The history of men’s flat caps begins as far back as the 14th century in Britain and Irelandwhere it was better known as a bonnet and worn by the working class man. According to history an Act of Parliament was passed in 1571 to help improve the use of domestic wool, the Act stated that all males over the age of 6, with the exception of those of degree or nobility, must wear a woolen hat on Sundays and holiday. Failure to do so would result in a fine of ¾ penny per day. This bill stayed in place until 1597 when it was repealed.
History shows that men’s flat caps came to the United States sometime in the 17th century brought there by Scottish and Irish immigrants as they sought out a new world and a new life for themselves. However it should be noted that the flat cap was never just for the working class as the nobles also were seen wearing them as they tried to purvey an air of country casual. Still today this style of cap can be seen on the upper class as Prince Charles is often seen wearing one.
A great many photographs of the period show these caps worn not only by newsboys, but by dockworkers, high steel workers, shipwrights, farmers, beggars such as Oliver Twist, criminals, artisans, and tradesmen of many types. This is also well attested in novels and films of this period and just after.
By the 19th century the flat cap was also being made from finer materials such as tweed and silk, and were found by many upper class to be suitable as casual country wear, especially for out on the golf course. This is where the name golf flat caps came about and the hat remained the most common hat on the links for decades.
While the flat cap may have had a very working class beginning in recent years they have enjoyed a renaissance amongst men and women as they are being seen as fashionable and trendy worldwide.