‘Last stop on round would be old Ma Peggotty’s place — ’twas like taking bread to the top of the world’, says the voiceover on Ridley Scott’s well-loved 1973 Hovis commercial. The famous image of the baker boy, resplendent in his apron, cap and hobnail boots has remained in the nation’s consciousness ever since.
Just like the cap, the commercial remains the nation’s favourite TV ad of all time. Here’s how to wear the classic baker boy hat.
History of the baker boy hat
Here in the UK, we’ve got a long history of wearing flat caps. Originating in the era of Queen Elizabeth I, the monarch sought to boost the wool industry by imposing a three farthing fine if the working classes failed to wear a woollen hat on Sundays and high holidays.
Ever since then, the flat cap has become the headgear of choice for men toiling in the mines, mills, and quarries of the industrial age. Synonymous with the working classes, there were two main versions – the standard one-piece model, or the eight-sided cap with the cloth-clad button in the middle, which became known as the baker boy hat.
With the hit TV drama, “Peaky Blinders”, heavily stylising 1920s clothing, the baker boy hat has had a resurgence. However, should you be tempted to put one on, there are a few things you need to know…
Measure your head
When it comes to choosing the right hat, getting an accurate head measurement is your main priority. Choosing a hat that’s too small will result in discomfort, and one that’s too large will swamp your features.
Using a soft tape measure, and positioning it in the middle of your forehead and just above your ears, find the circumference of your head. It doesn’t matter whether you measure in inches or centimeters, use the measurement you obtain in conjunction with the sizing guide provided.
Don’t pull the tape measure too tight or you’ll end up buying a hat that pinches your head. And do remember that the baker boy hat’s multi-panel design means it has more volume than a standard flat cap. When you chose yours, remember that less is more.
Fabrics and colours
For autumn and winter wear, you’ll be looking for a classic wool baker boy cap. Harris tweed is a good bet. The rule here is to create contrast with your hat, so avoid sporting headgear that’s too similar in colour and texture to your jacket or overcoat.
Wearing a bold herringbone overcoat? You’ll want a plain hat in a different colour. Shrugging on a tweed long coat? Unless your tweed baker boy hat is an identical match, go for a herringbone, or plain weave.
The late spring and summer seasons are too warm for woollen flat caps. Instead, consider going for a natural linen cap which, because of its wide weave, lets the air circulate and keeps your head cool.
Go for the full country squire look by sporting a three piece tweed country suit with matching flat cap. Or wear country boots, moleskins, tattersall shirt, jumper, and quilted jacket, with your contrasting baker boy hat perched atop your head.
Lovers of ‘Peaky Blinders’ will want to go for a dark woollen long coat, tweed waistcoat with swanky single Albert pocket watch and soft grey baker boy hat. Note: don’t stitch razor blades into the brim, as carrying a blade could get you a mandatory three month jail sentence.
If you want a more modern look, try straight-cut indigo jeans, polo shirt and a linen baker boy hat. This look also works well with a contrasting sports jacket to add a bit of smart casual class.
Care for your hat
It’s hard to wear a hat without developing a habit of fingering the brim. So keep your hands clean, and try not to touch your hat if you’ve been messing about with the car or digging the garden.
As with all woollens, cleaning a traditional baker boy hat involves no more than gently rubbing away stains using a damp sponge. For bigger cleaning jobs, consult the care label and act accordingly.
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