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A flat cap, or, in Scotland, bunnet is a rounded men's or women's cap with a small stiff brim in front. Cloths used to make the cap include wool, tweed (most common), and cotton. Less common materials may include leather or linen. Cord flat caps are also worn in various colours. The inside of the cap is usually lined with silk for comfort and warmth.
The style can be traced back to the 14th century in Northern England and parts of Southern Italy , when it was more likely to be called a "bonnet", which term was replaced by "cap" before about 1700, except in Scotland, where it continues to be referred to as a "bunnet". When Irish and English immigrants came to the United States, they brought the flat cap with them.
A 1571 Act of Parliament to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade decreed that on Sundays and holidays, 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 The Bill was not repealed until 1597, though by this time, the flat cap had become firmly entrenched in English psyche as a recognized mark of a non-noble subject; be it a burgher, a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. The style survives as the Tudor bonnet in some styles of academic dress.
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). Flat caps were worn by fashionable young men in the 1920s.
The stereotype of the flat cap as purely "working class" was never correct. They were frequently worn in the country, but not in town, by middle- and upper-class males for their practicality. Mather says: "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." When worn by an upper-class gentleman, it is sometimes referred to as a slummers' cap. The British workman no longer commonly wears a flat cap, so in the twenty-first century, it has gained an increasingly upper-class image. In Britain though the flat cap is frequently worn as part of an "urban" or "street" look favoured by the working classes.
Academic regalia 
One of the flat hats worn in academia is known as a 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 and tassels. 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 as well as Durham University in England, the University of Calgary and Queens' University in Canada. It is also worn by the holders of higher doctorates of the University of Liverpool;
The other main hat is the academic cap.
British popular culture 
In British popular culture the flat cap has been associated with older working class men, especially those in northern England, and the west country, as personified by Fred Dibnah and comic strip anti-hero Andy Capp. The flat cap's strong connection with the working class and the East End of London is illustrated by Jim Branning of EastEnders and Del-Boy Trotter of Only Fools and Horses. 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. A working class native of Newcastle in north east England, AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson customarily wears a flat cap on stage and frequently off.
The popularity of the flat cap 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 it's not restricted to that age as its an all age style. Charles, Prince of Wales, is often photographed in a tweed or tartan flat cap at his various country residences.
Youth culture 
Boys in the United Kingdom and North America of all classes wore this cap in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is not the case in the United States. Flat caps were not very common in the 19th century, although we see some being worn in the 1890s. They grew in popularity in the 1900s and by the 1910s were standard boys' wear. The working-class association prevalent in Britain, was never very prevalent in America. Boys of all classes wore them. They were worn to school, for casual wear, and with suits. Flats caps were almost always worn with knicker suits in the 1910s and 20s. Both flat caps and knickers declined in popularity during the 1930s.
The flat cap hat is often associated in popular culture with city newsboys (i.e., street-corner newspaper sellers) in North America, which is why the style is sometimes called a newsboy or newsie cap. Some may associate the cap more with working class boys, though this may be purely personal or regional. Possibly due to popular portrayals in movies and other media, the cap is commonly perceived as a badge of a cab driver in the United States; for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a cab driver or cabbie hat.
Current situation 
The style has remained popular among certain groups of people in Europe and North America. The cap is sometimes associated with older men, significantly in South Korea, but has been popular (along with the newsboy cap) among some segments of younger people: for example, in cities such as Boston with a large Irish-American population. They are also associated with skinheads and the Oi! and punk subcultures. The flat cap has appeared in the hip hop subculture, worn back-to-front. It is also very common among men and women of a variety of ages in San Francisco, California.
The black leather flat cap is often combined with a patched up sport coat or leather jacket and dark clothes (sometimes combined with a bee-striped convict’s shirt) in popular culture to depict a burglar, mugger, or robber, occasionally with a domino mask. The comic book character The Goon is based on this archetype of the flat-capped street tough from vintage cartoons and comics, as well as the Mexican sitcom characters, El Chompiras y El Botijas, the former interpreted by the famous Mexican comedian Chespirito
The Canadian team in the 1998 Winter Olympics wore red flat caps designed by Roots in the opening ceremony parade of nations. In addition, the United States team in the 2008 Summer Olympics also wore white flat caps designed by Polo Ralph Lauren during the parade of nations.
As of late 2011 Britain saw an increased popularity in the flat cap, possibly as a result of recent photographs of celebrities wearing the cap. Marks and Spencer's noted flat cap sales to have risen to eleven times the number of 2010.
- OED, "Bonnet"
- Mairi Robinson (ed.). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-08-028491-4.
- Mather, Geoffrey. "Capped for England" BBC Radio 4, 2001.
- Katie Wales (2006). Northern English: a cultural and social history. p.26. Cambridge University Press, 2006
- Anthony Bozza (2009). Why AC/DC Matters. p.54. HarperCollins, Retrieved 30 November 2011