Flat Cap Guide

Flat Cap & Newspaper Boy Hat Style Guide

Flat caps have had a renaissance in recent years, and for good reason. Not only are they warm in the winter, they are classicly stylish and nearly any well-dressed man of any age can pull one off.

Flat caps, unlike the bolder fedora, make a softer statement that is easier and less intimidating to pair with a range of fall, winter and spring outfits. Today, we’ll discuss what a flat cap is, its history, how to wear one and where to buy one.

How The Newsboy Cap Got Its name

How The Newsboy Cap Got Its name

What is a Flat Cap?

Flat cap in tweed

A typical flat cap in tweed

Newsboy Cap in brown

Newsboy Cap in brown

A flat cap is a rounded cap with soft fabric construction and a short, rounded front brim. There are two construction variations, both of which can be called a flat cap. The first has a level, trim silhouette owing to the single-piece flat construction of the top of the hat. The body of the cap is pulled forward over the brim, and it is either sewed or snapped to the top edge of the brim to create a triangular side profile.

8 Panel Flat Cap in Herringbone

8 Panel Flat Cap in Herringbone

The second style has a looser, more volumized silhouette that is created by sewing 8 triangular panels of material together from a central point on the top of the hat, which is covered by a cloth button. The body of the cap is also pulled forward over the brim, but less so than its flat cousin. This style is a flat cap but is also commonly associated with the term “newsboy” cap. In fact, the flat cap and newsboy cap are just the two most common names for this style of hat. Depending on the location, the flat cap can be referred to by more than 20 monikers: cabbie, paddy, Gatsby, dai, longshoreman’s, scally, Wigens, ivy, derby, Jeff, duffer, duckbill, driving, bicycle, Irish, or a crook cap. It is also known as a sixpence, bunnet, cheese-cutter, or a Vergon or Joao’s hat.

History of the Flat Cap

The flat cap is often associated with the working class

The flat cap is often associated with the working class

Even though the flat cap is a modern classic, it’s been around for centuries. The flat cap’s predecessor, known as a “bonnet”, was worn as early as the 14th century. The term “cap” came into use before the 17th century. Interestingly, in the 16th century, the British Parliament wanted to stimulate wool consumption, so they mandated that all non-noble men must wear a wool hat on Sundays and holidays, or face a fine. This essentially forced most of the men in the country to buy hats, and even though the law didn’t last for very long, the hat had become irrevocably part of the uniform of the working man. The cap continued to be popular through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Golf group in flat caps

Golf group in flat caps

The aristocracy even adopted the flat cap, in more expensive materials, as a casual hat option for wear at their country estates. It was often worn with tweed suits for hunting, stalking, and shooting.  Even so, the flat cap remains associated with the working class in the UK.

Famous lunch on the skyscraper photo features construction workers in flat caps

Famous “Men at Work” skyscraper photo features construction workers in flat caps

In the US and the UK, the flat cap and newsboy cap peaked in popularity in the 1910s and 1920s. The era did help popularize the term “newsboy” due to the boys who wore them when selling newspapers, but the hat was worn almost universally by the working class.

Peaky Blinders favor their flat caps

Peaky Blinder’s tough boys from Birmingham favor their flat caps

Shows like Peaky Blinders have also helped cement the flat cap’s image as a working-class wardrobe staple. As the Depression set in, the flat cap lost in popularity but never disappeared entirely.

Prince Charles in a flat cap and country attire

Prince Charles in a flat cap and country attire

David Beckham wearing a Herringbone Newsboy Cap

David Beckham wearing a Herringbone Newsboy Cap

Public figures, aristocrats, and royals continued to wear them for leisure activities. Recently, celebrities such as David Beckham and Brad Pitt have been seen wearing flat caps, raising their profile as an accessory for the modern man.

Green triple checked overcoat with fur collar, dark suit, 90s tie and white shirt with flat cap and clear glasses

Green triple checked overcoat with fur collar, dark suit, 90s tie and white shirt with flat cap and clear glasses at Pitti Uomo

How to Wear a Flat Cap

If you are a lover of classic style, then a flat cap will suit your wardrobe no matter your age or occupation. Sized properly, they flatter nearly all face shapes and they can be styled to suit casual, informal and formal attire. Here are some tips on how to wear a flat cap:

  • If you’re wearing a tweed cap, make sure that the material of your hat contrasts enough with the material of your coat or jacket. Patterns that are too similar will look odd next to each other, so consider a solid color for one and a pattern for the other.
  • Do shape the brim to your taste. Many caps come with a relatively flat brim, and you can round it gently (not too much!) to fit your head better and contour naturally around your face
  • Don’t wear flat caps backward; Samuel L Jackson is the only man around who can pull off that look
  • Don’t wear a flat cap in summer, even if it is made of “summer” materials such as linen; it simply isn’t designed for that season. Wear a Panama hat in the summer instead.
  • Don’t wear a flat cap unpinned or snapped; this configuration isn’t part of the original style, even if the snap is working, and it tends to be a more feminine look
Casual flat cap style

Casual flat cap style

How to Buy a Flat Cap

Unlike other hats, the fabric shell and sewn construction make the flat cap a much easier hat to fit and buy. These features also make them less expensive. The hatband and the brim create the structure of the hat, and it should fit comfortably across your forehead. Since this hat isn’t sized like other more formal hats, you’ll need to refer to the individual hatmaker to determine your size.

  • The flat cap was originally constructed from wool, tweed, and cotton, so stick with a fabric finish; avoid non-traditional materials such as leather or denim.
  • Choose a natural material composition for the best insulation and breathability; the addition of polyester (or another synthetic material) will make it less warm and breathable.
  • If you are going for a classic look, don’t buy a flat cap with a loud brand, such as Kangol. You want to advertise your style, not someone else’s brand.
  • Avoid buying patchwork or multi-pattern caps; this tends to come in and out of style and wasn’t part of the original look
  • Most low- to mid-range hats will come in S-M-L sizing, so follow the manufacturer’s sizing for the best fit

What Newsboy Caps Should You Buy?

Wigens Flat Cap

Wigens Flat Cap

Wigens

Wigens sells on Amazon, so this Swedish brand is a little bit more accessible than many of the British hats brands. They offer a range of 100% wool flat caps. Check out this herringbone Longshoreman cap from Wigens here .

Christys Newsboy cap

Christys Newsboy cap

Christy’s

For a classic newsboy (or Baker Boy) hat, consider the very reasonably priced collection at Christy’s of London. At just £40, you can get a traditional pattern like this handsome blue herringbone Christy’s flap cap made from wool and moleskin cotton for optimal comfort and looks in the cold weather.

Lock and Co Flat Cap

Lock and Co Flat Cap

James Lock & Co.

For a splurge, consider buying a flat cap from James Lock & Co Hatters of London, one of the most famous hat shops in the world. Unlike most other brands, they offer their flat caps in high-end materials like cashmere and size them according to measurements rather than S-M-L. Click here to check out this cashmere flat cap from James Lock & Co for £199.

USA SizesEnglish sizesFrench SizesMetric SizesModern SizesInchesCentimetersNearest 64thsNearest 8ths
6 1/46 1/32-Nov50child19.51885019 33/6420 1/3
6 3/86 1/4251child19.91155119 29/3219 7/8
6 1/26 3/82 1/252xsmall20.30425220 11/3220 2/3
7 2/36 1/2353xsmall20.69695320 45/6420 3/4
6 3/47 2/33 1/254small21.08965421 5/6421 1/8
8 1/36 3/4455small21.48235521 31/6422 1/3
78 1/34 1/256medium21.8755621 7/823 1/3
7 1/37557medium22.26775722 17/6422 1/4
7 1/47 1/35 1/258large22.66045822 21/3223 2/3
7 3/87 1/4659large23.05315923 3/6423
7 1/27 3/86 1/260XL23.44586023 29/6423 1/2
8 2/37 1/2761XL23.83856123 27/3223 7/8
7 3/48 2/37 1/262XXL24.23126224 15/6424 1/4
7 7/87 3/4863XXL24.62396324 5/824 5/8
87 7/88 1/264XXXL25.01666425 1/6425

Conclusion

Do you wear flat caps? How do you pair them with outfits?

Summary
Flat Cap & Newspaper Boy Hat Style Guide
Article Name
Flat Cap & Newspaper Boy Hat Style Guide
Description
Discover the secret to looking more stylish in the winter season with flat caps; history, how to wear them, & what to buy.
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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23 replies
  1. Simon says:

    Interesting article.

    200 pounds for a Lock & Co cap….ouch! You can get a very nice Fedora for that kind of money.

    I don’t wear caps. I figure if I want to wear something on my head I may as well wear a proper hat. I’ve got about 10 hats that go with different outfits.

    Reply
  2. Bradley says:

    Lawrence & Foster in West Yorkshire. Fully handmade to order to your exact size. Around 40 UK. Orvis and others buy from them, and sell them for double. I’ve got two and they are great caps.

    Reply
  3. JOHN C IACUZZO says:

    Have a knitted wool variation of newsboy cap that I use for winter shotgunning. I bought this cap in the 1980″s, and I can not find a duplicate. During recent visit to London even Lock and Co. could not duplicate; they recommended a knitting company? Any recommendations for a knitting company that could produce a cap. Still looking… I’m at a loss.

    Reply
  4. Alexander_F says:

    I just love flat caps and can’t ever have enough of them. I couldn’t think of a cap that fits with more styles, and they look both good with the most casual outfits aswell as with sport coats. I couldn’t think of any other kind of headwear that almost never seems out of space, wether it be in a pub or an office.

    I must admit, though, that in spite of your tipps I even wear them in Summer. I just love them too much.

    Reply
  5. Tim Cogswell says:

    That’s the best size chart I have ever seen for all hats! Oh, and great piece on flat caps too; I have a small collection but all top of the line. In the cooler seasons, they will fit with most everything. One is always in my vehicle… just in case. Nicely done SRS.

    Reply
  6. Greg O'Flynn says:

    My first newsboy cap came from Miller Hat, but I’m not sure what hats they have manufactured for them as they cover a wide variety of styles and sizes. Lately, USA sources have migrated to adjustable caps and SML designations rather than true sizes. My tweed cap now is from Hartford-York.com and is a size medium. It fits well, but I consider that more luck than design.

    I’ve noticed inconsistencies in the hat sizing chart published, particularly in the US sizing. My understanding of the US sizes is the number multiplied by pi (roughly 3.14159) is equal to the inches of head circumference covered by the hatband. By measuring the circumference of the head, you can determine proper US hat size by dividing the circumference by pi.

    Reply
  7. CG says:

    This is a good article but does not give these hats the full credit that they are due.

    The flat cap in the summer helps to prevent head burn from the sun and absorb perspiration. Otherwise, balder guys develop not just sun burns but also raise their chances of skin cancer.

    It helps you nap on an airplane plane better by blocking the light.

    It helps you show respect to authority, like the officer or the passport agent at an airport. Ive noticed a positive change in their body language when they see me take my hat off.

    In the winter, it helps keep you warm. Count it as a more practical than layering.

    There is really a lot more at a practical and a social level. Just this morning, it came in useful: I had to ask the same question twIce to an agitated authority, and it helped me change my look so that I was not recognized as easily and it worked.

    Reply
  8. Isaac says:

    My favorite hat to this day is a Harris Tweed flat cap that I picked up while I was a university student in Scotland. It has served me well for almost 20 years. Recently, while grouse hunting, I lost the hat. A week later, I went back to scour the woods, and I miraculously found the hat. I love a good flat cap!

    Reply
  9. W.F. Walker says:

    I am a fan of newsboy caps, and have mine custom sewn by The Hat People in Oregon. You can find their website with an internet search. The are made-to-measure but the band is somewhat adjustable, and you can actually choose from 4 sizes for the top. And the prices are amazingly affordable for a custom hat. I bought one, in wool, for a cruise to Antarctica in January of 2014, and it was ideal..

    Reply
  10. Terry says:

    I must admit that I don’t care for the appearance of a flat hat on myself, though they look great on other men. However, I was in Victoria (BC) in April for a naval reunion several years ago, and the morning temps were crackling cold. I nipped into the downtown Tilley’s and bought a wool weatherproof flat cap which is now an essential part of my winter wardrobe.

    Reply
  11. Ponzio Oliverio says:

    I love hats, but as you pointed out in the video, they are not very popular. That being said I do manage to wear my fedoras or Panama occasionally, but I find I can wear “flat caps” just about anytime. I have always called them driving caps, and as I tend towards convertibles, the driving cap works perfectly for that, even in summer. So much more stylish than the baseball cap which I refuse to wear.

    Reply
  12. Andrew Gregg says:

    Greetings,

    In 1973, I was a foreign student in the former Soviet Union.

    Communist icon, Vladimir Lenin, often sported a “worker’s cap” in an effort to show solidarity with the proletariat he courted.

    Of course, I bought several, still have them, and made a unique fashion statement when I went home for my high school senior year, and as an undergraduate.

    In the late 1970’s, a “worker’s cap” was not a part of a law student’s wardrobe, so a number of years went by before I returned to a Kangol cap.

    In the 2010’s, I enjoy wearing a flat cap, but I situate it with the bill to the back.

    Probably not the recommended look for a sixty-something retiree, but I love the jazz musician vibe, and care little for those who honor convention over personal style.

    But, I was also the guy who defended wearing my Rolex Submariner with a suit to work; it attracted far more compliments than the more prestigious President model that succeeded it in my later career.

    Best regards,

    Andrew Gregg,
    Palm Springs, California

    Reply
  13. Pit says:

    please consider that the flat cap was probably the unique cap you can wear driving motorcycle,without loose it, due to the aerodinamically shape.
    My father from 1948 since 1986 weared such a cap driving his motorcycles, until the helmet became obligatory.
    In Italy there was a segnaletic road sign in wich was depicted the silouette of a rider in his motorcycle wearing that cap.

    Reply
  14. Ted Johnson says:

    I would also highly suggest Monsivais & Co. out of Los Angeles. Damian Monsivais hand makes all of his caps to your specifications. These are absolutely fantastic. I own three of them.

    Reply
  15. Alexander_F says:

    Thanks for this great article.It’s partly due to this I couldn’t resist that multi-colored Donegal tweed cap today. Now my collection has grown to four (plus a french-style beret which might be worth an article, too, by the way).

    Reply
  16. Charles Jensen says:

    I think they should just stay back in that era. Someone is trying to “goose” the headwear market. Brad Pitt I think was trying to start all this about 2 years ago. Put it back in your drawer please Mr. Sven…CMJ

    Reply
  17. Kevin McDermott says:

    Small, but not really pedantic, point: at one point in the piece you refer call a cap a “hat;” which is like calling a cow a horse: They’re both large quadrupeds, but they’re entirely different animals. Historically they were made by different craftsmen, as well — “hatters” and “cappers.” As with much else, most people have lost the distinction; but those who take the care to dress well (and probably know, and care about, the difference between a “fedora” and a “homburg”) will probably want to be careful with this nomenclature, as well.

    Reply
    • Chris B. says:

      Or the late Payne Stewart. My go to golf hat. I have a tan wool cap from Brooks Bros.that’s been in my fall wardrobe for 20 years.

      Reply

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