Sartorial Love/Hate: The Flat Cap

Many a time I have felt the wind nipping keenly, I have turned to accessories to shield my skin from the cold. Scarves, gloves and upturned collars have provided sweet respite. I have also turned to headgear when venturing out for extended periods. It is well known that covering the head is a very efficient way of retaining warmth but as a practice it is rather overlooked; on a recent day, particularly blustery, I encountered countless men, of all ages, trussed up to their necks in coat and scarf whilst the harsh wind blew through their hair: the equivalent of turning the heating up whilst leaving the front door open.

When I do wear headgear I am most grateful for the comfort and warmth. So much so that I am taken to wearing headgear that is considered inappropriate, particularly for town, and more than a little unusual. One type of hat I am rather fond of that seems to attract as much derision as admiration is the flat-cap. Yes, sadly, the flat cap appears to be yet another example of sartorial love/hate.

“I don’t know what it is” someone told me “but they just look wrong.” Another acquaintance ventured to inform that the problem with the style is that it looks so dreadfully ordinary; “It’s a farmer’s hat, nothing more.” Saddened by such beastly reproaches, I am not yet discouraged. I think that although there are grander, better shaped and more appropriately metropolitan forms of headgear to be had, the flat cap is versatile, easy to store and travel with and excellent value. However, the hat does have inevitable limitations. To begin with, it is a casual hat. Flat caps worn with suits do not make for a graceful outfit; there is the vague air of an obnoxious Fleet Street reporter about a gentleman who wears his pinstripes with a ‘flatty.’ It’s a weekender; a hat for more relaxed ensembles. It need not always be accompanied by tweed jackets or Tattersall shirts either. A grey herringbone version would look splendid with a blue blazer, light grey roll neck and charcoal trousers or perhaps a shawl collared knit cardigan and jeans. The difference in wearing a flat cap informally is that it brings dignity and grace to simple ensembles.

For many, this is nothing more than a country casual and so tweed is an appropriate material of manufacture. Indeed, some of the best flat caps money can buy are available from Lock & Co on St James Street, but they do tend to cater for the country set; wool and cashmere tweeds with bright checks. The same can be said of many milliners. The solution, for those inclined towards the flatty, might be to purchase a more metropolitan-friendly blocked felt cap.