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The history of the Bowler Hat

A Bowler Hat conjures up one solid image. This is a rigid hat with a small brim. Worn straight on the head and cutting a stylish formal look the Bowler hat has been around for over 200 years.

It all started in 1849, Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl-of Leicester, wanted a hat that would protect the heads of his gamekeepers at Holkham Hall from low branches while riding horses around his estate. He commissioned Lock and Co. to make a hat for this purpose.

Highly skilled Hatters, Thomas and William Bowlers were tasked to make the hat. When Coke came to London to view the finished hat, he threw it to the ground and stamped on it, not once but twice. It was strong enough to withstand a beating. More Bowler hats were ordered for all the gamekeepers.

In Victorian times, the Bowler hat was popular with lower, working class men. Everyone wanted a Bowler. Demand elevated to middle and upper classes. Bowler hats had to fit well, so heads were measured and increasing number sold.

The nature of the Bowler hat meant it could be worn in place of a Top hat that was often knocked off the head, due to its height. The defined crown was solid. A narrow brim made the Bowler hat easy to wear. This strong felt hat took its place in history.

Its name varied from place to place. As a highly sought after hat in America, it was known as the Derby hat. Coke was a regular name in UK while mingled with a Billycock, Bob hat, Bombín (Spanish) or Derby (USA) Military organisation began to choose it for parades. Celebrities used the Bower hat in their movies. Comedic acts used a Bowler hat prop, like Charlie Chaplin in his Silent Films.

There was no end to the viewing in famous movies like ‘Gold Finger’ to ‘Clockwork Orange’ and many more.

Politicians were beginning to choose the Bowler. Winston Churchill gave some famous speeches in his Bowler hat in the war years.

Bolivia was a strange destination for the Bowler hat. A shipment of Bowler hats were commissioned for the workers building a railway. When these hats reached Bolivia they were too small for the rail workers. The company then turned to the Bolivian men, but again they were too small. Bolivian Women began to wear them; this caught on and has remained a customer into the twenty first century.

Bowler Hats are still worn as formal hats today.


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