Flat cap

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Woollen flat cap worn by actor Jason Isaacs

A flat cap or Higdon Hat is a rounded cap with a small stiff brim in front, originating in the British Isles. The hat is known in Ireland as a paddy cap, in Scotland as a bunnet, in Wales as a Dai cap,[citation needed] and in the United States as a flat cap, or pancake cap/hat. Cloths used to make the cap include wool, tweed (most common), and cotton. Less common materials may include leather, linen, or corduroy. The inside of the cap is commonly lined for comfort and warmth.


Woolen flat cap
Flat cap, side view, herringbone pattern

The style can be traced back to the 14th century in Northern England, when it was more likely to be called a "bonnet". This term was replaced by "cap" before about 1700,[1] except in Scotland, where it continues to be referred to as a bunnet in Scots.[2]

A 1571 Act of the English Parliament was enacted to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade. It decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and "persons of degree", were to wear woolen caps or pay a fine of three farthings (0.75 penny, or about £0.008) per day.[3] The Act was not repealed until 1597, though by then the flat cap had become firmly entrenched as a recognised mark of a non-noble person[citation needed], such as a burgher, a tradesman, or an apprentice.[dubious ] The style may have been the same as the Tudor bonnet still used in some styles of academic dress.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when men predominantly wore some form of headgear, flat caps were commonly worn throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Versions in finer cloth were also considered to be suitable casual countryside wear for upper-class Englishmen. Flat caps were worn by fashionable young men in the 1920s. Boys of all classes in the United Kingdom wore caps during this period; a peaked school cap of prescribed colour and design, of more rounded shape than men's flat caps, was part of the normal school uniform.[4]

The flat cap made its way to southern Italy in the late 1800s, likely brought by British servicemen. In Turkey, the flat cap became the main headgear for men after it became a replacement for the fez, which was banned by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1925.[citation needed]

British popular culture[edit]

In British popular culture, the flat cap (or "flat hat") is typically associated with older working-class men. The flat cap can also be taken to denote the upper class when affecting casualness. "A toff can be a bit of a chap as well without, as it were, losing face."[5] In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, British public figures including David Beckham, Nigel Mansell, Guy Ritchie, Richard Blackwood, and the Prince of Wales wore the flat cap.[6]

In Northern England, notable wearers include: Fred Dibnah, from Bolton; comic strip anti-hero Andy Capp, from Hartlepool, and AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, of Newcastle, customarily wears a flat cap frequently on and off stage.[7][8]

In Peaky Blinders, a BBC television show about a former Birmingham-based gang, characters are seen wearing Baker Boy Caps, a similar style often confused for flat caps. It was thought, and adapted, that the gang had sewed-in razor blades on the peak of their flat caps for use as a weapon to blind their enemies.[9]

Usage in the East End of London is illustrated by Jim Branning of the television soap opera 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 Gareth Hale and Norman Pace's (Hale and Pace) "London cabbies" television sketches.

North American culture[edit]

The flat cap hat is associated in North American (chiefly US) popular culture with city newsboys (i.e., street-corner newspaper sellers), the style sometimes being called a "newsboy" or newsboy cap, sometimes referred to as a "Kangol hat" due to conflation with the brand that makes certain styles of flat caps. It is also sometimes seen worn by older non-professional or amateur golfers.

Current popularity[edit]

Dick Berggren is known for wearing a flat cap.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was known for wearing flat caps.

The style has remained popular among groups of people in the Great Britain, Ireland, 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 Chicago, Boston and New York with large Irish-American populations. It has appeared in the hip hop subculture, sometimes worn back-to-front or cocked to the side. It is also very common among men and women in San Francisco, California. In Turkey, it is highly popular amongst men, mostly working-class.

The English rugby league team Featherstone Rovers supporters' nickname is "the Flat Cappers", because supporters in years gone by attended matches wearing them as did most other teams' supporters.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] The comic book character the Goon is based on this archetype of the flat-capped street tough from vintage cartoons and comics.[citation needed]

Popular US golfer Bryson DeChambeau wears a flat cap during his rounds on the PGA Tour in honor of the late Payne Stewart and Ben Hogan. The look has rejuvenated popularity with the style amongst younger golfers.[citation needed]

The Canadian team in the 1998 Winter Olympics wore red flat caps designed by Roots in the opening ceremony parade of nations.[citation needed] In addition, the US team in the 2008 Summer Olympics also wore white flat caps designed by Polo Ralph Lauren during the parade of nations.

It is commonly worn within the gopnik subculture in Russia.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bonnet". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ Mairi Robinson (ed.). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-08-028491-4.
  3. ^ O'Grady, Sean (27 March 2010). "Minor British Institutions: The flat cap". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  4. ^ "English school uniform garments: headwear". Historical Boys' Clothing. 9 October 2017.
  5. ^ Mather, Geoffrey. "Capped for England" BBC Radio 4, 2001.
  6. ^ "If you want to get ahead, get a flat cap". Telegraph. 18 November 2016.
  7. ^ Katie Wales (2006). Northern English: a cultural and social history. p. 26. Cambridge University Press ISBN 9781139457057
  8. ^ Anthony Bozza (2009). Why AC/DC Matters. p.54. HarperCollins, Retrieved 30 November 2011 ISBN 9780061804601
  9. ^ Griffiths, Eleanor (2019-07-19). "Where does the name Peaky Blinders come from?". RadioTimes. Immediate Media Company Limited. Retrieved 2019-11-17. The TV series suggests that the gang are called “Peaky Blinders” because they use the razors in their hats to blind their enemies, either by slicing the blade across their victims’ eyes or by slashing up their faces so much that they are blinded by blood.

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