Boys' Caps: Countries

Figure 1.--The flat cap was the standard style for American boys during the early 20th century, especially in the 1910s and 20s. It was worn in the early 40s, but had gone out of style by the end of the decade.

Today boys all over the world now seem to wear the same cap style--baseball caps. Many boys do not wear caps at all, except in the winter. It is difficult to understand how diverse boys' headwear used to be. Boys from different countries once differed signicantly as to the caps they wore. American boys wore flat caps, British boys peaked school caps, and French boys berets. Some basic information about cap trends in different countries include the following. Caps like some other clothing items had strong age conotations in many countries.


Caps are a complicated category because they are so many of them. They are an important garment strongly associated with boyswear. Strangely it was the youngest boys who were most likely to wear hats. Most boys wore caps. The peaked school cap was for many years an iconic symbol of English boyhood. Girls did not wears caps nearly as much, more commonly wearing hats and tams/berets. The major exception was sailor caps, although even here sailor hats were more common with the girls. Scottish styles were another exceotion, although to a lesser degree. Men did wear caps, but not as commonly and their were social-class conventions associated with men's caps. Boys of all social classes wore caps. Popularity has varied over time. The chrinology affected both the popularity of headwear as well as the styles worn. We see a lot of hats in 19th century, although not nearly as many as in America. And we see mostly caps for schoolwear. By the 20th century caps dominated. We rarely see English boys wearing hats. Capo popularity anbd the styles worn has varied from country to country. Several hat styles were created in Britain, both England abd Scotland. Some styles, especilly the peaked school caps are strongly associated with English boys. Another issue is that we are not always able to find names for all of them. Our approch here is to describe the characteristics until we find a proper name. As with mny styles for men and boys' wear, here is a military influence with some cap styles. We see both army and sailor styles, although the sailor styles were the most popular. Popular usage does not always follow the precide definition even if one exists. The cap is strictly speaking, headwear with a partial brim. Normally this means a front brim or bill, sometimes called a peak. Coloquially, we note the term cap used for a variety of often informal headwear without brims, such as stocking caps. Sometimes berets and tams are also included as types of caps. The cap is the headwear most associated with boys and is generally seen as an informal type of headwear. Scottish styles are all called caps, although somettines bonnets, even though there is no brim.



No cap is more associated with German boys that the sailor cap This was a major style by the 1890s and was worn into the 1930s. Curiously some boys wore sailor suits with a kind of peaked army caps. This was especially common for schoolwear. During an after World War II, another army style, the Schirmmütze. It was also worn as part of the Hitler Youth winter uniform.

United States

We see some military style caps in America during the 1850s, probably influenced by the Mexican War. A good example is an unidentified boy, wearing a tunic outfit. The most common cap for younger boys in the late 19th century was the wide-brimmed sailor caps. American boys at the turn of the 20th century favored flat caps until about the late 1930's. Then, for a time (1940s to about the mid 1950s) some boys wore a felt or cloth cap that looked a bit like a crown - roundish top with a short, turned up brim cut into a series of peaks. In the "Archie" comic books, Archie's pal, Jughead, wore this style of cap, as did Jeff's (Tommy Rettig) friend, "Porky", from the early televised Lassie series. Baseball caps weren't common where I grew up until the late 1950's. Younger boys for dress wear wore peaked Englisgh school-type, usually in balck or grey. Possibly, this reflected the influx of early baby boomers into Little League baseball, swelling their ranks in number. Baseball caps seem to be in a "line of succession" of boys' caps. Major league baseball players from the late 19th century are depicted as wearing a cap with a flatter crown and smaller brim than today's caps. Some HNC readers note that the appearance is not unlike a Civil War era kepi (except for the crown) and contend that this could well be the origin of the baseball cap. HBC is not convinced of this and thinks the English school/cricket cap is a more likely choice as to the origins of the baseball cap.


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Created: April 23, 2001
Last updated: 11:57 PM 11/2/2018