7 Intriguing Facts About Bowler Hats

The bowler hat, also known as the derby hat or billycock, is one of the rare fashion accessories that’s stood the test of time. But how much do you really know about this traditional and classy brimmed hat?

The bowler hat dates back to 1849 in England when brothers Thomas and William Bowler were tasked with building a fitted, short-crowned hat to wear riding horseback. These hats later became popular in Bolivia amongst local British rail workers and Nigeria as a cultural symbol.

Are you ready to learn more about this classic headpiece donned by none other than Charlie Chaplin? Then let’s go over seven intriguing facts about the bowler hat. This article will also include a brief history of the bowler hat in order to provide you with all of the information that you need to understand the origins of the bowler hat.

The History of Bowler Hats

Thomas and William Bowler, London natives, go down in history as the original bowler hat designers. In 1849, the demand for a fitted hat with a shortened crown came from the gamekeeper community; they desperately needed a hat that they could sport on horseback.

Thus, the bowler hat was born. The bowler hat’s construction came from the additional need for a hat that offered more protection than the traditional top hat. Once popular amongst working-class citizens in England, the billycock was later popularized by businessmen and city dwellers. Read more about how the bowler hat style began in this article.

man wearing bowler hat from behind

Many Would Stomp on the Hat to Test Durability

Many historians believe that the initial bowler hat request came from a British soldier and politician named Edward Coke. After Coke received his hat, he dropped it on the floor and stomped on it twice! The bowler hat survived Coke’s test, and he paid Thomas and William Bowler immediately. Looking for your own quality and stylish bowler hat? Check out this hugely popular option by Belfry hats on Amazon.

The Original Bowler Hat Had a Different Name

The Bowlers didn’t instinctively name their custom-created chat after themselves. In fact, the brothers first dubbed this brimmed hat the “Coke hat” after Edward Coke, who purchased the first one. It went through several other name changes — including the billy coke and billycock — before settling on the bowler hat.

The Bowler Hat Was More Popular Than Cowboy Hats

Despite Wild West films with the iconic cowboy hat in nearly every scene, the bowler hat was far more popular than the typical cowboy hat. Railroad workers, cowboys, and outlaws alike preferred the sleek, sturdy design of the bowler hat. After all, the bowler hat is credited with outlasting gusts of wind significantly better than the sombrero or cowboy hat.

Bowler Hats Are Extremely Popular in Bolivia

British railroad workers first introduced the bowler hat into traditional Bolivian culture as early as 1920. Still popular in this South American country to this day, the original bowlers were imported from Italy. It is a common trend for accessories like the bowler hat to be introduced as a functional piece and later incorporated into the culture as a fashion trend. Find out more about the Bolivian bowler hat in this article.

The Bowler Hat Is a Symbol in Nigeria

In Nigeria, more specifically Niger Delta, the bowler hat is part of the region’s signature dress and is often used in costume as well. When paired with a walking stick and traditional Niger dress, the bowler hat completes an African cultural look. This particular dress would typically be worn in situations of ritual and worship. 

The Bowler Hat Symbolizes American Civilian Life

Since 1920, the hard felt hat with a sleek, fitted dome has been a symbol of citizenship and civilian life in retired military members. Donning a bowler hat symbolized a soldier’s return to normal civilian life.This trend was quickly incorporated into the American culture in particular.

The Bowler Hat Was Popularized by the British

Numerous British historical figures, actors, and comedians all added to the bowler’s later popularity. Both fictional and nonfictional figures in British culture have publicly appeared while adorning the bowler hat, normalizing and promoting its wearability on a large scale. Members of the royal family, including Prince Harry, have been known to make numerous public appearances while wearing the bowler hat. Read this article to discover other people famous for wearing bowler hats.


The bowler hat’s resilience through numerous changes in fashion trends sets it apart from other styles. Though the bowler hat has a long history of providing comfort and protection to wealthy businessmen, it’s a hat that thrives in all social classes.

Ever wondered what the difference is between a bowler and a derby hat? Find out in this article.