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Caps 101
By Alex Muniz

Fashion Correspondent

When I say caps, you probably think of the typical baseball kind. But there's actually a rather large array of caps out there -- from knit tuques to berets. Oh sure, some are dressier than others, but each is comfortable and has its own perks. Read on for the rundown on the most common types of casual headwear.

headwear vocabulary

caps vs. hats

Hats are more formal than caps. Hats should fit snugly and rest just above the ears; caps should be worn close to the head, and are ideally made from a fabric that breathes (wool or cotton are your best bet).

Caps can be worn with all types of casual clothing (jeans, T-shirts, shorts), whereas hats require a more discriminating eye and should be matched to one's overcoat or suit jacket.

1- Baseball

This is an American original and is the most common type of cap you're likely to find. The baseball cap is marked by its large front bill and its tight-fitting beanie crown. The best ones are made from wool or cotton, and are sized instead of having the more inexpensive snapper back.

Wear baseball caps with jeans, T-shirts or shorts -- anything goes. They work particularly well if worn on vacations or during any physical labor, and should be avoided when going on dates, nights on the town or business.

2- Trucker

The trucker hat is the lowest-quality cap, consisting of nothing more than a large foam brim and a part plastic mesh, part foam crown with a snapper back. Of course, just because it's cheap, doesn't mean it's unfashionable.

The "trucker" has proven popular with a range of 20-something movie and screen stars over the last few years. Next to the fabled "wife-beater" and ratty jeans, the "trucker" is a cornerstone of white-trash chic. Just don't go wearing it anywhere fancy.

3- Beret

This is technically a soft hat, but its relative informality demands it be placed in the cap category. Berets are usually made from felt and comprised of a wide flattened, floppy crown.

They're historically a military hat, but in casual settings, they're somewhat more common among women than men. Nevertheless, you can get away with a beret in some business-casual environs, and it matches well with basic button-down shirts and slacks.

4- Kangol flat cap

Kangol is a persistently popular British hat brand. A Kangol's most distinct offering is its flat cap, which sports a small brim and a soft crown.

A Kangol cap can be worn with dress slacks and button-down shirts, and is just as classy worn backward as it is worn frontward. And don't worry about matching it perfectly to your clothes -- Kangols make great accents.

5- Bucket Hat / Fishing Hat

The bucket hat -- or "fishing hat" -- is an outdoors hat that is usually worn in warm weather. It possesses a loose-fitting, single-layer crown and a downward sloping, floppy brim. Its ability to keep the head cool and the sun out of the eyes makes it favored by sportsmen.

It looks best when pulled low on the brow, and it's easily paired with khakis and polos. A more formal variant of the bucket hat is the tweed hat occasionally seen on professors and European sportsmen.

Bucket hats are available in wide range of colors and fabrics, all of them being relatively inexpensive.

6- Cowboy

Now here's a truly iconic hat. And yes, although the cowboy hat is, well, a hat, it's technically considered informal (hence it's place in this article). What makes the hat so distinct is a wide, upturned brim on the sides and flat brim on the front. The conical-shaped crown creased down the middle and completes the profile.

In the Southwest, cowboy hats are occasionally worn with suits and at formal occasions. Otherwise, the hat is for rugged outdoors wear, best matched with denim, flannel or leather. Be sure to match the hat's color to your jacket's color.

7- Tuque

The tuque, also known as a knit cap or beanie, is a more stylish variant of the knit cap you wore in the winter as a kid. Usually spun from wool, the tuque goes with all kinds of outerwear -- leather jackets, ski jackets, pea coats -- but thanks to its slim appearance, it goes equally well with a simple sweater.

cleaning & repair

Unlike hats, caps don't require much maintenance or cleaning. You can help a Kangol, cowboy or baseball hat keep its shape by grabbing it by the brim rather than the crown.

Cotton caps can be laundered in the dishwasher or washed by hand. Wool caps should be dry-cleaned.

hats off to you

Remember: There's a time and a place for informal headwear. While they may be stylish, caps shouldn't be worn everywhere and with every outfit. Wear a trucker hat to the beach, sport a Kangol to the mall -- just be sure to leave the cowboy hat at home when you go for that important job interview.


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