore white flat hats designed by Polo Ralph Lauren in the opening ceremony parade of nations.
- Batschkapp - in Hessen in the region around Frankfurt
- Bekovka - in Czech Republic
- Bunnet - Scotland
- Cabby Cap - USA
- Casquette - in France
- Cheese-cutter - in New Zealand and Canada
- Cloth cap - in UK
- Conductor's hat
- Coppola - in Sicily
- Dai cap - in Wales
- Derby Cap
- Driving cap or Drivers cap - in USA
- Flat hat- in UK (occasionally derisive)
- Foreskin Cap - Western Canada
- Froschmütze - in Schaiblishausen (modest Swabian village near Ulm)
- Golf cap
- Grandpa cap - Australia
- Gubb-mössa, or, Gubb-keps - (lit. 'Old man's cap/hat') in Sweden
- Halibut cap
- Hogans cap
- Klak - in Flanders
- Irish cap
- Ivy cap - in USA
- Jeff cap
- Kaszkiet [kashkeet] - in Poland
- Kepka or Furazhka - in Russia
- Old Man's Hat
- Paddy cap - in Ireland
- Phatty Hat
- Scally cap - mostly in North America
- Schiebermütze - (black marketeer's cap or foreman's cap) in Germany
- Scone bunnet
- Sixpence - in Norway and Denmark
- Skip Cap - in Canada
- Slap cap - in USA
- Mr T's Jazz cap
- Touring cap - in USA
- Taxi Cab Hat/cap
- Trayaska (Τραγιάσκα) - in Greece
- Windsor cap
- Ya-she-mao - (Duck's-tongue cap) in China
- Boina - in Portugal
- Boné Italiano - (Italian cap) in Brazil