From about 1535, men's caps (the flat cap) began to be worn with the brim down instead of up as during the previous period. In doing so the join fo the crown and brim was visible, so a narrow hat band was used to make it tidy. The hatband was a specially valuable possession as this was frequently adorned with precious stones and pearls.
During 1565 the problem of unemployment in the cloth manufacturing towns became chronic. Because of the many imported silks and velvets that were used, there was little or no demand for the woolens and cottons manufactured in England. An appeal was made to the Queen, who ordered that every man should wear an English woolen cap unless he had an income of over 40 pounds a year. This, clearly then, was aimed an men of low standing or common birth.
"Biggins" is the English corruption of the French word "beguines", but is also recognized as the "beginning" for other headgear. Often in historical research for costuming, the biggins is not mentionedl. What is found is a cap called a coif which could be made with or without strings to tie under the chin. It could be plain or highly embroidered. Clergy, scholars and justices wore one in black, usually under a felt cap or black flatcap. Knights wore a padded similar design called an "arming cap". It is often used by children and, of course, it was baby's first bonnet.
Just as covering the head symbolised dominance, so uncovering it symbolized submission. Ever since the early Middle Ages, to remove one's hat - be it made of cloth or metal - has signified submission to a superior. As an animal bares its throat or belly to a dominant rival, the feudal vassal bared his head to his lord to say, in effect, "I am at your service; do with me as you will." This original sense of the ritual is mirrored in the expressions "with hat in hand" and "I take my hat off to him."
The Military Salute - In the age of visored and armored horsemen, raising the visor was a signal between two knights that they meant each other no harm: The gesture provided recognition and with it the promise of amity.
The origin of the square flat cap, or motarboard, probably derives from the medieval biretta, a tufted square cap, used by clergy and scholars and only later appropriated by undergraduates and schoolboys. The term "motarboard" did not appear in English until the 1850's. The tassel that graduates transfer from one side to another as a signal of their elevation is an outgrowth of the medieval tuft. The tuft still appears on the modern biretta, worn by bishops throughout the Church of Rome.