The flat cap, also known as a Scally cap, or Cheesecutter is a rounded shallow cap with a small stiff brim at the front. There are some slightly different variations of the cap, including a deeper ‘fashion’ style, Riding Cap, Driving Cap (with fold down ear warmers). The ‘Golf Cap’ is more similar in form to the Bond Cap, made famous in pictures of Bertie Wooster, the definitive plus-four wearer. While the shape of all of these caps is recognisable, the subtle differences are primarily the length of coverage at the back of the cap, the width and depth of the head and the length of the peak. Fashionable at the moment are the Long-Peaked Flat Cap, better known as a Shooting Cap or ‘Shooter’ which is narrower on the head with a deeper fitting back and broad peak for shooting into the sun.
Each Hatter has a signature ‘Cut’ of flat cap and Laird’s is narrow to the peak, with a closely fitted crown giving a modern, slim fit over the head, sitting deep at the back with a scalloped profilw.
The earlier version of the Traditional Flat Cap, is the Bond cap, which is flat on top, but has a larger, very round crown, and is wider than the Cheesecutter, with a broad, protruding peak. This version dates to around the 1850’s, and dates to the London Guilds. The size of your cap denoted your place in the guild, with apprentices wearing a very small cap and Masters wearing ridiculously large Bond Caps.
At Laird, we have developed our ‘Sicilian’ cap, a version of the flat cap but with a more Mediterranean or Italian slant creating a wider fit around the cap, and rounding off of some of the sharper edges. This creates a softer, more louche feel and fit, sitting a little deeper on the crown but with more cloth to play around with to give a stylish sweep.
Tweed flat caps are at the heart of the English country look, and can also be made in wax cotton and cashmere. In summer, Laird make caps in linen, cotton and raw silk for cool breathability but also practical sun protection. The flat cap is really a year round essential, warm in the winter and cooling in the summer.
The popularity of the flat cap remains strong with fans of English country clothing, the English ‘Country Set’. Princes William and Harry have rejuvenated the Flat cap with the younger set, often been seen in Tweed Caps around the Polo fields. The Chap magazine has also been an advocate of the tweed cap, helping Flat caps and Bakerboys to make a big come back as a must have fashion accessory. Vivienne Westwood also pioneered the cap through the 80s and onwards.
The style, known as a ‘Bonnet’, can be traced back to 14th century Britain, Italy and Ireland. The word cap was more likely used from the 18th century (except in Scotland) where bonnet is still used for caps and where they still wear something reminiscent of the original medieval version, think ‘Tamoshanta’.
The cap was really established in the 16th century, when, owing to a surplus of wool, and Act of Parliamnet was passed in 1571 stipulating that every male person from 6+ must wear a cap on Sundays and holidays, with the exception of nobility or other persons of some degree. This Act was repealed in 1597, but by this stage the cap had become part of cultural and class identity. The cap had become a mark of common status by this time, for artisans, burghers and tradesman, the middle classes of the time.
When Irish and English immigrants crossed the Atlantic to America, so too did the Flat cap and Bakerboy. The flat cap and Bond cap of this time, became known as the ‘Cheesecutter’ because of its charp edges and distinctly wedge shape.
Bond caps and tweed caps gained huge popularity during the 1920s with the ’Cambridge set’, wearing plus 4s and 2s, spreading to the more fashionable and wealthy young men of England. Who can forget the charicatures P.G. Wodehouse’ Berty Wooster wearing a tweed cap for golf.
As we progress through the 20th century, the stereotype of “Andy Cap” denoting the tweed flat cap as synonymous with ‘working class’ was a misnomer. Frequently the flat cap was worn in the country, but not in town, by the middle and upper-classes, as an ever practical accessory. Today it is undoubtedly classless, and there lies its strength.