Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Go Bowling!

What is more quintessentially English than the Englishman sporting a bowler hat and pinstripe business suit? What would Charlie Chapman or Laurel and Hardy be without their respective bowlers?

The bowler hat (typified by the rounded crown) was devised in 1849 by the London hat makers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfill an order placed by the firm of hatters Lock & Co. of St James's. Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a customer to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect his gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. Lock & Co. then commissioned the Bowler brothers to solve the problem. And thus a classic iconic form of headwear was born!

Now significantly recognised as being the uniform of the English businessman, the bowler is much more than that.

The bowler has showed up in more than one unusual setting and has been adopted by the most unlikely people. The bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero was the most popular hat in the American West. Cowboys and railroad workers alike preferred the hat because it wouldn't blow off easily in strong wind, or when sticking one's head out the window of a speeding train.

The bowler, called a bombin in Peru and Bolivia, has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers.

Magritte was significantly enamored with the bowler as it appears in two of his most famous and recognised paintings “The Son of Man” and “Man in a Bowler Hat”.

Helena Rubinstein was known for her signature bowler hats which she wore continuously in later life. The once traditional masculine accessory on Madame’s head was given a more feminine fashion aesthetic, which was immortalized by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret.

On one side the bowler is the representation of the polished self assured businessman and a symbol of the establishment, however in “A Clockwork Orange” it is the establishment’s antithesis. The symbol is turned upside down, where the hat and its wearers symbolise everything the establishment is not. Anarchy and violence.

Men, look very polished and fashion savvy when wearing a bowler as it denotes a sense of self confidence. As we all know placing an article of apparel on ones head is not done unselfconsciously. Whether the wearer is making a statement about his liberation, or being glib or ironic, the fact is that both the union man and the banker all have worn the same hat at some stage or another.


  1. My favorite posting of yours to date! I did not know the history of this great hat, and am especially surprised to find out that the bowler was the preferred hat of the American West - so much of the West is myth. Thanks for a most entertaining and thorough posting.

  2. Wow Very Funny Style and Mind Blowing Acting . Amazing your recently post i loved and Great idea.Interesting this post .......

  3. Merci pour votre commentaire :) J'ai posté un article si vous voulez
    à bientôt ♥

    I look forward to seeing more of your blog!

  4. Didn't Charlie Chaplin wore one?
    Clockwork Orange is such a classic & disturbing in a good way film! Stay fab always darling!!

  5. So a great hat!! Have a wonderful weekend ~

  6. Something so dashing about a man in a good hat!
    Thanks for this history lesson - so interesting!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend David!

  7. I have always wanted one!

    Also used in the recent version of The Thomas Crowne Affair. To great effect with Simone's "Sinnerman."

  8. And how about the Avengers - loved John Steed and his dapper bowler. Was also going to mention The Thomas Crown Affair but see Bruce beat me to the punch!

  9. I love all the little bits of information you find in your research and share with us and the images for this one are just great!!! I just love hats on men period. I wish they would come back...really come back to stay.

  10. ==============================================

    Thanks a lot for thet great bowler lesson !
    Have a great new weekend !
    Kiss_kiss !

  11. Really interesting post. The gentleman in a bowler hat is such a precise and elegant look, it seems centuries away from the casual way men dress today. I suppose that the bowler hat is a sort of establishment uniform for men that is a metaphor for a loss of individuality...sort of Stepford husbands for Stepford wives.

    I do recall the bowlers on Helena, sort of echoing her rotund figure, and I believe you are correct that they were a sort of signature, as I've seen several photos of her in them. Interesting.

    I see that fedoras for men are returning in popularity, but most of them have stingy brims and have that "Made in China" look. Here in Ontario we have Biltmore Hats of Cambridge that are known around the world. I hope that there will be a return to more elegant dressing, and that hats for men and for women, will be part of the equation.

  12. just went bowling, but suck at it. i'm used to candlepin, not the big balls of the midwest. maybe i should've worn a hat?

  13. great selection always!!!
    have a wonderful Sunday!

  14. Really enjoyed this, bowlers usually remind me of Magritte and A Clockwork Orange..had no idea about the wild west!

  15. Mark, I was thoroughly entertained myself while writing this post as well. The things I found out.

    Aphrodite, Merci. I look forward to you visiting again and also seeing more of your blog!

    Designchic, many thanks for your visit. I also hope that you had a good weekend!

    Bruce, I havent seen this, so I guess I must now!

    Quintessence, I was also going to include Mr Steed here, however it did slip my mind. Maybe a followup post is needed?

    Jean-Pierre< I am so glad you enjoyed the lesson! Kiss.

    Mr SWF, Yes Madame became known for them. I like the idea of hats for men making a comeback!

    Bor, many thanks for your visit!

    Norma, maybe if you did your luck might have changed! Especially in the Midwest!

    Elena, many thanks as always!

    Zhush, I too had no idea until I was researching

    Acorn, I am so glad that you are learning!

    JAson, as always a big thankyou!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin