Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: News
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Yorkshire cap factory goes flat after 111 years
David Jason
Only Fools And Horses' Del Trotter was rarely seen without a flat cap
Forget, for the time being, the ongoing Rover troubles at Longbridge.

A new controversy has emerged: flat caps are no longer to be made in Yorkshire.

Celebrated cap-wearer Victor Meldrew won't believe it, but the end of an era was marked this week when the J W Myers factory at Holbeck in Leeds closed with the loss of 40 jobs.

After 111 years, production is moving 5,000 miles away to China, where flat caps are hardly the latest in oriental High Street chic.
Victor Meldrew
At least Victor Meldrew's head stays warm
Production costs in the Chinese city of Panyu have meant the caps can be made for much less than in the factory in Holbeck, Leeds.

In its heyday in the 1920s, the Holbeck factory was the world's biggest cap maker. The flat caps obtained a wide following, and the design has been widely copied.

In the 90s, flat caps moved away from the whippets-and-ale image they'd endured for years, when the versions made by West Cumbria manufacturers Kangol became popular with stars from the worlds of rap and movies.

Kangol, the parent company of J W Myers, said it was unfortunate that the plant in Leeds could not be saved.

"A futile task"

Kangol's chief executive David Heys says that they tried to save the Yorkshire factory, but their attempts were hindered by rising production costs.

"We did absolutely everything we could to save this factory, but even the management realised the futility of this task when their own bid fell through," he says.

Samuel L Jackson
Movie star Samuel L Jackson is a celebrity wearer of flat caps
Kangol found their caps becoming a fashion icon when DJs and rappers began wearing them in the 1980s.

Pioneering DJ Grandmaster Flash took to wearing the classic 504 cap, and brought them to a wider audience. People all over the world took an interest.

Flash was followed by rappers including Run DMC, Doug E Fresh and LL Cool J.

Kangol saw their sales figures soaring when Michael Jackson wore a 504 cap on his 1994 tour of the Far East.

Credible Kangol

On the set of the 1997 film Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino, Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson was rarely seen without a Kangol flat cap - slung backwards for extra cred.

In the film, the company's kangaroo logo is on screen more often than co-star Bridget Fonda. As a result of the exposure, popularity increased even more.

Peter Sallis
Where would the characters from Last Of The Summer Wine be without their flat caps?
Flat caps have also been popular in the world of sports. Golfers including Sandy Lyle and the late Stewart Payne found they were the perfect complement to slacks and diamond-patterned jumpers.

They were a winner in cricket, too. The Yorkshire cricket umpire Dickie Bird was often seen on the pitch wearing one.

With their popularity among sports stars, it is surely a matter of time before David Beckham is seen wearing a flat cap.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Links to other News stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more News stories