History of the bowler hat

3rd February 2012 at 00:00

Apparently, the bowler is making a bit of comeback in fashion circles. But it is unlikely to regain its dominance in the City of London, where it was once de rigueur for bankers and financiers. Discover British fashion from the 1930s onwards in a resource from Elmsdale1.

Who Invented It?

Created in 1849 by London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler, the hard felt hat with a rounded crown was designed for Edward Coke, the younger brother of the second Earl of Leicester. Other versions of the story say it was commissioned by William Coke, a nephew of the first Earl of Leicester, who wanted to protect his gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches. QCDA_Resources has shared a resource on the Victorian class system.

Who Wore It?

Also known as the billycock or the derby (in America), the hat was worn by the working class in Victorian times before it became part of the bankers' uniform. But it was also popular with cowboys and railroad workers in the American West. Quechua and Aymara women in Bolivia have worn the bombin (the hat's Spanish name) since the 1920s, when it was introduced by British railway workers. And in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, men use it as a fashion accessory, along with a walking stick. Learn more about the American Wild West with this detailed site: www.legendsofamerica.com

Famous Bowler Fans

Charlie Chaplin was inseparable from his and it was also a trademark of Fatty Arbuckle, Laurel and Hardy, Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid - in fact, it came to be known as "the hat that won the West". In more modern times, it was a signature piece of apparel for Malcolm McDowell when he played the lead role in Stanley Kubrick's controversial film A Clockwork Orange, and Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) wore one in her stage act in the film Cabaret. Learn about movie music and film scores in a resource from zoeage.

Anything Else?

Bradford amp; Bingley had 100 trademarks registered on the bowler hat, including the gesture of raising and lowering it. And in 1995 the bank reportedly paid #163;2,000 for Stan Laurel's bowler. What will happen now it is being broken up? The bank's trademark attorney Maggie Ramage says: "At some point an accountant will have to sit down and say what it's worth." Teach students about money management with a resource from EdComs.

All links and resources can be found at www.tes.co.ukresources020.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now