They used to be most commonly-worn by elderly farmers, but these days style-conscious, young men and women are joining a growing fan club. Flat caps are fashionable and the evidence of that is clear in impressive recent sales figures.
The trend is detectable on some of the streets of Yorkshire. At the Shambles Market in York, there was a roaring trade being done, as flat caps were sold. And, on the high street, stores such as Next are offering up all sorts of looks; brown check, grey, charcoal or navy, to name a few.
Rhian Kempadoo Millar is a director and designer of a flat cap company, which manufactures headwear using local cloth. Idris Elba, the actor who played Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell in The Wire, is among those who wear her hats.
“It’s massive,” she says, discussing the flat cap’s rise in popularity. “The sales in the last three months are up at least double, if not triple.”
Explaining the upturn, she said: “There’s been a huge support for ‘local’. It’s part of a big, ethical fashion drive. It’s a fashion revolution.
“Celebrity endorsement, for our company, has played a big part. There’s been Peaky Blinders in America. Downton Abbey also has lots of flat caps, supplied from Huddersfield, with the Yorkshire tweed look.”
Peaky Blinders and Downton Abbey are both set in the early part of the 20th century, but the popularity of the flat cap is not just a case of reinventing history. The look of men these days has also contributed to flat caps’ popularity; with many of them favouring beards, the tweed suits them nicely.
Yorkshire has an impressive history of weaving that fabric long before it became fashionable. It is natural for those from afar to look towards the county for supplies.
Robert Fairbairn is a flat cap manufacturer, working for Lawrence and Foster, which is based in Wakefield. He has noticed an unusual trend. “A lot of our goods are increasingly going abroad,” he says.
Interestingly, Fairbairn’s company is one with a traditional focus, rather than paying attention to trends. “We’re not in the fashion game,” he says. “Some caps are highly stylised. Those caps can be popular this year but in the charity shop next year. Others are more traditional. The tweed market has seen a resurgence.”
Explaining the strength of the tweed market, he said: “Madonna and Guy Ritchie loved their tweed. That kicked off a bit of a boom. It has only grown since then.”
It is a growth that shows no sign of slowing. That will bring benefits to Yorkshire.