Boys' Caps


Figure 1.--This European boy wear a soft cap with his white sailor suit. Notice how he wears the streamer to the side. Most American and British boys wore their streamers to the back. Here I am not sure about the country, but might guess that it dates to about 1920.

Boys and men wore hats and caps much more commonly in the past. No well dressed boy's outfit in the 19th and first half of the 20th century would fail to include a hat or cap. We see children wearing headwear for both school and play. It was very common. Both hats and caps were commonly worn. The difference being a cap is a close-fitting head covering resembling a hat, but differing principally because of the absence of a brim or by having a brim that only partially circumvents the crown. There are a great variety of styles for hats and caps. Until the mid-18th century boys simly wore the same hats wore by adults. When the style of dressing boys in sailor suits developed, sailor hats became the first specialized hats for boys. A great variety of hat and cap styles for boys developed in the 19th century. Some styles like the classic sailor hat lasted for generations. Other styles were more short lived. Some styles were fanciful creations purchased by mothers, but not well received by the boys and never became popular. The chronological pattern varied substantially over time and there were also varying chromological trends in different countries. Here our archive varies from country to country which affects our ability to follow chronological patterns. Caps tended to be more common for boys than girls, but girls did wear some caps.

Chronology

There are a great variety of cap caps. This varied greatly over time. Information before the 19th century is limited, except that there were generally no specifically juvenile styles. Until the mid-18th century boys simply wore the same hats wore by adults. We see many more cap styles in the 19th century. When the style of dressing boys in sailor suits developed, sailor hats became the first specialized hats for boys. A great variety of hat and cap styles for boys developed in the 19th century. Some styles like the classic sailor hat lasted for generations. Other styles were more short lived. Some styles were fanciful creations purchased by mothers, but not well received by the boys and never became popular. By the turn if the 20th century e see fewer boys wearing hats and ca[s became the srandard, although not exclusive headwear for boys. The chronological pattern varied substantially over time and there were also varying chromological trends in different countries. Here our archive varies from country to country which affects our ability to follow chronological patterns.

Cap Styles

HBC has just begun collecting information on this subject. We have acquired some information on basic cap types, but our understanding of these caps is still quite limited. In many case we do not fully understand the origins of these caps, when they were made, what the caps were used for. We incourage HBC readers to conrribute what they know about these caps. Four cap styles emerge as the most important over time, sailor caps, peaked school caps, flat caps, and baseball caps. There were, however, many other types of caps worn by boys. The information that we have acquired on boys caps include the following:

Country Trends

It is difficult to understand today when boys all over the world now seem to wear the same cap style--baseball caps. Boys from different countries once doffered signicantly as to the caps they wore. American boys wore flat caps, British boys peaked school caps, and French boys berets. Some basic information about cap trends in dofferent countries include the following.

Popularity

Photograps taken of any large group as late as the 1950s show most boys and men wearing caps and hats. Beginning in the 1960s head gear quickly passed from the male fashion scene. President Kennedy who assumed office in 1961 played a key role in the decline of the hat. President Kennedy may ave single-handedly killed the hat. When he walked down Pennsylvania Avenue that cold January day with no hat on his head, he ended the era of the dress hat for men. The inauguration parade was watched by millions and confirmed the decline of the hat that had already began. And it was not just men. John-John alsp rarely appeared in a hat, but like his father had a copious head of hair.

One American mother remembers how it was for men's fashions in those pre-Kennedy days.

Even at an afternoon baseball game, the guys were decked out in their finest fedoras. Not that we want to dress up all the time far from it but people looked better in pajamas back then than they do in the leisure wear of today. I remember the first time I flew on a plane. It was 1976. I was eleven years old and it was a BIG to-do. We laid out our outfits the night before and made sure our shoes were polished and our fingernails clean. While comfort was an issue for the long transcontinental flight, neatness and propriety were even more so. Ripped jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts were out of the question. All us kids, and my parents too, were dressed in our nearly Sunday best. We weren't the only ones either. The plane was full of people decked out in their finest, ironed attire. Even those folks who looked like they might ordinarily be garbed in a sloppier fashion sucked it up for the fact that they were traveling. Coach class doesn't mean no class. A couple of weeks ago I flew from Texas to Newark. While I'm not one for ironing, I did lay out my clothes and made sure they were neat and clean for the voyage. That's more than I can say for some of the other passengers. Oh, some of the men were wearing hats alright filthy, mangy baseball caps topping off their faded t-shirts and holey jeans. I'm not against jeans. I practically live in them myself, but can't people make sure they're hole-free, or at least CLEAN, when going out into the world? Even the people in first class, who obviously can afford a new pair of pants once in a while, were not exempt from looking unkempt. I may sound like your mother, but I don't see why cleanliness and intentional tidiness is considered so taboo by today's fashion standards. It seems to me just a matter of respect, both for yourself and for your fellow man, to not look as if you just rolled out of bed. I'm all over overalls and t-shirts, but is it too much to ask to try to look nice once in a while?

The extent to which men and boys once wore hats and caps is a little difficult to understand as currently caps and hats are rarely worn, except for the ubiquitous baseball caps. While caps are common during the winter, for the rest of the year it is rare to see boys wearing caps other than base ball caps. It was very different only a few years ago. Boys wore very formal caps and hats in the late 19th Century, many variations of sailor hats. In addition to these formals hats, many more informal caps have been worn by boys.

Features

We notice decorative and practical fatures used with boys' caps. Secirative items included tallies and streamers. One more practical item was chin straps or chinstays. Chinstraps help hold the headwear on a chiold in sindy weather. We think thhat they were most common on children's headwear, but they were on some adult headwear as well. We note variations over time and among different countries. They were used in differenht types of headwear. Chinstraps were common on sailor caps. There were differences among coubntries. Americans did nit have chinstraps for baseball caps, but the Japanedse often did have chinshraps.

Gender Trends

Caps tended to be more common for boys than girls, but girls did wear some caps.






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Created: March 19, 1999
Last updated: 5:18 AM 7/21/2016