United States Flat Caps: Chronology


Figure 1.--This ujnidentified American boy wears a flat cap that matched his double-breasted suit. The portraot is undated, but looks like the 1900s, both because of the styles and mount. Notice the floppy bow.

American boys at the turn of the 20th century favored flat caps. I am not sure when they first appeared. I tink they appeared in the 1890s, but we can not yet confirm that. We know they were worn in the 1900s and were very common by the end of the decade. Interestingly, boys wearing knee pants in the 1900s might or might not wear flat caps, but almost always boys wearing knickers wore flat caps. We are not entirely sure why the two were so closely associated. Flat caps were most common in the 1910s and 20s when virtually all boys wore flat caps. They were widely available. See for example a Wards's 1926 catalog offering. We also see them in the early 30s, although we do not see them being commonly worn in the late-30s. Their popularity is roughly comparble to that of knickers and in fact the two garments in American are strongly associated. until about the late 1930's. We see them at first being worn by older boys and teenagers, but by the 1910s, all school-age boys were wearing them. They were commonly worn by American boys in the 1920s-30s before baseball caps took over. Boys at the time did not generally wear baseball caps as they were not commonly available in stores and Little League where boys played ball as part of organized, uniformed teams had not yet developed.

The 1890s

Headwear was very common throughout thec19th century. We see American boys wearing flat caps in the 1890s, but they do not seem to be a major style. We do not only see boys wearing a wide variety of cap styles, but quite a few boys wearing hats as well. This began to change by the end of the decade. We are not sure when the flat cap first appeared, but we think it was the 1890s. We also see peaked caps with rounded rather than flat caps in the 1890s. This was a cap we see as early as the mid-19th century in England, but later in America. The flat cap, however, appears much later.

The 1900s

American boys at the turn of the 20th century wore a variey of caps. Gradually during the 1900s, the flat cap emerged as the favorite. We know that flat caps were commonly worn in the 1900s and were especially common by the end of the decade. We see quite a variety of caps early in the decade, but bu the end of thevdcade, the flat cap was clearly the one favored by most boys. At the time parents had more say about what boys wore than is the case today. We think the preference was primarily the boys' choice, but we have not noted any discussion as to just why the the flat cap becme so popular. Interestingly, boys wearing knee pants in the 1900s might or might not wear flat caps, but almost always boys wearing knickers wore flat caps. We are not entirely sure why the two were so closely associated. We note many boys wearing flat caps that matched their knicker suits. The boy here is a good example (figure 1).


Figure 2.--Here we have three children sitting on their front porch. Notice the girl's hair bow and the boy's flat cap. It does not match his suit. The snapshot here has a postcard back. The clothing and the stampbox show thar it was taken in the 1910s. Here the house tells us that the family was not poor, but lived in modest circumstances. It is a cap style not exclusively, but sytrongly associated wit knickers.

The 1910s

Flat caps were even most common in the 1910s when virtually all boys wore flat caps. Unlike the 1900s we no longer see boys wearing many different styles of caps. The flat cap was not the only cap worn, but it was definitely the dominant style by a huge margin. We se countless group photographs in which virtually all the boys wear flat caps rather than other styles. And this was the case throughout the decade. we are not sure why this was. Never before had one single style became so dominant. We believe this was because the nboys themselves like the style. We have no idea just why this was. Flat caps were widely available and were the primary cap worn by school age boys. The popularity of flat caps is roughly comparble to that of knickers and the two are strongly associated. Almpost all the images we have of American boys wearing knicker suits in the 1910s how them wearing flar caps with the suit. In some instances the fklst cap mactiually match the suit. Knickers became standard for American boys in the 1910s and so did flat caps. We note the Bennett boys in the 1910s. Notice that this looks like quite an affluent family and the caps match the overcoats. We also see boys in more modest circumstances wearing flat caps. WEe note the flat cap being commonly worn to school. They were worn in both casual circumstances as well as when dressing up in a suit.


Figure 3.--Here we see an American boy named George wearing a flat cap with casual clothing in 1926.

The 1920s

We continue to see American boys wearing flat caps in the 1920s. We see boys wearing flat caps both when dressing up and for casual wear. We think that wearing flat caps with suits was somewhat less commonm than in the 1910s and that vthe flat cap was beginning to be seen as a casual style. Notice the American boy wearing casual clothes here (figure 4). They were commonly availavle in catalogs. See for example a Wards's 1926 catalog offering.

The 1930s

We also see flat caps in the early-30s, although we do not see them being commonly worn in the late-30s. And just as knickers declined in poularity during the late-30s, so did flst caps. until about the late-30's. We see them at first being worn by older boys and teen afers, but by the 1910s, all school-age boys were wearing them. They were commonly worn by American boys in the 1920s-30s before baseball caps took over. Boys at the time did not generally wear baseball caps as they were not commonly available in stores and Little League where boys played ball as part of organized, uniformed teams had not yet developed.

The 1940s

We continued to see some boys wearing knickers in the early 40s, but we almost never see flat caps. Not only did flat caps go out of style, but boys begn wearung hedwear in general less commonly.







HBC





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Created: 9:44 PM 2/23/2008
Last updated: 11:21 PM 3/3/2010