The origins of the Bowler Hat are thought to date back to the 1840’s, when the hat was originally created for Edward Coke the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester. It was designed by Thomas and William Bowler to fulfill an order from London’s oldest milliner Lock & Co and commissioned by British soldier Coke who ordered the hat as a protective head gear, to protect his gamekeepers’ heads from low hanging branches whilst on horseback at his Norfolk farm. Previously the gamekeepers’ had worn top hats, which were often knocked off and subsequently damaged. The Bowler hat was made extra stiff and was shaped closer to the head to reduce the risk of this happening.
The hat has had many names over the years and a variety of people laying claim to it, with it being known as a billycock, blocker, coke (due to MR Coke’s involvement) and Christie to name a few. However, the name its best known and most recognised for is the Bowler hat, due to the two men said to have been hired by Lock & Co to design the hat. The story goes that when Mr Coke turned up to collect his order, he took it outside and jumped on it a few times. Happy with the results, he parted with his twelve shillings for it.
Having begun as popular with the working class during the Victorian era, the bowler hat occupied the status of work-wear for London labourers; however it became more fashionable when worn by Edward VII. The hat lost its original association with the working class and gained popularity with civil servants and bankers throughout until around the 1980’s. Since then the hat has fallen out of general fashion and has been seen mainly during formal occasions or in certain situations such as work dress of the officers of the Queen’s Guard.
Although having fallen out of fashion in recent years the Bowler hat is still one of the most iconic British fashion items created over the last 200 years. It has adopted in various areas of popular culture over the last century ranging from the Beatles, to a James Bond bad guy to comic actors such as Charlie Chaplin and John Cleese.
The hat for Bowler & Beach represents not only the British charm of the brand, but also is a tribute to a quite iconic, striking, elegant piece of British design which is well made and transcends through the ages.