The bowler hat, also known as a bob hat, derby (US), billycock or bombín, 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, and later on with the middle and upper classes in the United Kingdom. Later in the United Kingdom, it would come to be worn as work dress by the officers of the Queen's Guards. In Ecuador especially the women of Quechua people have used Bowler hat since the 1920s when British railroad workers made it famous.
The bowler once defined British civil servants and bankers, and later American workingmen. It was devised in 1849 by the London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfil an order placed by the firm of 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 Coke's gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. Lock & Co. then commissioned the Bowler brothers to solve the problem.
Especially in Great Britain, most accounts agreed that the customer (and designer of the hat) was William Coke. However, later, a nephew of the 1st Earl of Leicester, provided research that has cast some doubt on this origin story. It is now believed that it was Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester, who invented the hat design.
When Coke arrived in London on 17 December 1849 to collect his hat he reportedly placed it on the floor and stamped hard on it twice to test its strength; the hat withstood this test and Coke paid 12 shillings for it. In accordance with Lock & Company's usual practice, the hat was called the "Coke" hat (pronounced "cook") after the customer who had ordered it. This is most likely why the hat became known as the "Billy Coke" or "Billycock" hat in Norfolk.
In the Americas 
The bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it "the hat that won the West". Both cowboys and railroad workers preferred the hat because it would not blow off easily in strong wind, or when sticking one's head out the window of a speeding train. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart, and Billy the Kid. It is in America the hat came to be commonly known as the "Derby", and Wild West outlaw Marion Hedgepeth was commonly referred to as "the Derby Kid".
The bowler, called a bombín in Spanish, has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers. For many years, a factory in Italy manufactured the hats for the Bolivian market, but they are now made locally. Another region that appreciates the bowler hat is the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The men of this region use this hat as a fashion accessory, along with a walking stick. These fashion accessories, which have become a staple part of the regional costume, were introduced by British colonials in the 1900s.
In popular culture 
In artworks 
In business 
In song 
- Bob Dylan used the term 'Derby hat' as a reference to the Bowler hat in his song "On the Road Again" from his album Bringing It All Back Home.
- During some points of Led Zeppelin's 1975 concert tour, John Bonham wore the costume of the A Clockwork Orange droogs, featuring a white jumpsuit and a black bowler hat.
- The song that opens the 1950s TV show, Bat Masterson, has lyrics "he wore a cane and Derby hat, they called him Bat, Bat Masterson."
- The 2011 music video for Radiohead's song Lotus Flower features lead singer, Thom Yorke dancing in a Bowler hat.
In film and television 
- Comedic actors Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Roscoe Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were well known for their bowler hats.
- In the 1960s television series The Avengers, Patrick MacNee playing John Steed is seldom seen without his bowler and umbrella.
- In the 1960 film "The Apartment", Jack Lemmon playing C.C. Baxter dons a bowler hat.
- In the 1964 movie Goldfinger, Auric Goldfinger's manservant Oddjob uses a razor-edged bowler hat as a weapon.
- In the story Missouri Mish Mash of the 1960s animated series The Bullwinkle Show a derby hat called the Kirward Derby makes its wearer the smartest being in the world.
- In the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange, Alex DeLarge and his droogs were well known for their bowler hats.
- In the 1974 episode of Are You Being Served? titled The Think Tank, the fictional department store's elaborate class hierarchy, which determines who among the staff are permitted to wear a bowler hat, figures prominently in the plot.
- In the 1990 movie Back to the Future Part III, Michael J. Fox's Character Marty Mcfly was given a bowler hat to wear by his great great grandfather Seamus Mcfly (also played by Michael J. Fox) who stated "Some respectable clothes and a fine hat"
- In the 1999 movie Thomas Crown Affair, the painting "Son of man" is a prominent motif, where a man is wearing an overcoat and a bowler, with his face covered by a green apple. The protagonist has many accomplices that dressed in a bowler hat and an overcoat in the museum.
- In the 2007 Disney animated feature Meet the Robinsons, the main human antagonist wears a bowler hat and is referred to only as the "Bowler Hat Guy" for the majority of the film. Furthermore, the intelligent robotic invention that devises most of the Bowler Hat Guy's diabolical plans is shaped like a bowler hat.
- In the 2011 movie Captain America: The First Avenger, Neal McDonough's character Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan is always wearing his bowler hat.
- In the long-running science fiction programme Doctor Who, the Eleventh Doctor will wear a bowler hat in the seventh series.
In literature 
- In the 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, the bowler is a vital plot device.
- In the Harry Potter series, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge was known to wear a bowler hat.
- Various comic book characters wear bowler hats, including Batman villain the Riddler, Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan from Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Meg from Far West, and the Thompson twins from Hergé's Adventures of Tintin.
- Hat Glossary
- "The history of the Bowler hat at Holkham" (PDF). Coke Estates Ltd.
- (See Roetzel)
- Bowler hat makes a comeback Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 September 2011
- Roetzel, Bernhard (1999). Gentleman's Guide to Grooming and Style. Barnes & Noble.
- Swinnerton, Jo (2005). The History of Britain Companion. Robson. p. 42. ISBN 1-86105-914-0.
- The Hat That Won the West, retrieved 2010-02-10
- Eigo, Tim. "Bolivian Americans". Countries and Their Cultures. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
- "Who'll get custody of Bradford and Bingley's bowler hat?". news.bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
- Radiohead. "Lotus Flower". Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Thomson and Thompson
Further reading 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bowler hats|