School Uniform Headwear: Peaked Caps

Figure 1.--Traditional school caps in England came in a wide variety of colors and combinations. They were worn by boys of all ages. As late as the 1970s they were still commonly wore by prep school boys. A few traditional schools still require them. Note the school sandals the boys are wearing.

One of the most common items of school uniform through the 1950s was the the peaked cap which normally matched the color and cloth of the blazer. It was so commonly worn in the early 20th Century that it was adopted as the Cub Scout cap by Boy Scouts in England and around the world. The cap appeared first in England and then spread around the world, but of course was most common at schools in the British Empire countries. The cap began to decline in the 1950s as headgear was less commonly worn. Boys wore hats less commonly and as pupil pressure prevailed, they began to disappear at school. In the 1960s the cap was no longer worn at most English schools, except for traditional preparatory schools. Some schools in the mid-1990s began adopting caps again out of concern for skin cancer. The caps being adopted are often styled like American baseball caps with larger brims than the traditional English peaked school cap.


I have begun to note peaked school caps in Englan about the mid-19th century. The earliest image we note comes from the 1850s, but we are not precisely sure when and wear in England that this cap first ppeared. We note the peaked chool cap being worn a a kind of sporting cap in the 1860s. One images shows English school boys wearing peaked caps while on vacation in Swizerland. These were wealthy boys, we are less ure when the average Englih school boy began wearing these caps. Peaked caps were definitely being worn by the 1870s and fairly common by the 1880s. We see American boys wearing them at thecturn of the 20th century. They were especially common at private schools influenced bu British education. A good example in America is Frank Bailey about 1915. They were commonly worn in England and English colonies through the 1950s when boys began to object to wearing them. A new style more like American baseball caps have begun to appear in the 1990s at some schools.

Historical Origins and Influences

I'm not sure about the origins of the school cap. It does appear to be English. Virtually every English school boy was wearing them by the 1890s. They may have originated as a part of a cricket uniform, but that is a guess on my part. More likely perhaps was they were schoolwear that simply was worn at cricket matches. As such, they may have been the inspiration for the american baseball cap. Perhaps one of our British friends will provide some information on the caps origins. They certainly were the inspiration for the greem Cub scout cap that until the 1990s was still worn in England. American Cubs wore a blue version until repalced by a baseball-style cap in 1980.

Styles and Material

Caps were mostly made of flannel to match the blazer material, but are now normally a polyester blend as blazers are more normally made of this material. Whilst the cap colors matched the blazer and crest colors, the color composition was generally quite varied.There could be rings of different colors, panels of different colors, braiding, or simply one color and the crest. The style was unrelated to the type of school. There have been some chages over time to cap styles. The peak appears to have begun short and then became bigger with time. However, peaks appear to have become smaller again. The backs also have become higher up the neck over time. It is noted that all traditional school caps had a button on the top covered in the cap material.

Sports Caps

There were caps worn for cricket. These were normally white in state schools, but the Public Schools awarded caps with school colors for the varying level of achievment. For example the first team cap would be different to the second team cap.Some Public Schools awarded caps for other sports.Whilst traditional peaked school caps have all but disappeared, they are still worn for cricket, though the modern trend is now towards protective helmets.

Ozone and Skin Cancer

Increasing concern over depletion of the ozone lawyer and the dangers of skin cancer have caused many schools in the 1990s to reintroduce school caps. This has been especially notable in some southern hemisphere countries like Australia and New Zealand.


The peaked cap was the standard Brish school cap. It was widely worn in England and the rest of Britai during the late-19th and early 20th century and is still worn at a few schools--mostly preparatory schiools. It was also idely worn in British Empire countries as well as a few other countries. We have seen them in other countries, although they were not a major style. We see them in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, the United states, and other countries.


Australiam boys like English boys wore the traditional school cap. Today in Australia, the cap is only worn at a few preparatory schools. A few Australian schools still use the boater which has virtually disappeared in England where it originated. In recent years, some Australian schools and the Scouts, have adopted some uniquely Australian styles.


Virtually all British schoolboys wore peaked caps through the 1950s. Both state and private schools required them. A great variety of colors, including circles and school creasts decorated these caps which flooded British streets with boys going and coming to school. As the fashion of wearing caps and hats wained, school caps began to disapear in the 1960s. By the 1980s only a handful of private schols still required them.

Figure 2.--Older elementary school boys in Japan generally wear baseball caps with their school uniforms.


German boys have not worn uniforms like boys in England. Some schools, however, required boys to wear caps as early as the 1880s. Bavaria's (Mad) King Ludwig in 1880 founded a second classical school of higher education ("Gymnasium") in and named the the "Royal New Gymnasium". Reports suggest that the 270 boys in the school were proud of their scarlet school cap. We do not see many German boys, however, wearing the English peaked school cap. One exception is a unidentified boy in 1937.


Italian children for the most part did not wear school uniforms. Smocks were common and the style and color was often set by the school, but there was no perscribed headwear associated with smocks. While public schools did not require unifors, quite a nunber of private schools did, some adopting British-style uniforms. We notice Dario Malaguiti wearing his school cap at the school summer camp in 1967.


Japanese boys have worn various stles of school caps and hats. The style is for the younger children, boys and girls to wear the same style of caps and hats. One popular style for younger children was a hat with a full, but not very wide brim. Older children have different styles for boys and girls. The older boys in elementary school generally wear baseball caps. Older boys in secondary school wear a kind of old fashioned military-style cap.


Dutch boys have not generally worn school uniforms. Thus the caps they have worn to school have been simply contemprary styles rather than uniform caps. Sailor suits and caps were commonly worn to school in the early 20th century. Some Dutch boys wore military like caps in the early 20th century. Yonger boys might wear sailor hats. We have also noted boys wearing English-style peaked caps. Here we are not sure if these are school uniform caps are simply a popular style of cap. HBC has few other details on caps boys wore to school. Modern Dutch boys do not wears caps to school as commonly as in the past.

New Zealand

Mew Zealand as a British colony adopted the British education and British school clothes. New Zealand state secondary students and all private schoolboys commonly wore caps through the 1950s. Currently only a few prepartaory schools continue to require traditional school caps. Several schools have adopted baseball caps, in part out of concern for the depletion of the ozone layer and increasing indices of skin cancer.


HBC has relatively limited information on Scottish school caps. We believe that the tradition peaked school cap like the ones worn in England were standard wear for Scottish school boys. Through the 1940s they were still very common in Scotland. The popularity of caps, however, began to decline in the 1950s. By the 1980s, school caps were not common even at preparatory schools. HBC know of only a handful of Scottish schools in the 1980s wear caps were worn.

South Africa

South African boys like English boys once commonly wore school caps. I have no information about the prevelance of school caps in South Africa today.

United States

British-style peaked caps were commonly worn by America boys in the late 19th Century. As these peaked caps were worn in England for cricket, it is likely that they were the inspiration for the now ubiquitous baseball cap. Early baseball caps, for example, had very small peaks and looked just like school caps. After the turn of the Century boys continued to wear peaked caps. American school boys, with a few exceptions have never worn school caps. Some exclusive boys' schools used them as part of the uniform. Boys after World War I wore them more rarely. Boys by the 1930s were beginning to dress more casually for school. Some private schools continued to insist on more formal attire--including in some cases peaked hats which had acquired an upper-class lokk to it. They continued to be worn by younger boys through the 1950s, especially when dressing up in a suit--often a short pants suit.


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main Chronology Page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]

Navigate the Relate Boys Historical Clothing Uniform Garment Pages
[Return to the Main school headwear page]
[Return to the Main school garment page]
[Blazers] [Bookbag] [Caps] [Coats] [Hose] [Kilts] [Pants] [Shirts]
[Shoes] [Smocks [Suits] [Seaters] [Ties]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Country Pages
[Main School Uniform Page]
[Main National School Uniform Page]
[Australia] [England] [France] [Germany]
[Ireland] [Italy] [Japan] [New Zealand] [Poland] [Singapore] [Scotland]
[Singapore] [United States]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page
[Introduction] [Activities] [Bibliographies] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: 10:04 PM 10/16/2013