The cap that rose again

HEAD GIRL: Along with the whip­pet, no stereo­type of York­shire is com­plete with­out men­tion of a flat cap. But can it be rein­vented for the 21st-cen­tury? Rhian Kem­padoo-mil­lar cer­tainly thinks so. Sarah Free­man re­ports. Pic­tures by Ger­ard Binks and Bruce Ro

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Seven Days -

HEY don’t make Acts of Par­lia­ment like they used to.

While cur­rent leg­is­la­tion may be all about le­gal aid and same-sex mar­riages, back in 1571 the govern­ment of the day was busy draft­ing a Bill to in­crease the wear­ing of hats among the Bri­tish pub­lic.

By the end of that year it was de­creed that on Sun­days and hol­i­days, “all males over six years of age, ex­cept for the no­bil­ity and per­sons of de­gree” were to wear woollen caps on pain of a fine of three far­things.

The idea was lit­tle to do with fash­ion – its aim was to stim­u­late do­mes­tic wool con­sump­tion and boost the home econ­omy. How­ever, as the lawyers were dot­ting the Is and cross­ing the Ts they were also un­wit­tingly sowing the seeds of a Bri­tish de­sign clas­sic. The flat cap was born.

Pin­point­ing the mo­ment it be­came en­twined with a pe­cu­liarly north­ern stereo­type is less easy, but by the time Andy Capp be­gan grac­ing the pages of the Daily Mir­ror in the 1950s the flat cap had al­ready come to rep­re­sent a breed of white work­ing class men, the kind who wore braces over their vests and long johns un­der their trousers.

Rhian Kem­padoo-Mil­lar is well aware of the con­no­ta­tions that come with those two lit­tle words, but the Leeds de­signer is also con­vinced that with the ad­di­tion of a lit­tle lux­ury silk and a few cut­ting edge tweaks to the stan­dard de­sign, she might just have rein­vented the sym­bol of York­shire grit as a must-have item for a fash­ion hun­gry pub­lic.

“There’s got to be a rea­son that it has sur­vived so long,” says the Leeds de­signer, who re­cently un­veiled her first range of flat caps which bear lit­tle re­sem­blance to those that filled the wardrobe depart­ment of Last of the Sum­mer Wine. “In some ways it’s quite a sim­ple de­sign, but it works.”

Rhian cer­tainly prac­tises what she preaches. Ask those who have met her to de­scribe the 36-year-old and most will re­mem­ber her as the girl with the curly hair and the flat cap.

It was also her dad’s head­wear of choice, which dur­ing the 1980s he matched with smart, but slightly out­landish golf­ing out­fits – this was af­ter all the decade where Pringle made pink ac­cept­able for men.

“He was Scot­tish Ja­maican, he wore flat fronted Far­rahs and bright colours, the kind of clothes most peo­ple couldn’t get away with, but he al­ways looked in­cred­i­bly stylish. Dad died when I was 10, but when­ever I think of him, he’s wear­ing a flat cap. To me it’s never been as­so­ci­ated with that dour work­ing class im­age, it was al­ways some­thing much more classy than that.”

While flat caps have been a sta­ple of her own wardrobe for as long as Rhian can re­mem­ber, it’s only re­cently that she had the idea to re­turn to her creative roots and launch her own busi­ness.

Rhian, who grew up in New­cas­tle be­fore

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