A Tip of the Hat to the Flight Cap

I don’t have any kids yet, but I already have plans to dress my future children in a variety of silly outfits. And no, I don’t just mean Halloween, I mean as long as possible before they catch on. Because let’s face it, shrinking down just about anything, making it really soft, and putting it on some unsuspecting kid is just about as adorable as it gets. Take flight caps, for instance. If I see a kid in a tiny aviation outfit I can’t help but squeeeee with joy. Like this kid. Am I right?

Of course I am. 🙂

But where did these iconic caps come from? It turns out they have been a part of aviation since aviation was just a baby.

When the Wright Brothers made their famous first flight in 1903, Orville was definitely wearing a hat. No man of that era would be caught outside without one. On that day, he wore something akin to a page boy cap, but of course flying is a windy occupation and it was basically impossible to keep a regular hat in place. Plus, the pilot’s ears would get cold as the plane climbed and they needed protection.

By 1908, Wilbur had a brand new hat that quickly became a sensation, not just for people in flight, but also in Parisian fashion. The tight-fitting but soft leather cap (though not the goggles yet) was nicknamed the “Vilbur” and was popular for a short time among young men and boys. Soon after, aviator Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel, and he added the goggles to protect his eyes from oil and other debris. And you can bet Amelia Earhart got into the action, with her custom-made white cap to match her white flying jacket.

So there you have it. The flight cap and the goggles that we all know and love to wear as part of our Steampunk ensembles grew up alongside the airplane from the very start. We may associate it with dirigibles, but an airship captain would actually be standing inside the gondola and could wear whatever headgear she or he wanted. So, if you want to get technical, the flight cap has a stronger tie to the Diesel era than to the steam one. But it’s mostly a matter of where you decide to split the hair.

I picked up a WWII aviation cap while I was in Bulgaria and wear it with a purple ad black tutu-bustle. Not the least bit accurate, I know, but who loves a good anachronism (not to mention a tutu) more than Steampunk fans?

Here are a few other examples of Steampunk flight caps. Enjoy!

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