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The Irish Flat Cap - The Rich History & Tracing the Roots

The Irish flat cap is synonymous with Irish culture and its historical roots are fascinating. Often confused with the newsboy cap re-popularised by the hit TV show, Peaky Blinders, the flat cap is a style symbol and a unique representation of Irish life and we’ll take a look at its rich history here. Our range of flat caps gives you many options for every occasion and you’re sure to find the best fit for your lifestyle.

Understanding Irish heritage is crucial to finding our place in the world today and we love the history and traditions behind key cultural items such as the flat cap and the Aran sweater. Knowing what these fashion trends represent gives us an insight into the lives of our ancestors and helps us to contextualise our choices.

Flat Caps Legally Required

Did you know that the widespread popularity of the flat cap in Ireland was initially due to a legal requirement made in 1571? An Act of Parliament was passed to rule that males over the age of six must wear woollen caps on ‘Sabbath and Holydays’, legislation designed to protect and support the woollen trade in Great Britain. To avoid fines, flat caps were widely adopted and although the law was repealed just twenty six years later, the flat cap remains a practical option that has been well loved across Ireland since this time.

A flat cap is typically made from wool or tweed and our hand finished styles feature details such as patchwork and local heritage tweed fabrics. Many of our flat caps are hand finished and this makes them unique and individual. An authentic flat cap is a practical, durable item that has warm and waterproof qualities and looks great, ensuring its place as a timeless classic that is loved by many people across the world.

The Origin of the Flat Cap

Prior to the law that made flat caps compulsory for males in Ireland, the flat cap was already a popular choice for working men. It was first created in the 14th Century, and was initially known as a ‘bonnet’, a name that persists in Scotland today. With benefits such as keeping the head warm and dry, and protecting workers from the elements, it was a good choice for farmers and land workers and the law that made it mandatory on Sundays and holidays meant it became associated with respect and propriety. The tradition that required men to remove their hats on coming indoors persists today.

The flat cap made the journey across the Atlantic in the 17th Century, when British and Irish immigrants arrived in America. By now, it was synonymous with working men’s culture and as time went on, variations developed and it became an essential for driving thanks to taxi cab drivers in New York. You will likely have seen the iconic photograph of ironworkers posing on a steel beam with the Manhattan cityscape beneath them, and this is a great example of the way flat caps became embedded in popular culture.

Flat Caps for All Occasions

Flat caps were originally associated with the working classes, and this image endured for centuries. However, the upper classes recognised the practicality and style of these hats and eventually co-opted the flat cap as a shooting cap, used for outdoor pursuits by landowners and their peers.

In recent years, the flat cap has become a very popular fashion accessory, lighting up the catwalk and basking in the glory of cult TV shows such as Peaky Blinders, although this primarily features the newsboy cap, which is a variation on the original style. Celebrities from Hollywood stars to the British Royal Family are often seen wearing flat caps, and style icons such as David Beckham have recently adopted the trend.

Flat Caps We Love

When you’re looking for a flat cap to represent your personality, you’ll be spoiled for choice at Aran Sweater Market. Whether you’re looking for a practical choice for your daily walk or a stylish finishing touch for your wedding party, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in our selection.

Our range of flat caps includes options for everyone:

  1. Trinity Tweed Flat Cap.You can’t get much more traditional than the Trinity Tweed Flat Cap, an attractive Herringbone Tweed design with coloured flecks. This is a classic peak-style flat cap with sewn fastenings, complete with quilted lining, and you can be assured of the very finest craftsmanship. Here at Aran Sweater Market, we know the value of authentic style and you can even team this with a waistcoat featuring the same tweed fabric to really make an impact.
  2. Donegal Tweed Flat Cap in Green. This classic green flat cap featuring Donegal Tweed is a great combination of style and practicality. Made in Ireland from 100% tweed, the Donegal Tweed Herringbone Flat Cap comes in five sizes. It’s a timeless style in a traditional colour, and the Herringbone Tweed design stands out for all the right reasons. Historically a male fashion staple, this is now becoming a popular style with women, too, as androgynous fashion takes off worldwide.
  3. Trinity Tartan Flat Cap.This stylish option is ideal for a contemporary twist on a timeless style and we love the navy colour of the Trinity Tartan Flat Cap. From the quilted lining to the 100% plaid tweed design, this is a great choice that will become your go-to option every time you leave the house.
  4. Heritage Patchwork Flat Cap. The Heritage Patchwork Flat Cap is an excellent choice for anyone aiming to finish their look in style. It’s made from wool mix tweed and features a tweed patchwork design with black quilted lining and orange contrast detail. Every patchwork cap is hand finished so you can be sure that your flat cap is as unique as you are, and they’re made in Ireland so you know you’re supporting the very best of Irish craftsmanship and industry.
  5. Kerry Tweed Flat Cap, Charcoal with Blue.This gorgeous Kerry Tweed Flat Cap in Charcoal with Blue evokes the colour of the sea and is the perfect complement to blue eyes. We love this traditional peak-style flat cap, made of 100% wool, and it’s a comfortable, timeless option inspired by the traditional Irish pub cap.
  6. Vintage Tweed Flat Cap. We love the variety of colours in these gorgeous Vintage Tweed Flat Caps, evoking the natural colours of the Donegal countryside. These are handmade caps designed to be worn for generations. Made from 100% wool with a viscose taffeta lining and stud fastening on the peak, these caps are a real style statement.
  7. Donegal Tweed Flat Cap - Black Twill. This striking Donegal Tweed Flat Cap is designed to feature a traditional Herringbone tweed design in black twill, which is a timeless choice and suits most people. Caps such as these are a great addition to your wedding party outfits, and many groomsmen love to embrace this connection with Irish history as they celebrate a special occasion.

Our flat caps are available in many different colours and designs so that you can choose the perfect option for every member of the family.

What is Tweed?

You may have noticed that many of our flat caps are made from tweed, a fabric made from tightly woven and dyed wool. There are many different types of tweed, varying by colour and weight, and all of them should be handled with care.

Tweed was created and used by farmers in the 18th century and was a practical option to protect them from the elements and keep them warm while they worked. Tweed hats and jackets became a core essential for outdoor work at this time, and eventually wealthy landowners began to commission particular colours and designs to represent their estates. Providing a combination of comfort and camouflage, tweed continued to grow in popularity and it remains a popular choice for jackets, caps and even suits today.

There are many different types of tweed, including plain tweed, which features stripes and looks similar to tartan, and Herringbone tweed, which has a very detailed pattern that looks a little like the bones of a fish. Twill tweed is another popular choice, with a diagonal pattern running through it, and Houndstooth tweed is another option commonly used in jackets. All of our flat caps are designed to combine practicality and style and there are many great looking colour combinations to choose from.

Taking Care of Your Flat Cap

When you choose a flat cap, you’ll want to get the best from it and you should be able to wear it again and again without worrying about cleaning it. However, if it gets stained or looks tired, it’s important to know how to clean it properly to prevent damage and ensure that it looks its best for longer. Do not throw your tweed cap into the washing machine as it will soon lose its shape and colour, but instead take the time to care for it correctly so that it will last longer and look better.

With tweed, it’s very important to ensure proper airing, which will enable any trapped moisture to escape. Dry cleaning only is recommended for many of our caps, and you can maintain your cap in between cleans by following our simple instructions.

Here’s how to care for your flat cap:

  • Hold your flat cap properly. When you’re putting your flat cap on and taking it off, make sure that you have clean hands so that you do not damage the fabric. You should always hold the cap by the peak to preserve the shape of your flat cap.
  • Brush your cap gently. A soft bristled brush or a lint roller can be used to brush away small amounts of lint and dust from your flat cap. You will find that this helps to lift debris and prevent damage to the fabric over time. Brushing or using a lint roller after each wear is a great habit to get into.
  • Allow your cap to dry slowly. Your cap will, of course, get wet on occasion as it protects your head from the rain. Do not use a hair dryer or other heat source to dry your cap too quickly as this will cause shrinkage. You should allow your cap to dry naturally in a well ventilated area, and you may wish to stuff it with newspaper to help maintain its shape.
  • Store your cap correctly. You should always store your cap out of direct sunlight to ensure that the colour remains strong. If you are hanging your cap on a peg, you should ensure that the hook is wide and padded, in order to support the shape of your cap and avoid marking it. Wool is a very forgiving fabric when cared for correctly, but it is important not to pull it out of shape on a regular basis.

If you take care of your flat cap properly, it will prove a valuable companion to you and you’ll be able to depend on it to keep you warm and dry on all of your outdoor adventures.

Visit Aran Sweater Market for Authentic Irish Garments

At Aran Sweater Market, we have a wide range of flat caps, newsboy caps and other hats designed to reflect our Irish culture. We also have a range of heritage clothing and homewares so that you can select items that will become heirloom pieces for your family. We are especially proud of the Aran Sweaters that give us our name, and we aim to share Irish history with the world through beautiful and unique woven fabrics and garments.

Find out more about our selection of Aran sweaters and Irish knitwear in our online store or pop into one of our stores, located in the Aran Islands, Galway, Killarney or Dublin. Find your favourite flat cap today and embrace Irish tradition and craftsmanship in style.