Irish Flat Cap
The Irish Flat Cap
I think everyone will have a memory or an image that comes to mind when we think of the Flat Cap., in fact there is probably one in most houses in Ireland.
An Irish Flat Cap is traditionally a rounded wool cap with a stiff brim at the front. Modern flat caps can be made of cotton, tweed or leather. The origins of the flat cap lie with 14th century Ireland yet there are some sources that claim the cap was worn before that in England, which we may dispute here in Ireland as it is a part of our history too much not to have originated from here. People in Scotland and Southern Italy wore a similar style cap, although they referred to it as a bonnet.
In 1571 the Act of Parliament to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade 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 on pain of a fine of (3/4 penny) per day. This was one way of keeping the wool consumption up, in today’s world it is hard to imagine a Law being put in place to force the population to buy an item of clothing to stimulate the economy. The Bill was not repealed until 1597, though by this time, the flat cap had become firmly entrenched in everyone’s daily dress and people continued to wear the cap without the fear of a fine enforcing it.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when men predominantly wore some form of headgear, flat caps were commonly worn throughout Ireland, almost predominately by men. and mostly by workers.
In the US the caps were worn from the 1890s but never associated with the working classes. The cap grew in popularity at the turn of the 20th century and was at the time standard boys' wear. They were worn to school, for casual wear, and with suits. Flat caps were almost always worn with knicker suits in the 1910s and '20s. In the 1930's, knicker suits and flat caps were on the decline. The flat cap is often associated with the newsboys. Newsboys were the boys who stood on the street corners selling newspapers .
But the eventual flip side to the history of the Flat Cap is that it as it was no longer a requirement or law, meant that they were now a style choice, and a fun choice at that. Hence, where we are now: Samuel L. Jackson wears a flat cap. So does Jon Hamm, and Justin Timberlake to name a few. All men of vastly different fashion sensibilities, ages, and looks. But the versatile cap suits them all. It’s stuck around for over 500 years, and isn’t going away any time soon!
- Marnie Walsh