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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Fashion for Flat Caps - Sepia Saturday

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

One aspect immediately stood out for me in  this week's photographic prompt  - the man wearing a flat cap.  

My first photograph on the theme has a poignancy about it.  For here  c.1903 in the group of schoolboys is my great uncle George Danson  - on the left sporting a flat cap.   George was killed in the  First World War at the Battle of the Somme in 1916,  a week after his 22nd birthday.  I wonder how many of the other  boys and their master survived that carnage.

Below is a photograph of my grandfather William Danson seated with a group of workers at the ICI factory at Thornton, near Fleetwood, Lancashire.  Was this some special occasion with Grandad given the pride of place at the front?  It is difficult to assess the date - 1930's?  

Below  is my husband aged about one with his maternal grandparents Matthew Iley White (a boilermaker)  and Alice Armitage of South Shields, County Durham.  c. 1938.

Stepping out oblivious of the camera is Grandfather Donaldson, a signwriter and painter, again in South Shields, County Durham.  

From my cousin's collection are photographs of the Oldham family business of carters and coalmen in Blackpool. Lancashire, overseen by three generations - Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1921), his son John William Oldham (1880-1939) and his daughter Elsie Smith, nee Oldham (1906-1989)
The business was founded around 1890, steadily became prosperous and in 1905 moved to near North Station, Blackpool in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabiing for seven horses. 
Below young Gloria (Elsie's daughter) atop one of the carthorses, under the careful eye of a worker - in a flat cap.
Time moved on and the first Oldham road vehicle was bought in 1921 - but the flat caps remained the fashion!  


In Britain flat caps were generally associated with workers in the north of England.   Think of old photographs and newsreels  of men streaming from the mills, or cheering from the football terraces or enlisting for the First World War. 

I think of them too as worn by coster-mongers in London - think of Eliza Doolittle's father in the film of "My Fair Lady";  or Del Boy in the TV comedy  "Only Fools  and Horses".

At the other end of the social scale,  the Duke of Windsor as Edward Prince of Wales, was photographed in a flat cap as part of a golfing outfit.  Nowadays finer versions are popular rural wear at farming events, countryside fairs, horse race meetings etc. 

And if you have the youth  and looks to get away with it, flat caps are  being worn  as fashion statements by "celebrities" - men and women.  

My own father would not be seen dead in a flat cap - 
He much preferred a trilby as headgear!

Click HERE to find out how other bloggers have viewed this week's street scene. 

Copyright © 2016 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. My father would not have worn one either, once he was grown but I have pictures of him and his brothers with caps on when they were young.

  2. Clearly you have many flat cap wearing relatives, other than your father of course. They are becoming a trendy fashion item these days.

  3. A great collection of relatives and others in flat caps! Thanks!

  4. Back in the 70s I often wore a flat cap, a Kangool brand too. When I first came to London in the 80s, I was surprised and disappointed that caps were no longer a required fashion accessory for British men. Occasionally I'd see older men with flat caps, or a gent working in the City wearing a bowler. Only after I got outside of London did I learn about how a hat defines class, region, and trade.

  5. Wow, your post has reminded me of how many photos I have of my grandfather wearing such a cap when he was still in Scotland. I don't think there are any photos of him in California wearing a cap. These are grand shots!

  6. I like the stepping out, oblivious shots best of all. My Dad would never wear a flat cap, always a trilby - until he retired, then he had a rather sporty number, which protected his bald head from the elements.

  7. You don't see them here all that often though Dad was very fond of the one he got in Scotland. I always associate them with British workers...or upper class men at leisure, like golf.

  8. Fashion never dies, just changes the looks. In the cold climate it was or is also a protection to keep warm while here it is to keep the sun away. The flat caps looked more or less all the same, drab colours. Hat and cap making was a flourishing trade.

  9. Thank you to everyone for throwing light on the fashion for flat caps.


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