United States Boys' Headwear: Chronology--The 20th Century


Figure 1.--The flat cap was the dominant boys headwear in the early 20th century through the 1930s. This boy had his photograph taken with his Ford Tri-motor toy airplane in 1934. This was the plane that really began commercial aviation. Ford ended production in 1933 just befor the photograph here was takem. Put your cursor on the image to see the boy's affluent suburban neighborhood.

We note a variety of headwear styles in the 20th century. Sailor styles were popular in the early 20th century. There were both sailor hats and caps. Some boys wore peaked caps like British school caps. The flat cap which appeard at the turn of the century became a universally popular style for boys after World War I (1914-18) in the 1920s. While there were several different styles, none were more popular than the flat cap. There were specialized winter styles with ear flaps and fur. Stocking caps became popular winter caps. Younger boys might wear berets. After Lindberg flight across the Atlantic, aviator-style caos called hemets became popular. An enduring winter style was the stocking cap. The principal development after World War II (1939-45) was the declining popularity of caps and hats of all kinds. We note some boms wearing adult-style fedoras. American boys who once never left home without a cap, now commonly did so. The emergence of the baseball cap, complete with the athletic team logo of choice, in the 1970s as the head covering of choice for the American boy was a fashion statement which has now spread around the world. This was a casual style. Boys when dressing up no longer wore caps.

The 1900s

Sailor styles were popular in the early 20th century. There were both sailor hats and caps in a variety of styles. Younger boys still might wear huge wide-brimmed sailor hats. There were also various styles of sailor caps. Some boys wore peaked caps like British school caps. The crown of spme of the caps seem a little fuller than the British style, but we also see caps styled like the Brirish caps. The flat cap which appeard about the turn of the century. It may have been worn in the 1890s, but we see it much more commonly in the 1900s after the turn of the century. An enduring winter style was the stocking cap. This was a style from the 19th century which continued to be popular in the 20th century. They were a rare style worn by both boys and girls. We see some boys wearing boaters.

The 1910s

Hats declined in popularity for boys in the 1910s. We see far fewer boys wearing hats. We note wide-brimmed sailor hats with the brim turned down. This is a signature style of the 1910s. Younger boys still wearing hats often wore them with the brim or part of it bent up or dowm. Some hats like boaters had stiff brims tht could not be folded down. Other hats had more flexible brims that could be worn in many different ways. This was largely a style for children from well-to-do families. Most boys wore caps. The flat cap continued to grow in popularity during the 1910s. Caps in the 1900s were more diverse. We still see other caps in the 1910s, but the flat cap was decidely the most popular style. The flat cap is today seen as a rather casual style, but for boys in the 1910s it was worn both as a casual style as well as a more formal style with a suit. Many boys wore flat caps to school. We see other cap styles mostly in the winter. Boys in northern states might wears woodsmen caps. The flat cap could be worn during the winter and many flat caps had flaps that could be pulled down over the ears. The British-style peaked cap which was quite common in the 1900s declined in popularity. It also took on a more upper-class association and became more of a formal style worn with suits. The American Boy Scouts adopted the broad-brimmed hat used by the Brirish Scouts and most other Scouts around the world. There were no Scout caps in the 1910s.

The 1920s

Hats were not very popular for boys in the 1920s. Some boys wire them, but most boys wore caps and one style dominated. Boys wore a variety of caps during the 1920s. The flat cap, however, became a universally popular style for boys after World War I (1914-18) in the 1920s. While there were several different styles, none were more popular than the flat cap. There were specialized winter styles with ear flaps and fur. Stocking caps became popular winter caps. Some boys from afluent families might wear British-styled peaked caps. Younger boys might wear berets. After Lindberg solo flight across the Atlantic (1927), aviator-style caps called hemets became popular. Bth boys and girls wore stocking caps. Girls wore tams or more traditioinally styled berets.

The 1930s

The flat cap was still the standard headwear for boys during the 1930s, especially the early 1930s. The flat cap, however, gradually went out of style as the decade progressed. One factor was that boys wore headwear less, but we also see more diverse headwear by the end of the decade. The Boys Scouts founded the Cubbing program (1930). And a peaked cap like the British Cub cap was adopted, but in blue rather than green.

The 1940s

We no longer see flat caps in the 1940s. Some most younger boys wore opeaked caps which matched suits. This was a dressy style an most common with upper-class families. Older boys might wear an adult style like a fedora. This looks a little strange today, but we not quite a few examples in the photographic record. In genetral dressy headwear with suits was rapidly going out of style, but some families comtinued to see it as part of dressing up. Some younger boys wore berets. Boys were increasingly wearing baseball cap, but only for play or casual wear. They were still not nearly as popular as they woere to become. Some boys wore naval swaby caps. The Boy Scouts made a major uniform change in the early 40s and replaced the traditional Scout hat with a military-style campaign cap. Cubs retained the same traditional peaked caps. We notice various styles of winter caps, including helmets caps sith ear flaps that could be pulled up. I mostly remember them being up, but I suppose boys living further north might have pulled them down more commonly. Stocking caps were also popular. I seem to recall boys wearing them more than girls, but I am not positive about that.

The 1950s

The principal development after World War II (1939-45) was the declining popularity of caps and hats of all kinds. We note some boms wearing adult-style fedoras when dressing up. It looks rather strange to us today, but was fairly common at the time. American boys who once never left home without a cap, now commonly did so. Coonskin caps became a popular fad style with the appearance of popular TV shows involving both Davey Crocket and then Daniel Boon. Baseball caps became increasingly common for casual wear. It was very important at the time how the bill was shaped. There were several different ways of doing it.

The 1970s

The emergence of the baseball cap, complete with the athletic team logo of choice, in the 1970s as the head covering of choice for the American boy was a fashion statement which has now spread around the world. This was a casual style. Boys when dressing up no longer wore caps.





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Created: 11:05 PM 5/13/2007
Last updated: 8:21 PM 10/29/2008