Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The #Irish Flat Cap - It's An #Icon

Flat Cap by: ozz13x

January 15

Hat Day

It's time to pull out your favorite hat and wear it. In some parts of the world wearing a hat is an everyday occurrence. Humans have been covering the heads since antiquity. The earliest recording of someone wearing a hat was found in a tomb painting from ancient Thebes dating to 3200 BC. Is shows a man wearing a coolie-style straw hat. You can learn more about hat history at http://hatbox.com/hat-history.cfm

There are all kinds of different hats from around the world. Some hats are so distinctive that you would instantly associate the hat with a specific culture or occupation. The Irish flat cap is of no exception. 

The Irish Flat Cap
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. People in Northern England and Southern Italy were known during that time to wear this style of cap although they referred to it as a bonnet. In some areas of the UK it is also known as a cheese cutter because of its wedge shaped design. In this Irish video the lead singer of the Orthodox Celts wears a flat cap. 

Although the flat cap was worn by Irish farmers it was the English who had made the cap popular in Ireland. 

The Virgin Queen 
The English wool trade had been long established before Elizabeth I came to the throne on January 15, 1559. In fact, England was a leader in the wool trade market. During the virgin queen's reign 90% of all wool cloth throughout the known world had been exported from England. The wool trade was of great importance to Queen Elizabeth I because the majority of the wool cloth was being exported to the Netherlands. The Netherlands were a Spanish held providence. England and Spain were still enemies during Elizabethan times. In order to boost wool trade away from Spanish held lands Queen Elizabeth's Parliament passed many strange laws and statues to compel people to wear more wool. One of which changed the Irish culture. In order to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade in Ireland, Parliament passed a law in 1571 AD stating all males six years, and older (except nobles) must wear a wool cap on Sundays and holidays. If they did not they would  face a fine of 3/4d pence per day. The act was no repealed until 1597 AD. By this time, though, the flat cap had become popular throughout Ireland. The twenty-six year long law had transformed the way the English viewed someone who wore the flat cap. They quickly assumed anyone wearing the flat cap was a commoner. 

A Working Class Cap
During the 19th century, the flat cap was worn by the working class in Great Britain and Ireland. Boys were known to wear them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The cap was noticed by some upper class who saw farmers wearing the cap while tending to their fields and thought it would be practical for outdoor activities. Yet they did not want to be associated with a cap that would make them appear as if they were of the working class. The solution was to create a cap made of finer material in the same style. They named the cap, a golf cap. The golf cap was considered casual wear. The upper class wore the cap mainly for outdoor use. 

Although the flat cap had been considered a working class cap it was considered fashionable to wear a cloth flat cap by fashionable men of the 1920's.  

Today, the working class no longer wears the flat cap and it's class association has shifted. The flat cap is considered to be something fashionably worn by the upper class. It's become an icon of Southern England. Celebrities such as Samuel L. Jackson, Guy Ritchie, David Gray, Cuba Gooding Jr., Brad Pitt, Chris Rock, David Beckham, Daniel Craig,  and Gary Jules like to wear the flat cap. 

United States Flat Caps

The flat cap arrived to the United States with the Irish immigrants. Like Great Britain, American boys were known to wear the flat cap during the late 19th and early 20th century. But it was no as popular as it was overseas. The cap was worn by few in 1890 AD. It did not gain popularity until the 1900's and became standard wear for boys in the 1910's. During the 1910's and 1920's they were always worn with knicker suits. 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. The newsboys flat cap became known as the newsie's cap or a newsboy. Unlike, Great Britain, the flat cap was never associated with the working class in the United States.

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