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8 Famous People Who Wore Bowler / Derby Hats

The bowler hat was once a must-have fashion accessory, surviving fashion trend after fashion trend. But can you think of any famous people who wore bowler hats?

Famous people who wore bowler hats include Edward Coke, Boy George, David Tomlinson, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Lou Costello, and John Bonham. 

How much do you know about this iconic hat’s history and celebrities who once sported bowlers? To learn more about bowler hats, read on! 

The History of Bowler Hats

The bowler hat was originally designed and crafted by London-based hatters in 1849. William and Thomas Bowler were commissioned to build a fitted hat with a shallow crown. 

The reason was simple: the top hat was growing less popular among sportsmen whose hats had been swept off their heads by low-hanging tree branches while riding on horseback.

Bowler hats became British culture. Originally, this accessory was popular among the working class. However, by the early 20th century, the bowler hat was slowly spreading to city dwellers and businessmen as well.

Discover more about bowler hat history in this article.

1. Edward Coke

Without Coke (pronounced Cook), we wouldn’t have the bowler hat. Coke initially approached Lock and Co Hatters in London to commission the design. Until the new bowler, or Coke hat (as it is also known), was designed, gamekeepers wore top hats, which, while looking the part, were invariably impractical.

The account goes that Coke stomped twice on the new bowler hat before signing off on the design. Happy to say the hat survived and flourished as a practical and stylish alternative to the top hat.

 Check out this famous Coke-style bowler on Amazon.

2. Butch Cassidy

The bowler, known as the derby hat in America, became the most popular hat in the American West in the late 19th century. The hat had been designed for gamekeepers and was ideal for horse riding.

Cassidy was an infamous train and bank robber. He can be seen wearing his derby hat in many photos.

He was a rancher and raced horses before his criminal activities took over. Alongside his gang known as the ‘Wild Bunch,’ he pulled off many robberies before eventually fleeing to Bolivia, where he was apprehended and killed.

Butch Cassidy with bowler hat

3. Boy George

Boy George gets credit for the bowler hat’s 1980s revival. Boy George, frontman of Culture Club, sported the bowler on stage, in music videos, and even on the streets! His fashion-forward style eventually led Boy George to add the “fashion designer” title to his resume later in his career.

4. David Tomlinson

In the 1964-film Mary Poppins, David Tomlinson portrays a London banker, Mr. Banks. Since the film is set in early 20th century London, it is only appropriate that the Mr. Banks character would sport a bowler cap.

During this time, the hat that a man wore spoke to the man’s social class and likely his occupation as well. If he was a proud bowler-wearer, this was a telltale sign that they were a working professional, likely hailing from the city. 

David Tomlinson
“David Tomlinson – The Life I Lead poster image” by The Lowry, Salford is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

5. Charlie Chaplin

As a part of his morning dress for Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin completed his look with a bowler hat. This iconic hat was sold at an auction several years later. Chaplin’s presence in the public eye was two-fold: his physical appearance and infamous ability to entertain. 

Read more about Chaplin’s hat here.

6. Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, Britain’s former prime minister during The Second World War, earned global attention for his expressive hat choices. Churchill fell into the city-dwellers category as a political and public figure, known to sport the occasional bowler hat.

 Read more about Churchill’s hats here.

7. Lou Costello

Lou Costello was a known bowler-wearer, best known for his starring role in the Abbott and Costello Show. Costello was an accomplished American comedian who was well known for sporting a bowler hat style that was very distinct.

Lou’s legacy remains as a comedic genius with an explosive stage presence alongside Bud Abbott. The bowler hat, while iconic, is just one defining factor of Costello’s public image. 

8. John Bonham

John Bonham was a British musician best known for his time as the rock band Led Zeppelin drummer, also recognized as one of the most influential artists of all time. 

A defining part of Bonham’s image was his fashion sense. In fact, Led Zeppelin played a massive role in the fashion scene in the 1970s. Bonham added some spunk and flair to his rocker image by wearing a bowler here and there.

Final Thoughts

A hat designed for a very practical purpose, it found its fans among working men from all walks of life. It thrived in the American West, South America, and on the stage.

About Taylor James

How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about - P. Treacy