The term 'international cap' dates from a practice started in the United Kingdom in 1886 when a cap was awarded to each player representing their country in Association Football. The England FA began awarding velvet caps to players selected for international games and the tradition extended to other sports such as rugby union, rugby league, cricket, boxing, athletics, badminton, squash, basketball and hockey to name but a few.
Traditionally the cap was meant to be worn during a game depicting who played for who, but the reality was the caps were put to one side and kept as a momento.
Nowadays caps are in effect an award, like a medal or trophy and is a unique presentation item commemorating a special achievement.
Upon being selected to represent a school, college, university, club, district, county or country a special 'cap' can be designed and made to commemorate that achievement. These caps, often termed "honours caps" are decorative awards and are quite striking in appearance.
The cap would usually be in team colours with the front panel bearing the team logo, and details of the player and/or the event embroidered on the peak.
As they are generally made to order almost every cap is different in some way, so obtaining one or being in possession of one is something very personal and unique.
In most circumstances players will get just ONE honours cap no matter how many international games they play. When you hear a sports commentator say someone is "winning their 100th cap" it rarely means they actually possess '100 cloth caps'. It is usually just an expression. However the England Football Association literally and generously award players a cap each and every time they play for their country, so each and every cap is unique to a particular game and very personal. So the likes of Peter Shilton, Bobby Charlton and David Beckham really do possess over 100 physical specimens, each one of them undoubtedly extremely personal to them!
Saying that England football players do tend to have just one honours cap per tournament. You will see examples on this website of World Cup, European Championship and Home Nations Championship caps featuring names of opponents on the panels of the caps, so one cap could in fact represent up to 6 matches for example.
Despite the apparent plethora of caps that must be available, England football caps are still difficult to find and still attract large premiums at auction.
Most international rugby unions award players with just ONE cap during their international career following their first appearance for their country. Sometimes the season will be embroidered on the peak, but not always.
The only time they tend to receive more than one cap is if they make 50 appearances, and then 100 appearances so they then have additional caps for each.
Some countries have their own different traditions, however such as the French Rugby Federation who award a cap following two appearances for France; or the Welsh and Irish (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) Football Associations who award a cap per season.
Originally the Scottish Football Association only awarded caps against the Home Nations, so it is very much up to the association or union as who gets an actual cap!
Some teams, clubs, counties or countries still award caps but either not to the same standard as traditional honours caps - or not at all which I personally think is a great shame. Unlike mass produced baseball caps, medals or trophies every 'honours cap' is different and unique and adds to the magic of the occasion. It should be an ornament to be desired.
Traditionally honours caps were hand made, and consisted of plush velvet or velveteen, featured satin lining, shiny metallic braid, stunning 3D wire embroidery, and finished off with a beautiful shiny metallic tassel. Sadly production of such jewels has become a dying art, and it's now very difficult to find anyone who doesn't use mass produced methods using cheaper materials.
That's all well in good in today's economic climate but in my view if cost is everything then a machine baseball cap may suffice, however an honours cap is more than that. Once presented an honours cap is worth many times its production cost and is a unique, priceless commodity and an heirloom. I do not believe 'baseball' caps command such a 'wow' factor, nor are capable of attracting significant premiums at auctions.
I collected photographs of honours caps for many years, and then bought traditional caps at auctions. However it took me many more years to find manufacturers of honours caps, and whenever I did find one I would place an order! To be frank I was always disappointed with the quality of the caps as they didn't match the true quality of traditional caps so I decided to research materials myself and supply caps myself. I don't know a bigger fan of honours caps than me so when it comes to quality, fussy is not the word!!!
In my eyes what makes an honours cap truly special is not only its unique and beautiful design, but the fact that it is so personal to the recipient. Priceless indeed.
Players often exchange jerseys and kit, but rarely will they part with their caps...
For more information on the 'origins of the honours cap' please see some of the links below which also shed some light on the subject.
England Football Cap - Scotland Football Cap - Wales Football Cap - Ireland Football Cap - England Rugby Cap - Scotland Rugby Cap - Wales Rugby Cap - Ireland Rugby Cap - England Cricket Cap - Australia Football Cap - Australia Rugby Cap - Wallabies Rugby Cap - Australia Cricket Cap - Canada Rugby Cap - USA Rugby Cap - France Rugby Cap - Japan Rugby Cap - New Zealand Rugby Cap - All Blacks Rugby Cap - New Zealand Cricket Cap - Pakistan Cricket Cap - West Indies Cricket Cap - India Cricket Cap - South Africa Rugby Cap - Springbok Rugby Cap - South Africa Cricket Cap - Sri Lanka Cricket Cap - British Lions Rugby Cap - Rugby World Cup Cap - Rugby League Cap - Army Cap - RAF Cap - Royal Navy Cap - English Club Caps - Scottish Club Caps - Welsh Club Caps - Irish Club Caps - Cricket Caps - Honours Caps For Sale
Articles about International Caps & Honours Caps:
Cap Statistics & Useful Resources:
Wikipedia: Record Cap Holders
RSSF.COM: International Scores, Statistics and Player Rosters