|Charlie Chaplin (Photo: Wikipedia)
HOANG TUNG: Hello Aaron, welcome back to VOV’s Culture Rendezvous. When was bowler hat first used?
AARON MEIJA:Bowler hat, also known by other names such as coke hat, derby or billycock, are hard hats with a circular shape similar to a melon shape. It was first made in 1849 for Edward Coke, a British soldier, politician, and the younger brother of Leicester's 2nd Earl. He ordered it from the Lock & Co as a hard hat, it fits snugly and has a low crown so that it can protect Coke's gamekeepers from hurt their heads from tree branches that hand low.
HOANG TUNG: So why is it called bowler hat?
AARON MEIJA:It’s the name of Lock’s chief hat maker, Thomas Bowler. He made a prototype of the hat, and Edward Coke tossed the hat to the floor, jumped on it, twice, to test its durability. The hat passed this test and the bill for 12 shillings was settled. This story made the name ‘bowler’ more recognizable.
HOANG TUNG: How did the hats become international?
AARON MEIJA:So basically, it all started with the British railroad workers. British railroad workers in western America wore the hat and they were quickly adopted by Wild West outlaws. In US, it was the most popular hat in the West, even more than cowboy hats or sombreros. It was favored among cowboys and railroad workers, criminals and lawman alike, because it was close-fitting and stayed firmly on the head even when the strong winds blew. In the 1920's, the hat was chosen as the official headdress for South American women of Aymara and Quechua, thanks to railroad workers taking them south to Bolivia. Niger Delta in Nigeria is one more place where bowler hats are worn as a part of a regional costume, with a walking stick as well.
HOANG TUNG: Bowler hats are not as popular now, right?
AARON MEIJA:I can say that. It is most strongly associated with businessmen working in the financial sector in Londo
n, and was most common among those employed in the City of London itself. It became something of a status symbol. However, it’s popularity nearly died out in the 70s. People switched to more casual things, and bowler hats are seen maybe in just fancy dress.
|The aviation-pioneering Wright brothers wearing their bowlers in 1910 (Photo: Wikipedia)
HOANG TUNG: Do you think bowler hats will ever be popular again?
AARON MEIJA:Only time can tell. I can say the greatest barrier to its return may be that it’s just too iconic. For most people, when
ever they see a bowler hat, they remember the films in which it has appeared, like Charlie Chaplin, and the professions with which it has become associated over the years, like the bankers and businessmen of London’s Square Mile. But there is one thing I can tell you, that fashion always swings back and forth. Do you remember how many times old trends, let’s say, in the 50s or 60s, have come back to the modern industry? Right? That seems like a good enough reason to me.
HOANG TUNG: And for me also. Great head protection, stays on in the wind, water proof, and good to store things in when not in use, I would wear one regardless of fashion.
Thank you very much for sharing such interesting information about bowler hats. Hope to see you again.