The brimmed bowler hat has become an iconic fashion accessory over the years, 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 donning an unusually low 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 have since been a staple in 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.
Although the bowler hat was a staple in the working man’s dress code, the upper class became fans too! The sleek design also added some protection from the elements, like fierce winds, rain and snow, and blinding sunlight.
Edward Coke followed in his older brother’s footsteps, Thomas Coke, who served as 2nd Earl of Leicester in the mid 19th century. Edward Coke visited London in December of 1849 to buy a bowler. Upon receiving the hat, Coke reportedly stomped on it to test its strength and durability. Yes, the bowler hat did pass Coke’s test. Check out this popular Coke-style bowler on Amazon.
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.
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.
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.
Winston Churchill, the former prime minister of Britain during the second world war, earned global attention for his expressive hat choices. As a political and public figure, Churchill fell into the city-dwellers category, known to sport the occasional bowler hat. Read more about Churchill’s hats here.
Best known for his starring role in the Abbott and Costello Show, Lou Costello was a known bowler-wearer. Costello was an accomplished American comedian who was well known for sporting a style of bowler hat that was often too distinct to copy.
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.
John Bonham was a British musician best known for his time as the drummer for the rock group Led Zeppelin, 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.
The bowler hat was originally a hat for sportsmen who could sport it without it falling off. However, this once practical hat later became a fashionable and iconic accessory. Charlie Chaplin, David Tomlinson, and Boy George are just a few of the bowler’s most famous fans.