Royal Men’s Hats: Caps & Berets

I’m so pleased to welcome Washington D.C.-based reader Jake back to Royal Hats today for the third of a four-part series on men’s millinery. You can catch Jake and his impeccably stylish hats on Instagram or Twitter @bestdressedmenno.  

When I say caps, I don’t mean ballcaps or military caps. Instead, I use “cap” as the overarching term for styles such as newsboy cap, flat cap, driving cap, ivy cap, etc. Caps are pretty democratic as a hat style (meaning they look good on most people), and while they are often associated with the working class, they have long been worn by royals and nobles as well (traditionally for “leisure activities”).

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

More recently, the cap has been worn by many members of the British royal family, although these outings are not always well documented.

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Embed from Getty Images

Except for the military, the famous beret has very seldom been worn by royal men (in contrast to the plethora of beret variants worn by royal women). A few examples I’ve found, in addition to King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden in 1953, are:

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Count Lennart Bernadotte in 2004; the Sultan of Brunei in 1933; the Duke of Windsor in 1931

It is not surprising the beret has not caught on beyond the military, for it has long been associated with more leftist politics, the working classes, and revolutionaries (think Che Guevara), images usually uncommon with royalty. But the modern beret originated as the txapela in the Basque country of France and Spain as a way to protect one’s head from drizzling rain, and later became a stereotypical symbol of France (another image that would cause shyness towards adopting this hat). Thinking about who could best pull off the beret, I nominate Grand Duke Henri and his sons, King Philippe, and Prince Harry.

Finally, as a variant on the beret, I leave you with this image of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Prince Albert, Duke of York in tam o’ shanters.

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Who do you think would look best in cap or a beret?

Thanks for another interesting post Jake! Stay tuned, everyone, for the final post in this great guest series, tomorrow.

Photos from Getty as indicated

27 thoughts on “Royal Men’s Hats: Caps & Berets

  1. Here’s an interesting photo find of two young future kings in newsboy caps with kilts, a fun fashion combination!

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  2. Another fascinating post, Jake.
    1935 – The prince of Wales, dressed more casually than I’ve seen him before, in an ordinary beret – and a bomber jacket:
    Embed from Getty Images
    1978 – a young Prince Andrew in a cap at the horse trials:
    Embed from Getty Images

    • Thank you mcncln!

      That’s actually another tam o’shanter (distinguished by the puff ball on top) on the Duke of Windsor, but it is a beret variant/adjacent (it arose separately from the beret, but similarly styled hats to the tam/beret have been worn for centuries, even millennia, in parts of Europe). Side note: sometimes I hear people refer to berets as “tams”, so this shows how styles and names can become fluid.

      • I think you’re right Jake about the tam o’shanter; but it certainly looks very collapsed and sorry for itself – it must have seen some hard use! while looking at this topic online I also saw quite a few pics of royals wearing the glengarry to go with the kilt, as a variant to the tam, .
        I also saw many pics of royal gentlemen wearing what I would describe as hats of “cultural or regional recognition” of more far flung countries, e.g. pith helmet, Jewish yarmulka, Arab headdress, Native American headdress, Guyanan headdress, New Guinea headdress, Pacific Island floral circlets, Aboriginal feather halos etc. Possibly worth a post, Jake or HQ? It’s interesting to note that royal women of the younger generation are now as willing as royal men to wear cowboy hats in Canada, as your pics of Duchess Sarah and Duchess Kate show (though Diana didn’t); I doubt the Queen Mother, for example, would have approved of unpinning her fashion hat in order to put on a cowboy hat, and risking disarranging her hairstyle and looking dishevelled in the process.
        I also came across some sweet pics of little princes in sailor hats (both straw and fabric) and other miniature hats; and I’m pretty sure Diana outfitted her 2 boys when little in mini-military uniforms including hats. Maybe there’s a post in princely boy’s hats, too.

  3. A could find only one of King Carl Gustaf in a flat cap – he generally prefers a fedora. This is from 2008:

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  4. 1982, clay-pigeon shooting event at Gleneagles in Scotland (field sports rather than everyday wear).

    Duke of Kent, Sir Angus Ogilvy and Capt. Mark Phillips.

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  5. The late Prince Henrik of Denmark was a great hat wearer, these caps were worn to the Faroe Islands in 2005.

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    • Yes, Prince Henrik definitely wore hats well, and quite often considering most royal men. As his death was fairly recent, it was a little hard for me to figure out how to feature him, especially as I wanted to focus on hats worn by still-living royals. Thanks for these photos sandra; I especially love that green plaid cap!

  6. Another great post Jake, thank you! I especially enjoyed the photo of bearded Charles (I see Harry there), and the rare sighting of William in a cap. I think Mike Tindall looks particularly good in a cap but he can wear a lot of hat styles successfully.

    • Glad you liked it Buffy! I agree Mike Tindall does wear caps well, but as his have been featured on this blog previously, I wanted to show off photos of other royals we haven’t seen in these styles of hats.

  7. Thanks for the fun post, Jake! The history of the beret is really amazing, isn’t it? I can’t think of another type of hat that has gone from working men to the military to trendy (Kangol) and high fashion. Besides the reasons you mention, I wonder if the style has become too associated with women’s fashion to be popular with royal men.

    Well, we know Prince Harry rocks a military beret, but somehow I think he might be more suited to a driving cap. I think we have also seen Prince Carl Phillip in this style, too?

    • Mittenmary, here’s Edward in August, 1931.
      Embed from Getty Images

    • As Carl Philip was in the navy, I doubt he has worn a military beret as they are usually worn by ground forces (although I could be wrong; someone with more military uniform knowledge can correct me!), and I can’t recall seeing him wear any other hats except for his naval ceremonial cap and beanies. Still, I think he could pull off multiple styles of hats, and a cap would be good choice.

      Concerning berets, I think many see berets as hats for older men (meaning like my grandfather), but I bought an authentic Basque beret a few years ago after trying it on for years where I work. For a while I believed the stereotype a beret was not a hat for my age group, but now I wear one regularly in winter and am convinced it’s for all ages! Another guy I follow on Instagram also wears a beret frequently.

      • Jake, you’ve mentioned before about working in a hat store or maybe the hat section of a department store. Would you care to divulge your store, so we can visit you next time we’re in the Big Apple, looking for a well dressed salesman wearing his favorite color – green?

      • I am unable to find a photo of Carl Phillip in any hat other than winter watch caps or his military uniform dress cap. Not sure why I was so convinced I had seen him in anything else,

        You are right about berets. My high school was partly staffed by an order that had originated in France, so I remember an elderly Brother — my freshman algebra teacher — in a beret. Funny how those associations stay with us. I see a lot of old guys in flat caps and driving caps, too. Did you see the recent documentary about Pavarotti? He wore a lot of unfortunate flat caps later in his life.

        But, Jake, all it takes is some well turned-out men, royal or otherwise, to turn the trends around. You are certainly doing your part — keep up the good work!

  8. Jake, another great post! The only example you gave that I didn’t care for was Prince Harry with the red cross cap. I found some oldies-but-goodies for you – from circa 1915 and 1930. I love the sign reminding the golfer to replace the turf!

    Edward, Prince of Wales
    Embed from Getty Images

    • I always count on you Jimbo to find some good vintage photos! As for Harry’s cap, like sandra said, it was at an England match, hence the flag design (Zara was also there sporting the same hat), but I thought the shape was excellent for Harry, hence my inclusion of it.

  9. The cap worn by the then Duke of York in 1923 looks oversized! But normally I love a good tweed cap and there are some very nice ones here.
    I think my favourite is that of the Duke of Edinburgh. It seems to be the perfect size and he looks very nice in grey.

    • The 1920s definitely had some oversized caps, although luckily not too big (size-wise) for the wearer (unlike many top hats *cough*).

  10. The photo of Prince Charles in his cap looks great. I love all the tweed. Prince William, Mike Tindall, Peter Phillips and the Duke of Edinburgh look wonderful in their caps, and I hope we see more photos of them wearing caps.

    The Sultan of Brunei looks great in the beret. The placement is great on him.

    I do like the tam o’ shanters on both Dukes a lot.

    • Glad you liked all the photos Shanon! I know there are definitely more out there, but I could spend forever looking for them haha.

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