bowler hat

Hard felt round hat

The Bowler hat, also known as a Coke Hat, Derby, Billycock or Bombin, is a hard felt hat with a rounded crown originally created in 1849 for the British soldier and politician Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester. The Bowler hat was popular with the working class during the Victorian Era.

The bowler hat was devised in 1849 by the London hat makers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfil an order placed by the famous hatters Lock & Co. of St James’s. Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a customer to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect his gamekeepers’ heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The gamekeepers had previously worn top hats,which were easily knocked off and damaged. Lock & Co. then commissioned the Bowler brothers to solve the problem.

The Bowler was the most popular hat in the American West. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid.

The Bowler, called a Bombin in Peru and Bolivia, has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers.

The Bowler hat is popular in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria where the men wear them along with a walking stick. These fashion accessories were introduced by British colonials in the 1900s.

Other names for a Bowler Hat

  • Derby
  • Billycock
  • Coke Hat
  • Bombin

Famous bowler hat wearers

  • Laurel and Hardy
  • Captain Mainwaring
  • Charlie Chaplain
  • Winston Churchill
  • John Steed (Avengers)
  • Mr Benn
  • John Cleese
  • Mr Rumbold
  • Bradford and Bingley
  • Mr Pastry
  • Homepride Fred
  • Thomson and Thompson
  • Oddjob
  • Benito Mussolini
  • Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange)
  • Butch Cassidy
  • Billy the Kid

Bowler Hat makers

  • Lock & Co.
  • Dunn & Co.
  • Christys’ Hats
  • J & J Matthews

Did you know?

A London Black Cab has to be tall enough inside to accommodate a passenger wearing a Bowler Hat.

Bowler Hat video