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Woman in a Capotain by Nicholas Hilliard, 1602


A capotain, capatain or copotain is a tall-crowned, narrow-brimmed, slightly conical “sugarloaf” hat, usually black, worn by men and women from the 1590s into the mid-seventeenth century in England and northwestern Europe. Earlier capotains had rounded crowns; later, the crown was flat at the top.

The capotain is especially associated with Puritan costume in England in the years leading up to the English Civil War and during the years of the Commonwealth. It is also commonly called a Flat Topped Hat and a Pilgrim hat, the latter for its association with the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth Colony in the 1620s. Contrary to popular myth, capotains never included buckles on the front of them; this image was created in the 19th century.

It has been theorised that the capotain inspired the top hat.

Origin of Capotain

The origins of Capotain is the pilgrim’s hat. The pilgrim’s hat traditionally had a scallop shell emblem. This is thought to be a reference to the Christian legend that, after Saint James died in Jerusalem, he was miraculously carried by angels to the Atlantic coast of Spain, although the shell symbol has also been connected to pre-Christian traditions as well.

Traditionally it is highly associated with pilgrims on the Way of St. James. The upturned brim of the hat is adorned with a scallop shell to denote the traveller’s pilgrim status, although modern walkers wear it much less.


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