Like so many British sartorial inventions, historically the flat cap has seemed to work best on foreign heads. Picture the baker boy style - essentially a flat cap whose crown, such as a it is, is sewn from several panels, much like a baseball cap - and it can conjure images of Robert Redford inThe Great Gatsby, or as Johnny Hooker inThe Sting. Here the peaked cap looks perfectly at home with exacting tailoring. It’s debonair rather than down-home.
Even when Americans dress a flat cap down - think Depression-era builders erecting the Empire State Building, or Paul Newman wearing it with button-down shirt and deck jacket, or Bruce Springsteen, wearing it with denim and leather - it looks convenient and cool rather than contrived. It’s why the likes of Lock & Co. Hatters, while making flat caps and baker boy styles in the usual tweeds and cashmeres, also makes them in linens and seersuckers: in recognition of the fact that the flat cap - even when worn backwards, Samuel L. Jackson-style - is an accessory capable of diverse moods.
It’s a recognition that has not come easily in its native land, the UK. There have been exceptions. Brian Johnson of ACDC’s diehard dedication to the style has, through thick and thin, made it a signature for him. But then Johnson is also resolutely northern, befitting the notion of the flat cap as the hat of whippet wranglers and professional Yorkshiremen. And those are the associations that have held fast for this most versatile of hats - simple, snug, aerodynamic, sunshade and rain visor in one, and foldable into a pocket to boot.