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.
What is a Flat Cap?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 .
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.
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 Sizes||English sizes||French Sizes||Metric Sizes||Modern Sizes||Inches||Centimeters||Nearest 64ths||Nearest 8ths|
|6 1/4||6 1/3||2-Nov||50||child||19.5188||50||19 33/64||20 1/3|
|6 3/8||6 1/4||2||51||child||19.9115||51||19 29/32||19 7/8|
|6 1/2||6 3/8||2 1/2||52||xsmall||20.3042||52||20 11/32||20 2/3|
|7 2/3||6 1/2||3||53||xsmall||20.6969||53||20 45/64||20 3/4|
|6 3/4||7 2/3||3 1/2||54||small||21.0896||54||21 5/64||21 1/8|
|8 1/3||6 3/4||4||55||small||21.4823||55||21 31/64||22 1/3|
|7||8 1/3||4 1/2||56||medium||21.875||56||21 7/8||23 1/3|
|7 1/3||7||5||57||medium||22.2677||57||22 17/64||22 1/4|
|7 1/4||7 1/3||5 1/2||58||large||22.6604||58||22 21/32||23 2/3|
|7 3/8||7 1/4||6||59||large||23.0531||59||23 3/64||23|
|7 1/2||7 3/8||6 1/2||60||XL||23.4458||60||23 29/64||23 1/2|
|8 2/3||7 1/2||7||61||XL||23.8385||61||23 27/32||23 7/8|
|7 3/4||8 2/3||7 1/2||62||XXL||24.2312||62||24 15/64||24 1/4|
|7 7/8||7 3/4||8||63||XXL||24.6239||63||24 5/8||24 5/8|
|8||7 7/8||8 1/2||64||XXXL||25.0166||64||25 1/64||25|
Do you wear flat caps? How do you pair them with outfits?