The History of Tweed Cap Fashion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tweed cap has been thrust into the spotlight in the last few decades. It has been adopted as a fashion trend by many high profile celebrities after a few decades of obscurity. We have previously written about the history of the flat cap, but as this trend shows no sign of relenting anytime soon, let’s delve deeper into the origins of this classic piece!

Programs such as the BBC’s  ‘Peaky Blinders’, which is based on a famous Birmingham gang, and the immensely popular Downton Abbey, have intrigued the fashion world. Cillian Murphy as the dark yet appealing character Tommy Shelby certainly do the hats reputation no harm.

Originally created in the 14th Century and known as a bonnet the flat cap was common amongst rural working men. In 1571 a bill was passed that any man or child over the age of six years old had to wear a woollen cap on Sundays and holidays, and the hat in question had to have been made in England.

The punishment for breaching this was a hefty 3 farthings for every day the hat was not worn! Perhaps even more unfair is that those of nobility were exempt from the bill, although we will see later on that they came around to this particular headwear by themselves. This seems like quite an extreme way to boost the countries struggling woollen trade and therefore was not continued after 1597 when it was quite sensibly repealed.

However, the hat law was already part of the working mens culture by that time, and a large amount of people continued to wear them. 

This style of hat made it over to America some time in the 17th Century, with the help of many British immigrants, and have been a part of many iconic photographs and films. As with many things, this fashion soon crossed the class barrier and was even worn by Royalty and members of parliament. Our current Prince of Wales has often been spotted wearing a tweed cap.

It wasn’t until the 19th Century that the flat cap was upgraded to more fancy fabrics such as silk and also tweed, which is what we focus on today. From its humble beginnings this cap was thrust into the spotlight further by bands such as The Beatles in the 1960s. It is interesting to note that at this point most working men begun to shun the once almost obligatory headwear.

Since then Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Idris Elba and Samuel L Jackson have all championed the tweed cap and it looks like it’s here to stay!

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