The bowler hat is the quintessential gentleman’s accessory. The hat was invented in the mid-1800s and was designed to be worn by English nobility. This is why this hat design is often associated with English gentlemen who typically wore it. Fast forward to this day and age, the bowler hat has become a classic wardrobe staple across many classes and cultures.
Evolution of the Bowler Hat
The bowler hat first got its name from its creators, Thomas and William Bowler. These two were commissioned by nobleman Thomas William Coke, Earl of Leicester, who needed sturdy gear to protect his head from tree branches during hunting.
The hat was an in-between of the aristocracy’s top hat and the working class’s soft hat. During the course of the next century, it gained popularity across England and different parts of the world.
In America and Ireland, the bowler hat has become well-used by working-class men. At that time, it was also started to be known as derby. Later on, the hat was adopted by upper to middle-class gentlemen, usually those working in the finance sector.
Its popularity increased when it became a trademark of cultural icons, including Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy. Women also started sporting the bowler hat look, as showcased by actress Liza Minelli in the film Cabaret.
Now, the bowler can still be considered a classic and elegant staple in modern menswear. Although it is commonly worn as, let’s say, the baseball cap, it still remains an iconic fashion piece.
What Exactly is a Bowler Hat?
In general, a bowler hat should be stiff. It is in contrast to the soft hat and fedora, which can be easily folded. Its distinguishing feature is its bowl-shaped crown which seems to be the reason why the hat got its name. The brim is curved with an edge having a tight pencil roll, also known as a d’Orsay roll.
Thanks to its long history, plenty of interpretations and variations of the bowler hat were produced. One of the best quality types of bowler hats is the wool felt bowler hat. These are usually matted, which is the process that allows the individual fibers to be seen when closely looked at. Some bowler types are furrier, as they use fur felt. Meanwhile, plenty of modern bowler hats are made from polyester material.
How to Wear a Bowler Hat?
The bowler hat started as an upper-class hat but gained distinction with other sectors over time. However, in today’s world, class distinctions don’t matter that much. The mantra is: if you like it and you think it looks good on you, then wear it.
Nowadays, the bowler hat is considered one of the most popular men’s dress hats. It typically looks best with a business suit, stroller wear, or lounge suit. One can also pair it with a classic overcoat or trench coach. It undeniably adds that extra touch of polish to formal and business attire.
While it is commonly associated with formal wear, there’s no rule saying that it can’t be worn casually as well. It would certainly add pizzazz to the common jeans and plain white shirt combo. Of course, there’s no harm in trying it while wearing sneakers as well.
More than just a fashion accessory, the bowler hat carries with it a tapestry of history and tradition. It has become a cultural trademark as it is associated with a number of iconic figures as well. In addition, the bowler hat tells us a story that good style and function encompass all classes and cultures