Sartorial Love/Hate: The Flat Cap

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Many a time I have felt the wind nipping keenly, I have turned to accessories to shield my skin from the cold. Scarves, gloves and upturned collars have provided sweet respite. I have also turned to headgear when venturing out for extended periods. It is well known that covering the head is a very efficient way of retaining warmth but as a practice it is rather overlooked; on a recent day, particularly blustery, I encountered countless men, of all ages, trussed up to their necks in coat and scarf whilst the harsh wind blew through their hair: the equivalent of turning the heating up whilst leaving the front door open.

When I do wear headgear I am most grateful for the comfort and warmth. So much so that I am taken to wearing headgear that is considered inappropriate, particularly for town, and more than a little unusual. One type of hat I am rather fond of that seems to attract as much derision as admiration is the flat-cap. Yes, sadly, the flat cap appears to be yet another example of sartorial love/hate.

“I don’t know what it is” someone told me “but they just look wrong.” Another acquaintance ventured to inform that the problem with the style is that it looks so dreadfully ordinary; “It’s a farmer’s hat, nothing more.” Saddened by such beastly reproaches, I am not yet discouraged. I think that although there are grander, better shaped and more appropriately metropolitan forms of headgear to be had, the flat cap is versatile, easy to store and travel with and excellent value. However, the hat does have inevitable limitations. To begin with, it is a casual hat. Flat caps worn with suits do not make for a graceful outfit; there is the vague air of an obnoxious Fleet Street reporter about a gentleman who wears his pinstripes with a ‘flatty.’ It’s a weekender; a hat for more relaxed ensembles. It need not always be accompanied by tweed jackets or Tattersall shirts either. A grey herringbone version would look splendid with a blue blazer, light grey roll neck and charcoal trousers or perhaps a shawl collared knit cardigan and jeans. The difference in wearing a flat cap informally is that it brings dignity and grace to simple ensembles.

For many, this is nothing more than a country casual and so tweed is an appropriate material of manufacture. Indeed, some of the best flat caps money can buy are available from Lock & Co on St James Street, but they do tend to cater for the country set; wool and cashmere tweeds with bright checks. The same can be said of many milliners. The solution, for those inclined towards the flatty, might be to purchase a more metropolitan-friendly blocked felt cap.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. brandon says:

    the problem with you brits is that you follow too many rules.

  2. Helena says:

    Well- at least the Brits are the best dressed men in the world. If it is thanks to their following of rules or not, I don’t know.

  3. Thom says:

    Well some of the Brits may be well dressed, but let us not say in the world or ALL of them.

  4. Nicola Linza says:

    The answer to this is simple. ALL well dressed men, from all parts of the world, follow rules. The rules, and the ability and willingness to follow them, are what set one man apart from another.

  5. Barima says:

    One caveat: those who are able to deftly circumvent or break the rules tend to be among the best dressed of all. I’m no expert, but this seems to have been the making of certain style icons over the centuries

    One key problem with “wearing a flat cap informally…brings dignity and grace to simple ensembles” is that more often than not, those simple ensembles lack those two qualities in the first place, particularly as sported in today’s world. It’s an easy (gate)way to shore up dapper cred, and moreover, it’s a situation of taste rather than appropriateness. Using Billy Zane above as an example, his cap is the difference between his looking halfway decent and looking like he bit the ever-questionable style of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

    My last few combinations involving my “flatties” and my suits were well received, as is regularly the case for a dapper friend of mine. Still, if this egregious sin hasn’t been codified in the Sartorial Rulebook just yet, I’m sure that’ll be rectified imminently ;)

  6. My flat cap is tweed and comes from Hannah Hats in Donegal (and excellent company to deal with, even internationally.) I do only wear it casually. When I need a packable hat I have a crushable and waterproof fedora from Borsalino that dresses up or down nicely. When I was younger, I relied on a navy blue French beret that paired very well with my camel polo coat and scarves. I always received compliments on the look. It shed water, kept me warm and packed into a pocket or satchel like a dream. They bear consideration as an alternative to the typical caps.

  7. Mike says:

    There are actually two particulat types of flat caps: those with flaps (which I prefer), and those without. The ones without do present the problems related above, but the “flappers” (Lock’s Bentley, and Olney’s Brooklands) have a bit more formal look. However, the “flapper’s” are quite practical for top down driving (which is why they were invented), which I do as often as possible, and living in the country, I am not oppressd by the stuffiness of urbanites, and may wear my Bentley as I please. A nice tweed jacket and clean Levis work rather well for nearly all of my ventures into the outside. Should I decide to visit urban areas, I dress accordingly: urban camo with kevlar underwear, unless, of course, it is a special event, and then I wear a 3-piece with matching hat.

  8. smooth says:

    a French beret? Your really showing your age you hippy communist!! j/k