Ever doubted that you can pull off a flat cap? We’re here to put your concerns to rest and show that you can’t go wrong with a cap that survived 400 years of trends and is still thriving. Fashion trends come and go. How many guys do you see walking around in top hats? Trends end because they are just that… trends. The flat cap didn’t begin as a trend, it began as a necessity and grew to become a staple in men’s fashion for centuries. If the idea of a flat cap conjures up images of ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ or a grandpa golfer in Miami, you would only be half right. The flat cap’s classic shape and construction are still as popular today as it was back when newsboys were only a street corner away, and grandpa… well, he’ll always do whatever he wants.
What is a Flat Cap?
Before we dive into defining a flat cap, let’s answer the age-old question – What is the difference between a hat and a cap? A hat is a head covering with a brim that goes all the way around it. Picture a fedora or a cowboy hat. Or look up Bruno Mars or Indiana Jones. Caps are different from hats in their design. They have a visor or a bill but aren’t encircled by a brim, and they have a crown (top) that is unshaped (compared to a fedora with its highly structured crown). Some caps, such as baseball caps, snapbacks and strapbacks have added structure to the crown but no brim like the one found on a cowboy hat. A classic example of a traditional cap is the flat cap. It’s important to note that the words visor and brim are often used interchangeably. Hats have a circular brim while caps do not. In its purest form, the body of the flat cap is pulled forward over the visor and sewn or snapped to the top edge of it. Flat caps are recognisable by their triangular profile and are suitable for most face types – from David Beckham to the man who thinks he’s not a ‘hat guy’. Traditionally constructed from tweed (wool) or cotton, men’s flat caps nowadays come in a variety of materials including vegan leather, linen, cotton and synthetic blends. Depending on the material, flat caps will keep your head warm in winter and cool in the summer all while complementing everything from a summer suit to a wool overcoat. The flat cap goes by many other names as well – ivy cap, Gatsby, driving cap, sixpence, duckbill and paddy to name a few. Despite what you call it, the flat cap is easier to pull off than a fedora and looks better with a suit than a snapback. Explore our entire collection of flat caps for men and see why they’ve been a men’s wardrobe staple for over 400 years.
The Flat Cap – Popular since 1570
The flat cap has been around for ages – since the 1570s to be exact. From the 1570s to the 1590s, the British government tried to support the wool industry by demanding that all men had to wear a woolen cap on Sundays. This law didn’t apply to noble Englishmen… guess we would’ve been stuck wearing a cap. The law didn’t last long, but the flat cap stayed a part of the working man’s uniform. Scan any photo from the 1910s and 20s and you’ll notice a sea of flat caps. What began as a requirement had officially been adopted as an essential part of life. The cap had another boost in popularity in the 1990s with everyone from rappers to pop stars donning the ivy cap and making it a go-to fashion choice. Fast forward to today and you’ll see that the flat cap is still as relevant. Maybe it’s that wearing one looks great with casual or dressed-up looks… maybe it’s the face-flattering profile a flat cap provides. Or maybe it’s that good things never go out of style.
Newsboy Cap Versus Flat Cap: What’s the Difference?
We’re the first to admit that calling a newsboy cap a flat cap is no big crime. While the fashion police won’t show up and cart you off to jail, being able to spot the differences between these 2 styles will help determine which is best suited for you… and it’ll make a fun know-it-all moment the next time the topic comes up. The newsboy cap – also known as a paperboy cap, newsie cap or newsy – was first worn in the late 1800s and early 1900s by newspaper sellers. It’s similar to a flat cap in that both are typically constructed from tweed and have a rounded, low profile and a small visor or brim. The largest distinction is that newsboy caps are puffier and baggier than a standard flat cap. Newsboy caps are sewn together with 8 panels on top that look like pizza slices and almost always have a button on top where the panels meet. When in doubt, look for slices of pizza and you’ll know if it’s a paperboy or a flat cap.
How to Determine Your Hat Size in 2 Steps
Ultimately, the hatband and the visor (brim) create the structure of the hat and should fit comfortably across your forehead similar to a snapback or baseball cap. Avoid wearing it too large or painfully small.
- Wrap a tape measure or a piece of string firmly around your head about 0.5 cm above your ear (middle of the forehead).
- Record the measurement, order your flat cap and conquer the world.
How to Wear a Flat Cap
Because this type of cap works with everyday casual looks and when you want to dress up, wearing and styling one is easier than you think.
- Consider the Classics – Remember that natural materials offer better insulation and breathability. Stick to the originals – tweed (wool), cotton or linen.
- Make It Your Own – Round the brim to frame your face by applying gentle pressure and shaping it to a slight curve.
- Wear It Correctly – No matter what super-fly throwback song is playing in the background, keep your flat cap on the correct way and not in backwards 1990s style. It may seem contradictory to say ‘make it your own’ and then demand that you wear it correctly, but think of it as a friendly recommendation.
- Know the Season – Breathable linen and lightweight cotton are perfect for spring and summer, while wool tweed and heavier cotton are great for winter.
- Keep it Simple – Like with a
bow tie, avoid pairing too many old-fashioned accessories in one look. Men’s flat caps do wear well with bow ties, braces and vests… but too many may go a bit steampunk costume party.
- Choosing a Pattern – If you’ve chosen a patterned flat cap, make sure that other patterns you wear with it complement each other. Think of your cap as an accessory and not as an afterthought. Think of it as something that you consciously choose to wear instead of something you grab on the way out the door.
- Keep an Eye on the Lining – Just as important as the outside, the inner sweatband (the fabric band attached inside the cap that sits directly next to your skin) is equally worth your focus. All of our Fawler flat caps are handmade in Italy and include a soft, itch-free sweatband. This not only helps with the breathability factor but also keeps you comfortable all year round.
Flat Cap Looks & Inspiration
Look 1Layers are must-have for the cold winter months. When layering, think of the flat cap as a stylistic part of the outfit instead of something purely functional. In this look, we’ve combined a thick wool scarf in black with a textured brown flat cap. The brown isn’t an exact match to the coat (you don’t want an exact match) and works with the leather shoes and brown leather bag. The result is a look that is both put-together and yet relaxed enough to be comfortable.
Get the Look
Look 2Showcase that you know a thing or two about dress-up style in a light-grey suit with navy details. And top it off with a houndstooth newsboy cap. Be sure that the cap you choose isn’t an exact match to the suit. Here, the houndstooth pattern complements the solid-colour of the suit while the subtle colours in the cap pick up the navy details in the tie and pocket square.
Get the Look
Look 3If you’re a jeans and tee kind of guy, this elevated version of casual may be right up your alley. This dark grey flat cap matches perfectly with a light-coloured blazer, white t-shirt and grey slacks. Staying in the same neutral colour palette keeps this outfit fresh. Finish it off with black-and-white accents and a pair of leather loafers or white sneakers. Still prefer your jeans? Keep the blazer and switch the trousers for your favourite denim pair.
Get the Look
How to Hand Wash A Flat Cap
Wool, linen and cotton flat caps and newsboy caps can be cleaned by hand. It’s very important to not get the brim wet and to go about the process with care – it’s not a job that can be rushed through.
- Fill a bowl with warm water. Do not use hot water as it may ruin the cap.
Add a small amount (about a teaspoon) of a mild, bleach-free laundry detergent.
- Soak a small part of the hat (preferably somewhere unnoticeable) to see if the colour will bleed. If not, continue. If yes, stop.
- Place the back of the cap in the water – keep the brim out of the water. Gently wash from the back of the cap to the front. Avoid washing the brim unless it’s exceptionally dirty.
- Focus on the inner sweatband and give it an extra scrub to remove built-up oil and sweat.
- Once you’ve given it a light wash, remove it from the water and rinse with cold water to remove any detergent. Gently press between a towel to remove excess water. Do not wring or twist the cap.
- Air dry the cap away from direct sunlight and heat. When you lay it down, shape the cap as best as possible as it will dry in the shape you leave it in.
In most cases, you’ll only need to wash the inner sweatband… unless you’ve been attacked by a flock of pigeons. Avoid getting the brim or visor wet because many are constructed with cardboard and will crack and lose their shape when wet. If you must clean the brim, do so with a small amount of water and a clean towel.
You Asked – We Answered
What’s the best flat cap to wear?
Can you wear a flat cap in the summer?
You can wear a flat cap in the summer if it’s made from breathable linen or lightweight cotton. The last thing you want is a sweaty forehead. Make sure that the lining is equally as moisture-wicking as the shell. Try this 100% linen flat cap on for size.
Can you wear a flat cap to a wedding?
How do I pick a flat cap or a newsboy cap?
One of the simplest pieces of headwear available, the flat cap is having a resurgence currently, due to the popularity of Peaky Blinders. It’s the ultimate cool guy finishing touch to most outfits, from casual to formal. When started in the 1570s, it was a necessity by law for working class men to wear a wool cap on Sundays and public holidays until the 1590s. This was to give the wool industry a boost. Since then, flat caps have been staples for men’s dressing up until the mid 1940s. After that point, the style has been on trend every so often, like other cyclical fashions. Traditionally, they have been worn with Sunday best outfits, lots of tweed suits and formalwear. However, in the 21st century, many celebrities and fashion houses have styled flat caps with casual, smart-casual and formal outfits. Our guide on how to wear a flat cap includes what a flat cap is, how to measure your head for it as well as our usual styling tips for casual, smart-casual and dressy outfits. What is a flat cap? Flat caps are considered the more affordable formal headwear, when compared to top hats or fedoras. They’re your everyman kind of style so those with lower incomes could still look put-together back in the day. They fit further down the head compared to other hats. Flat caps should sit at the nape of your neck at your hairline to allow the cap part at the front to be long enough to shield your eyes from the sun but not too long to restrict your vision. The best thing about flat caps is how portable they are. The design was invented to be a foldable style so it fits nicely in a jacket or coat pocket. The cap section is meant to merge into the hat so you don’t have a wide brim, like a baseball cap. This gives it that formal feel instead of being ultra casual. If the design has a button on the top and has a wider brim, that is considered to be a newsboy cap. They tend to be baggier in style whereas a flat cap is sleek and streamlined. Newsboy caps are made by putting together eight panels of fabric to make the main part of the hat. Flat caps are sewn at the seams as it is one piece of material over the top! How to measure for a flat cap The hatband and visor are the two main components when it comes to measuring your head for a fitted flat cap. You want it to feel comfortable on your head so it’s important to determine how snug you want it to feel. To measure accurately, get someone else to do it for you: a partner, child or professional tailor! You wouldn’t believe how inaccurate measurements can be if you do it yourself. You only really need one measurement for a flat cap: the circumference of your head. Wrap the measuring tape around your head, about half a centimetre above your ear. It’s usually best to measure from the forehead and hold the tape at about the middle of your forehead, basically the widest part of your head. When it comes to the cap part, you want it to be moldable so you can have it straight or you can squeeze it to fit around your face more. Just don’t squeeze it too much that it starts to look like the brim of a baseball cap! How to wear a flat cap: top tips Flat caps are traditional in style and design. It’s one of those trends that does come back into fashion every few years but for country folk, you’ll wear yours a lot more. Because of this, you need it to be as versatile as possible. We’ve rounded up a couple of our top tips when it comes to choosing and wearing a flat cap. Stick with a classic cut, colour and design: This is not the style of hat to go bold and unique with. Keeping it a simple colour or pattern means you’ll get maximum wear out of it. Think classic countryside style and you’ll be set for a long time. Wear it properly: It should sit on your head properly, not too far back or too far forwards. And by no means should you ever wear it backwards (unless it’s part of a fancy dress costume). Only Samuel L. Jackson can wear a flat cap backwards and still look cool. Think about the fabric: Whilst you will want a thicker, wool style for autumn and winter, they will be too heavy to wear during the warmer months. If you know you’ll wear it a lot, consider lightweight cotton styles or linen material too.However, it could be best to find an alternative hat style for spring and summer! Don’t forget that the lining and sweatband are just as important too. They must be breathable and easy to wipe clean after every wear! Double check the sizings: Some companies fit by measurements, some like us do S-M-L style sizing. You will need to take a look at the sizing guides on each style to check that it will fit you properly. An ill-fitting flat cap is a big no-no! Wearing a flat cap: casual When we say casual, we do not mean jogging bottoms and dirty trainers. Think going to the shops or running errands. Loungewear is a strict no as this is an outfit that would be acceptable to leave the house in! Straight leg jeans are the foundation piece for a casual outfit. Stick with dark colours, such as indigo, black and grey, so you can add colour on other items. You want the flat cap to be the focal point too. Classic crew-neck T-shirts and polo shirts keep the look casual but still put-together. Make sure they’re in pristine condition and fit well as just because your look is casual, it doesn’t mean sloppy! Footwear can be anything from canvas trainers to leather boots. Just make sure they’re clean because nothing ruins an outfit more than untidy footwear. Layering is key to a casual outfit so you could throw on an open shirt, a gilet or a thin jacket here. Wearing a flat cap: smart-casual Smart-casual dressing is often easier than you think. Adding a flat cap will instantly smarten up most looks so you’re already one step ahead of everyone else. As it says in the style, it’s a mix between casual and comfy with smart and formal. This is the sort of outfit you’d wear to family gatherings or meals out at a gastropub. Again, straight leg jeans work just as well here. You could also try chinos in a classic beige, navy or khaki shade if you’d prefer something comfier than jeans. A classic country checked shirt is perfect for smart-casual outfits. We’d like to think that you have them in your wardrobe already so wear your favourite! Sleek boots add to the smart style of the outfit. Whether you go for leather or suede is up to you but go for sleek styles, such as Chelsea boots. Chunky boots will look too casual. You can’t go wrong with a tweed blazer for a smart-casual look. It smartens up the look along with the flat cap to give your outfit an extra edge and country feel. Wearing a flat cap: dressy / formal Formalwear scares a lot of people but we’re not necessarily talking weddings here. Other events might require a dressy outfit but not black tie. Countryside gatherings basically require a flat cap to blend in!
- This is where you can brush off your tweed suit hiding in the wardrobe. Of course you can wear the jacket or trousers alone but pair both together for really formal events. You could even pop on a waistcoat too.
- Once again, a simple checked shirt will ensure you look the part and keep that countryside look intact.
- Formal footwear is just code for office footwear. Smart brogues and loafers look so stylish when paired with a tweed suit but if it is an outdoor event, Chelsea boots work just as well.
Flat caps are not as difficult to wear as you might have once thought. Gone are the days when you had to wear it with a full three-piece tweed suit, although it still looks just as dressy now than it did back then! It’s so easy to style a flat cap casually nowadays, especially when the items required will already be in your wardrobe. A traditional flat cap will see you through years of wear and a whole host of occasions and outfits. You know here at Rydale, the more you can wear an item, the more we love it! Wear that flat cap every day with pride!
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