Not the things you put in toy guns, upper case letters or even what you use to plug a bottle.
Caps, to me, belong on your head.
And while I’ve nothing against the baseball variety, the cap of choice in my life has always been flat.
I love to wear a flat cap. I love the look of it and how it feels on my head and how it tames my mushroom of wild, fuzzy hair.
I grew up watching working men and farmers who wore flat caps. Maybe that’s where it comes from.
There’s also probably a part of me that rails against convention, revelling in the supposed lack of style associated with the garment.
I have a selection. One for summer, one for Autumn and a heavier cap for the coldest days.
Indeed, an oft told anecdote in our house recalls the day when one of my favourite caps slipped off the bannister, where it usually resides, and fell down the stairs.
Instinctively I launched after it yelling in alarm in my broadest Ulster Scots drawl ‘Me caaaaappp!!’
My wife found this so funny that the phrase ‘Me caaaapp!!’ is still used as a comic term. It was one of the first things my son learnt to say.
The incident has been recited so many times that when I picture it in my mind it is now like a scene from a Hollywood movie with an epic soundtrack.
The images are in slow motion. The cap bounces down the stairs portentously while I’m leaping through the air like an action hero. My arm grasping. Trying desperately to reach…..
Naturally it was with some joy and no small measure of pride that I bought my son his first flat cap this year.
Oh what a pair of dandies we would make strolling up the street hand in hand, turning heads with our fetching headgear.
There’s something I should probably explain at this point. I’m trusted with every aspect of my son’s life and development. Except one. Fashion.
Mummy always picks the clothes. Always. I’m allowed to dress him but I do have a blind spot here. I tend to do silly things without thinking. Like tucking his trousers into his socks. Or his jumper into his underpants.
On more occasions than I can remember I’ve sent him off to crèche with his shoes on the wrong feet. The staff at his childcare facility now know to check his feet first thing every morning.
I think mummy’s residing fear is that I’ll send him off one day in a tweed waistcoat, sporting a monocle and smoking a pipe.
But this is only a cap.
I knew he enjoyed looking like daddy and I was keen to encourage it.
The truth is, I loved it.
Then one day I took him to nursery, both of us contentedly capped.
As we were waiting outside the classroom a little girl arrived, pointed at my son and started to laugh.
There was no malice in her gesture and my son wasn’t bothered at all, but it did sting me a little bit.
Then, at the start of the summer, misfortune arrived.
I was packing for a family holiday and I couldn’t find my cap. Or my son’s.
I spent the best part of an afternoon searching but they remained stubbornly elusive.
I hadn’t been on holiday without a summer cap in years. I tried on a few in the shops but could find nothing I liked.
I went through the holiday and most of the summer defiantly capless. As though in solidarity for a political prisoner.
My face and ears were incinerated at my son’s sports day.
I had to start brushing my hair.
It wasn’t a good time.
On one occasion, while out, I saw an old man wearing a flat cap which looked suspiciously identical to mine. My wife had to stop me from challenging him about its origins.
Then, this week, a breakthrough.
While searching for a pen in the top drawer of the kitchen unit I felt something soft stuffed towards the back. Something made of cloth.
I drew the fabric out curiously. It was my cap. With my son’s inside it.
I jumped up and yelled.
You guessed it.
I ran straight to my son, ecstatically capped.
‘Look son! Daddy’s found our caps! D’ye want to try yours on?’
He was playing a game on my iPad. He didn’t even look up.
‘No thanks daddy.’
I was a little shaken. But no matter, he was busy.
I tried again this morning as I took him to crèche.
‘D’ye want to wear your cap today buddy?’
He shook his head and I left it. I could see what was happening.
I’m not trying to suggest my son has developed a fashion sense. I mean I could dress him as a pink dinosaur and he’d happily walk down the street that way.
It’s just that I understood he had developed a sense that the cap wasn’t…..what’s the word they use? Oh, yes. It wasn’t cool.
I had that same sting as on the day the little girl laughed at him.
Don’t worry about me. I’ll get over it.
It does bring home the point though of the conflict between the way we see our kids and the way they see themselves.
My son looks like me and I spend so much time with him that some people call him my Mini Me. But that’s the point. He isn’t. He’s a Mini Him.
Of course he still worships his daddy but the first tile has fallen off the mosaic. The first beginning of the realisation that daddy is not a ‘cool dude’.
How long before he realises that darts and snooker are not really the most fashionable pastimes? How long before he realises that there’s more to music than The Housemartins and Caravan of Love?
How long before he realises he’s got a nerd for a daddy?
We all want our children to be popular. We all want them to find their own way. We all know they go through phases like I do socks.
But this is all nothing more than a preamble.
The real issue is how did the caps end up stuffed down the back of a drawer?
I’ve already quizzed my wife about this. Her answers so far have been elusive and unsatisfactory.
I’ll keep at it though. It’s no more than me cap deserves.
I finished writing this post in a shopping centre coffee shop. At its conclusion I stood up and marched out. Leaving my favourite cap behind.
Only hours later did I realise my negligence, forcing me to retrace my steps and ask various confused shop assistants if they had seen a slightly faded blue and white cap.
Eventually it was recovered in the coffee shop where I started the day. A barista handed it to me with obvious distaste, as if it was a rabid rat.
Unfortunately I had been in such a blind panic about the cap that I’d forgotten where I’d parked my car.
I spent 45 minutes wandering between rows of cars looking lost.
Two kindly old women, obviously fearing I had escaped from somewhere, stopped to ask me if I was alright.
Shortly before lunchtime I realised I was in the wrong car park.
Some days you feel like you should just have stayed in bed.