The flat cap is a cap of many names. It’s often referred to as a newsboy cap, a driving cap, an ivy cap, and a duffer cap. There are other monikers out there, but one thing remains true: This is a classic hat with a history of incredible style.
It all started in the 14th century, when an Act of Parliament in Northern England imposed a rule that all males over the age of six must wear woolen hats on all Sundays and holidays. The order applied only to those who were of so-called lower classes; those of nobility and high esteem were not required to follow the Act. Those not of nobility were fined three farthings per day if they failed to abide by the rule. Before long, the flat cap that the males favored became a wardrobe staple that was often associated with the working class of apprentices and tradesmen.
Breaking out of the Lower-Class Image
When royalty _did_ wear the handsome hat, it was usually during an upper-crust hunting and shooting gathering. Featuring houndstooth or tweed patterns, this variation of the men’s dress hat was at once stylish and functional.
The fashionable hat for men retained its popularity through the years, and by the 20th century it was one of the most popular styles in both England and Ireland. Men of higher classes often favored a similar style made with more luxurious materials. Young men who wanted to express their style saw the beloved men’s hat as something of a statement-making piece. In fact, by the 1920s, the cap was no longer associated strictly with the lower class—it was a versatile and widely loved accessory.
The popularity of the men’s hat was even felt overseas. By the 1890s, it was a favorite in the United States and was worn everywhere and for nearly every occasion. It wasn’t unusual to spot schoolchildren sporting their hats on their way to class. It was equally common to spot young men wearing them on weekends and even paired with suits. Over time, it became the fashionable hat of choice for men all over the world.
Shifting Gears to Stardom
Like so many pieces, the flat cap eventually lost its luster. While people didn’t stop wearing it, it no longer held the same appeal and declined fairly rapidly in its popularity by the 1930s. In the following decades, it became something of a staple among the older set. It was decidedly less fashionable for the remainder of the century, due perhaps in part to the lack of overall interest in men’s hats. It was not until the early 21st century that the hat enjoyed a great resurgence, thanks in large part to the enormous celebrity following that it accrued. It seemed that if one actor, athlete, or musician wore the hat one day, another could easily be found wearing it the next day.
There was a shift in how this hat was styled, too. While it was once truly the hat of the working class, it grew to become an accessory that men of all statures enjoyed. The modern-day flat cap was seen on everyone from David Beckham to Brad Pitt, everywhere from movie premieres to shopping centers. That versatility speaks to the flat cap’s inherent style. Today, it’s the go-to hat for any casual look, and it serves as a polished alternative to a men’s baseball hat. It wears well with everything from a pair of jeans and a T-shirt to trousers and a button-down shirt.
It’s clear that the flat cap’s flexibility and popularity through the decades rests in its versatility. Those who seek a vintage men’s hat that still resonates today can find exactly what they need in the practical flat cap. Call it a cap for all seasons—you can easily wear it in the winter/fall or summer/spring, and pair it with any of the clothes you’d wear during those times of the year. All hail the flat cap!