Greek fisherman's cap

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The Beatles arriving at Kennedy airport, with John Lennon holding his cap
John Lennon (front left), with Paul McCartney, holding a "John Lennon Hat"
Jeremy Corbyn wearing a black mariner cap.

A Greek fisherman's cap, also known as a fiddler cap, Lenin cap, Dylan hat, skipper cap, mariner's cap or John Lennon hat is a soft, flat-topped cap with a small visor, usually made from black or navy blue wool felt, but also occasionally from corduroy or blue denim. It is distinguished from similar caps, such as the Breton cap and Maciejówka, by its embroidered visor and braided cord. It is often associated with seamanship and marine settings, especially yachting and recreational sailing. It has become popular amongst the public in general, rather than staying isolated as an occupational hat. One example of it being put in prominence of popular culture was when it was worn by John Lennon during the British Invasion of the mid 1960s.

Origins[edit]

Lenin wearing his distinctive cap.

Caps of this type were introduced during the first quarter of the 19th century, as cheap and practical workwear for sailors and factory workers in Europe. These were particularly popular in Russia, especially among the urban Jewish community, and later gained the nickname fiddler cap due to their use by Topol[1] as Tevye the Milkman in the film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof.[2]

A black version of this cap, with a narrow crown and a band embroidered with foliage, was known as a Kasket or Hamburg cap. It was introduced in response to the Tsarist authorities banning more traditional Jewish headwear in 19th century Russia, and was later commonly seen on Kibbutz farmers in Israel during the 1950s.[3] This hat was worn daily by Hasidic Jewish boys in Britain, Germany, Russia, Poland, and America from the early Victorian era until the mid 20th century, but in the present day it is generally restricted to Shabbat and other formal occasions.[4]

Leading Old Bolsheviks including Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Felix Dzerzhinsky, and Stalin also favored these caps during the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War.[5] Dark blue and army green variants with a red star badge later became part of the uniform for political commissars along with a black leather reefer jacket. Similar caps were also worn by socialists from other countries, including Chinese president Mao Zedong and, more recently, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.[6][7]

Popularity in Greece and Western Europe[edit]

By the 1880s, caps of this type were widespread in Greece, and featured a decorative cord chinstrap, and a distinctive black embroidered ribbon on the peak.[8] The traditional costume for many Greek coastal villagers, comprising the cap, roll neck sweater, baggy pants, and tall boots featured in the film adaptation of Guns of Navarone, as the disguise for the British agents.[9] Black or navy blue variants with a white crown known as Tellermutzen were also commonly worn by university students in Germany, Denmark and Sweden from the turn of the century until the present day.

As workwear[edit]

Black or navy blue caps of this type served as workwear for merchant navy sailors throughout the 20th century. Caps with decorative gold braid, either in the standard navy blue or with a white top, were favored by the skippers of sailing yachts, motor boats, and other small pleasure craft.[10][11] From the 1930s until the 1970s a waterproof version, known as a mechanic's cap, was worn with a blue boiler suit as part of the uniform for truckers, gas station employees and breakdown men.[12]

Modern use[edit]

Contemporary Greek Fisherman's Cap.
Rastafarian's hat, combining the peak and hatband of the Greek fisherman cap with the knitted wool body of the traditional Jamaican tam.

During the 1950s, black leather variants of the Greek Fisherman's cap were popular among the Ton-up boy and Greaser subculture, due to their use by Marlon Brando in The Wild One.[13] These appear in The Warriors as part of the uniform of the Rogues gang. Similar caps embellished with chains and metal studs were worn by many members of the 1970s black power movement as an alternative to the beret.[14] At the same time, a knitted grey or black version, resembling a wool Rasta hat with a leather peak, gained popularity among some expatriate Jamaican Rastafarians in Britain and the US to accommodate their dreadlocks.[15][16]

From the mid to late 1960s, the Greek Fisherman's cap became a desirable counterculture accessory for both sexes, due to its use by The Beatles during their US tour, and by folk musicians such as Bob Dylan[17] Woody Guthrie, and Donovan. The cap underwent a revival among young British hipster women during the late 1990s, and again during the 2010s due to a nostalgia for 1970s fashion.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]