On this day in history : 17th December 1849 – Thomas and William Bowler, makers of felt hats, sell their first Bowler hat to Edward Coke – after being commissioned by James Lock & Co of London….
Coke had approached hat shop James Lock & Co looking for a hat that could protect the gamekeepers of his family’s estate, Holkham Hall, in Norfolk, whilst they were on horseback…. Up until that point they had always worn top hats – but these kept getting knocked off by low hanging branches…. A hat was needed that was low crowned, close fitting and hard…. When Coke arrived to collect his new hat he reputedly placed it on the floor and twice stamped on it to check its suitability before handing over his 12 shillings….
During the 19th century the Bowler hat became popular among the working classes – and its popularity soon spread to other parts of the world…. In the American West, where it was known as the Derby, it was favoured by cowboys, as it did not blow off in the wind…. Even the outlaws, such as Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy wore one….
From the early 20th century the Bowler became associated with businessmen, especially City Gents…. It also became the trademark of certain famous personalities, such as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, PatrickMacnee’s John Steed in The Avengers – and John Cleese….