You must have seen the bowler hat somewhere – be it in real life or in the media. Let’s think of some films or literature in which this hat has made a prominent presence:
From left to right: The Tramp from The Kid portrayed by Charlie Chaplin; An illustration from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; John Steed from The Avengers played by Patrick Macnee
What do these fictional characters tell you about the bowler hat? That it belongs to the old times and is therefore old-fashioned? That it’s only worn by men and so there are no bowler hats for women? If these are the kinds of impressions you have on the bowler hat, then what I am about to tell you next may really surprise you:
- The bowler hat is making a comeback in this modern age!
- The bowler hat is essentially a unisex hat!
Surprised, huh? Then you may want to continue reading to gain some further understanding on these two points.
A Hat That Is Fashionable Again?
First manufactured during the Victorian Era and was popularized since then till it reached its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s, there are hints suggesting that this iconic British hat is making its return to the fashion trend! Where does the evidence come from? From the most reliable source there can possibly be out there, of course! And where else can that be other than the world’s oldest hat shop, Lock & Co Hatters, which is also the exact place where the story of the world-famous bowler hat had all started! As pointed out by a spokesperson of the hat shop, there has been a spike in the sales of the bowler hat in recent years.
My guess on how the spike is brought about? There are two possible factors I’d say:
# 1: modern fashion designers have brought the bowler hat back in the spotlight, as can be seen from some of the recent fashion shows. By mixing the classic element presented in this hat with modern fashion styles, designers have managed to prompt us to rediscover the charm found only in a bowler hat.
# 2: costume designers have accessorized some of the most impressionable characters from the movies with a bowler hat. An example being The King’s Speech, which was a great hit released in 2010 featuring George VI (portrayed by Colin Firth) who’s frequently seen wearing a bowler hat. This film received up to 12 Oscar nominations in 2011, one of which was the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Being such a successful film that was said to have even been praised by Queen Elizabeth II, it has indirectly helped retrieve people’s love for the bowler hat too.
Bowler Hats Are For Women Too?
Okay, so I have listed some fictional/ movie characters above and they all happened to be male. Can I come up with any female characters? Sure, let’s take Sally Bowles from Cabaret casted by Liza Minnelli as an example.
Outside filmography, the truth prevails in reality too. Ever since the 1920s, the bowler hat has been traditionally worn by women of the Quechua and Aymara civilizations in South America. In that part of the world, the hat is referred to by its Spanish name, the bombin.
These are some interesting facts, don’t you think? Wondering where you can get yourself a bowler hat next?
Where to Buy a Bowler Hat
Of course, the first choice that comes to mind must be the original and reputable Lock & Co Hatters. Especially since they do know their business really well and have been selling a portion of their bowler hats to women all through the years, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about sizing and fitting. To ensure you’re getting the most comfortable fit though, it is highly recommended that you should go visit the store at 6 St. James’s Street, London to get your head professionally measured first. Afterall, you wouldn’t want to buy a premium bowler hat only to find out later that it doesn’t fit as comfortably as you thought, right?
Looking for an inexpensive alternative? Check this out:
This bowler hat is highly rated for two main reasons: 1. that it is able to withstand rains and snows; 2. that it is crushable, meaning that its crown can bounce back to its own shape even if you accidentally crushed it. For a modest price, I would say that this is a rather fine bowler hat that’s worth your consideration. Do note that, however, this hat is not a traditional bowler hat – the traditional one is a hard felt hat which is said to be able to pass the durability test of being stamped on without any damage. Why was the bowler hat designed that way? You will get the answer to this question below.
History of the Bowler Hat
The story is generally believed to be as follows:
In August 1849, the Hon. Edward Keppel Wentworth Coke, who’s the younger brother of the second Earl of Leicester (Thomas William Coke), placed an order at Lock & Co Hatters. At that time, he requested for a close-fitting hat and emphasized that it had to be strong enough to protect the heads of his fellow gamekeepers from low hanging branches while they were riding on their horses at Holkham. Edward Coke was known to be a man of high sartorial standards. Prior to asking the hat makers at Lock & Co Hatters to come up with a hat that satisfied his needs, his gamekeepers had to wear top hats while they were on their duties.
Thomas and William Bowlers, two brothers who worked at Lock & Co Hatters, eventually designed a hat with a low domed crown and a small curled brim for Edward Coke. Story has it that when Edward Coke got the hat, he deliberately dropped it on the ground and stamped on it twice to test if it could withstand strong impacts. Satisfied with the result, Edward Coke then paid 12 shillings for the hat. As with Lock & Co Hatter’s usual practice, the hat was named after its customer – and so it’s been originally named as the Coke hat. Today, the hat is more widely known as the bowler hat, or the derby hat in the US.
From then till the mid 20th century, the bowler hat had gone through the days from being regarded as a symbol of status to a popular accessory worn by any typical bankers and barristers etc. until it went out of fashion. However, there can be little doubt that the bowler hat is becoming a fashionable item again today. And anyone who simply appreciates its distinctive charm would definitely love it no matter what.
Some Final Thoughts
By now, I believe you’re pretty much convinced that the bowler hat is back in fashion! So if you’ve been thinking of getting yourself a bowler hat all this time, perhaps it’s really a good time to check it out now. What do you say?