Flat caps or ivy caps have been around since the 1300s, when working-class English and Irish men wore them for protection from the weather. They became even more ubiquitous in the 1500s, when England's parliament decreed that every male over the age of 6 (except nobility) must wear a wool hat when in church or pay a fine. As the Irish and English began to migrate to the United States, they brought the soft, flat-topped, stiff-backed cap with them. Today, flat caps are worn by many women as well as men.
Flat caps can be recognised by their stiff backs and soft, flat crowns that meet turned-down brims. The traditional flat cap is available either with or without ear flaps. The ear flaps keep the ears warm but can be turned up inside the cap when not in use. Flat caps come in herringbone, tweed, plaid, seersucker, wool, cotton, corduroy, oil cloth, mesh, suede and leather. Materials for women's flat caps range from cotton to silk and cashmere with satin linings.
This cap is also referred to as a golf hat because upper-class Englishmen have considered the more expensive versions to be acceptable country wear since the 1800s.
A Brooklyn cap, named for Brooklyn, New York, is a flatter and more angular version.
The eight-panel newsboy flat cap -- also called an apple cap, Baker boy or eight quarter flat cap -- resembles the traditional flat cap. However, the body of the newsboy cap is larger, fuller and rounder-panelled. These caps sport a button on top and usually another button attaching the front of the crown to the top of the brim. One version of the newsboy -- the spitfire or newsie -- has a six-panel crown attached to a narrow hat band that is attached to a bill-like brim. These caps usually have the newsboy button on the top where the panels meet and a button on the narrow band above each side of the brim.
The duckbill or pub flat cap has a fuller body or crown stitched to a brim that points downward. It's aptly named, for the design resembles a duck's bill when seen from the side. The duckbill Gatsby flat cap has six sections of fabric that meet at the top of the head and drape down over the hard front brim. The fabric at the front of the cap is gently gathered at the top of the brim, and the bottoms of the back panels are loosely tucked under the back edge of the cap.
The Ascot hat, a hard man's cap sometimes called a Cuffley, is shaped like a traditional flat cap but has a slightly rounded look. The stiff, moulded material in this cap is usually made of wool felt for winter wear and straw for summer. Some winter caps come lined with fur.