The Tom Smarte Guide to the Flat Cap

The Flat Cap

In this, the latest in my series of guides to the different types of hats, I turn my attention to the humble flat cap. A very different style to the Fedora and Trilby, a flat cap is the easiest introduction to hat wearing for those who are new to the experience. Much more casual than a shaped hat, but a lot smarter than a baseball cap, the flat cap is in my opinion, a wardrobe essential.  

The History of the Flat Cap

The flat cap can be traced back to 14th century England and Italy and was introduced to the United States in the 19th century by English and Irish migrants. The same style is referred to by many different terms such as ivy cap, driver’s cap, golf cap and cheese-cutter.

A 1571 Act of Parliament decreed that all males in Britain over the age of 6, except for the nobility and graduates, were to wear woollen caps on Sundays and holidays, the failure of which led to a daily fine of 3 farthings. The purpose of this strange Bill was to stimulate domestic wool consumption. It wasn’t repealed until 1597, by which time the flat cap had become firmly entrenched within the working classes.

By the 1920s, the flat cap was worn by all classes and is now replacing the baseball cap as the most popular style of men’s hat worn in the UK.

Who the Flat Cap suits

There are many variations of the flat cap so that there is a style that can suit everyone. A flat cap can be made with different length peaks, different number of panels  creating numerous profiles, more fabric on the sides for a more traditional shape or less fabric for a sleeker, modern look.

How to wear it

Place a flat cap on your head from back to front. Most flat caps are sold with a pre-curved peak, but if not, you should ‘work’ the peak accordingly. Depending on your choice of fabric, design and colour, a flat cap can be a great finishing touch to a bespoke Savile Row suit as it would to a t-shirt and jeans.