History of Bowler Hats

The bowler hat has become one of the classic men’s dress hats in the fashion industry today. However, bowler hats had a much more historical significance in the past. 

How Bowler Hats Began

The Bowler Hat, also known as a Debry Hat or a Coke Hat (pronounced as cook), has a rounded crown and a narrow brim. It is traditionally a hard-felt hat, but there are also wooden felt bowler hats. 

The bowler hat was created in 1849 for a British soldier, politician, and the 2nd Earl of Leicester’s younger brother named Edward Coke. Before bowler hats took place, British gamekeepers wore hats with crowns too high, causing them to get hit while riding and were easily damaged when they hit the ground.

He ordered the hat from Lock & Co., and he wanted a hat with a low crown to protect his gamekeepers from getting hit by long-hanging tree branches whenever they ride. The chief hatters who created the bowler hat were Thomas and William Bowler, hence the name.

Coke went to London to visit Lock’s business place on December 17, 1849. He inspected the newly created hat, placed it on the floor, and stomped on it a few times. Coke was pleased that the bowler hat withstood the test, and he pronounced that it is a suitable headgear for the gamekeepers. He paid the company 12 shillings, which now cost £50 today.

First Seen on the Working Class

Bowler hats were first seen being worn by the working class during the Victorian era. But during the early part of the 20th century, this men’s dress hat has become increasingly popular among the middle class, such as civil servants, bankers, and clerks. The Queen’s guards would wear them as part of their work dress as they marched on the city of London every morning. The attire had become the mark of the “City Gent.” 

Bowler hats also become well-known in the western United States as they were commonly worn by railroad workers. They were also worn by the Wild West outlaws like Billy and the Kid and Butch Cassidy. People from the Western United States loved the practicality of bowler hats as they were close-fitted and stayed on the head firmly despite the strong wind blows.

British railroad workers introduced the bowler hat to the Quechua and Aymara women in Bolivia. It was later chosen as their official headdress in the 1920s. The bowler hats bought in Bolivia were made from a factory in Italy.

Bowler Hats Today

As time passes by, the popularity of bowler hats began to fade. In the 1960s, British people had stopped wearing bowler hats because the fashion trend during this period had shifted to a more informal wardrobe. 

It was also said that the bowler hat was ridiculed in the later periods because of its snobbishness. Despite the criticisms, the bowler hat remains a timeless fashion piece. It is making its comeback in the 21st century as part of the men’s wardrobe, whether it may be for a casual look or a formal event.

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