Introduction

Inspired by a recent reader request, today’s article is the first in a short series dedicated to men’s hats. As mentioned in our guide to dressing in your thirties, the hat can easily become a trademark of your personal style. However, many men still shy away from utilising ‘real’ hats on a regular basis – no, your trusty beanie doesn’t count – meaning that is can be just the accessory you need in order to make you stand out from the crowd.

With this in mind, we will be going into great detail on the history, construction and styling of individual hat types – with the hope that by the end, almost every reader will have found his perfect topper.

The Driving Cap

The driving cap; you might know it as a flat cap, golf cap or newsboy cap; perhaps even a cabbie hat. Whatever you call it, it has certainly seen a resurgence in the last couple of years, yet it has still failed to cement a strong foothold within the ever present heritage trend.

This is perhaps because the style carries a certain stigma or two with it. For now, put all thoughts of masked robbers and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson out of your mind, because the flat cap is very much a viable contender for pride of place on top of your head.

History

The flat cap is a style steeped in heritage. Is this a surprise? It might be to some. Typically, heritage styles seem to be associated with old English aristocracy; gentlemanly tweeds and brogues being the first items that spring to mind upon mention of the trend. The flat cap has a different kind of heritage, cemented in the working classes of Victorian London, with an almost Dickensian charm.

The roots of the style can be traced all the way back to the 1300s, when it was seen in England, Scotland and Italy (have the Italians always been so very stylish?) and referred to as a bonnet. In the 16th century, thanks to measures taken by the government to stimulate the wool trade in England, the style became commonplace. By the Victorian era it was practically de rigeur among British men, with even the higher classes having adopted variants of the cap for excursions to the country.

Fast forward a century or two and the flat cap is still readily available and a popular hat choice. It is now a common sight in the countryside and a genuine fashion item, having been recognised for its chic look and relative classlessness.

Should I Wear It?

A hat should suit your face shape. That much we know.

So what face shape should be wearing the flatcap? Well, the flatcap suits almost everybody – although it’s particularly fetching on longer faces. If you’re a Matt Smith or a Benedict Cumberbatch, this might be just the style for you.

More like Jack Black? This hat can still suit, although it would be wise to experiment and see how comfortable you feel in it first.

On The Catwalks

The driving cap has been rising in presence and looks set to be a major trend this year. Burberry, an influential fashion house if ever there was one, chose to make the hat a key theme in its upcoming autumn/winter 2012 Prorsum collection. Check out these three looks:

Burberry Prorsum AW12 - The Driving Cap

Burberry works the hat into a series of quintessentially English looks, playing up its heritage. Note the versatility of the item; the first look would be ideal for a brisk city walk to work, while the third look pairs the hat with a substantial waxed jacket for a more rough and ready appeal.

The middle look is a definite favourite. The wild combination of a statement knit, a statement hat, a statement suit – well, a statement everything, really – may not be all that wearable in the real world, but nonetheless it shows us how effective a hat in a statement colour can be, especially when played off against another statement accessory – here the gloves.

How To Wear
The Driving Cap Lookbook

Men's Driving Cap Lookbook

Look 1

While traditional sensibilities seem to be in decline, with the old adage “no brown in town” a firm thing of the past, there are still nonetheless folk who would scoff at the thought of donning a smart fedora in the country. With the flatcap, you need worry about no such thing; it is equally suited to both urban and rural environments.

The look below demonstrates how you might incorporate one into an outfit that’s somewhere in between, with earthy tones and heritage patterns played off against sharp tailoring.

  • Topman Cream Shawl Collar JumperTopman Cream Shawl Collar Jumper
  • Gucci Marseille Slim-fit Wool SuitGucci Marseille Slim-fit Wool Suit
  • Lock & Co Hatters Herringbone Harris Tweed Flat CapLock & Co Hatters Herringbone Harris Tweed Flat Cap
  • Ted Baker Keeper BeltTed Baker Keeper Belt
  • Bresciani Diamond Pattern Cotton SocksBresciani Diamond Pattern Cotton Socks
  • Asos Leather Sole Lace Up Derby ShoesAsos Leather Sole Lace Up Derby Shoes
Look 2

This is a casual look that pushes the cap away from its heritage roots – don’t be afraid to do so.

A Harrington jacket is a classic menswear staple, and a great transitional piece of outerwear as we move into spring. A simple everyday outfit combination like this is the perfect platform for a statement item like the driving cap, allowing it to really take centre stage. This light cotton version is a fine option for warmer weather.

  • Topman Red/white Stripe Heavy CrewTopman Red/white Stripe Heavy Crew
  • Austin Reed Stone Cotton Harrington JacketAustin Reed Stone Cotton Harrington Jacket
  • Asos Slim Fit JeansAsos Slim Fit Jeans
  • Jean Shop D-ring Buckle Leather BeltJean Shop D-ring Buckle Leather Belt
  • Lock & Co Hatters Striped Cotton Flat CapLock & Co Hatters Striped Cotton Flat Cap
  • Selected Homme Sahara Suede Desert BootsSelected Homme Sahara Suede Desert Boots
Look 3

Finally, the heritage trend in all of its glory. The flat cap is an ideal choice for this outfit, and adds an unexpected authenticity.

Try to avoid looking like somebody’s grandfather by adding a contemporary twist, demonstrated here by a pop of bright colour. A cable knit is thick enough to suffice as your outermost layer on all but the chilliest of days, and you can channel a catwalk aesthetic via some serious accessorising.

The cable knit is a good texture to play off against a pair of classic corduroy trousers – just make sure the cord is of a finer, needle variety.

  • Asos Cable JumperAsos Cable Jumper
  • Allsaints Corduane Iggy JeansAllsaints Corduane Iggy Jeans
  • Drakes Plaid Cashmere ScarfDrakes Plaid Cashmere Scarf
  • Barbour Wax CapBarbour Wax Cap
  • Dents Cashmere-lined Leather GlovesDents Cashmere-lined Leather Gloves
  • H By Hudson Angus Brogue BootsH By Hudson Angus Brogue Boots
Driving Cap Picks
  • Topman Grey Tweed Flat CapTopman Grey Tweed Flat Cap
  • Grey Flecked Baker Boy HatGrey Flecked Baker Boy Hat
  • Ted Baker Mens Athot Chocolate Brown Tweed Flat CapTed Baker Mens Athot Chocolate Brown Tweed Flat Cap
  • Ted Baker Hassal – Striped FlatcapTed Baker Hassal - Striped Flatcap
  • Denim & Supply By Ralph Lauren CapDenim & Supply By Ralph Lauren Cap
  • Ben Sherman Flat CapBen Sherman Flat Cap
  • Burton Brown Puppytooth Flat CapBurton Brown Puppytooth Flat Cap
  • Austin Reed Blue Herringbone Flat CapAustin Reed Blue Herringbone Flat Cap
  • Classic Check Flat Cap BrownClassic Check Flat Cap Brown
  • Uniqlo Men Premium Linen Flat CapUniqlo Men Premium Linen Flat Cap
  • Lock & Co Hatters Linen Flat CapLock & Co Hatters Linen Flat Cap
  • Lock & Co Hatters Plaid Cotton Flat CapLock & Co Hatters Plaid Cotton Flat Cap
Conclusion

So there we have it, the flat cap. A rising trend, but sure to remain an unexpected choice – something prized by many of us here at FashionBeans and on the forums. Perhaps the cap could become “your thing”? A signature item? However you wear it, it remains an excellent choice throughout the year, and a seriously versatile one.

But what do you think?

  • Are you a fan of the driving cap?
  • Will you be buying a newsboy cap for the coming seasons?
  • Do you own and wear a flat cap?
  • What on earth are we supposed to call this poacher cap anyway?

Let us know in the comments section down yonder.