How to Up Your Fashion Game with Bowler Hats (10 Styling Tips)

Are you looking to upgrade your wardrobe from basic to classic? Then you should consider pairing bowler hats with your clothing. 

A lady wearing a black bowler hat

While they may appear to be old-fashioned, bowler hats are probably the next big thing you are yet to uncover in fashion, and while they have traditionally been designated for men, they can also be worn unisex, so whether male or female, there is a bowler hat for you.  

Furthermore, the distinctive rounded crown and curved brim of bowler hats lend it a timeless allure that transcends fashion trends, so if you are looking for something more than the basics to stay on top of your fashion game, make sure you don’t miss any part of this post as we will be exploring the essence of bowler hats, delving into their history, significance, and offering style inspirations.

What are Bowler Hats? 

Bowler hats, also known as derby hats, coke (pronounced “cook”) hats, bob hats, or billycock hats, can be recognized by their low, rounded crown and narrow brim. The hat, typically made from felt, has a versatile design that has stood the test of time. Their simple yet elegant structure makes them a staple in both formal and casual wardrobes. This means that they can be worn either to a business meeting or a hang-out with friends. 

A man wearing a suit and grey bowler hats

Bowler hats are a protective and durable hat style that was especially popular with the British, Irish, and American working classes during the second half of the 19th century, and later with the middle and upper classes in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the East coast of the United States. 

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Why are they called Bowler Hats? 

The coinage of the name “Bowler Hat” for the hat is an intriguing one that can be traced back to the 19th century when nobleman Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester, ordered the hat from Lock & Co in 1849 as a type of hard, protective hat to be close fitting and with a low, rounded crow which would serve as a headpiece for gamekeepers at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, who needed sturdy headwear to protect against low-hanging branches when they rode the horses and carts. 

Before this, the gamekeepers wore top hats that had high, square crowns and would often get knocked off and damaged when they hit the ground, hence the bowler hats were believed to bring a solution to this problem. 

A black top hat

A prototype of the hat was made by Lock & Co’s chief hat maker, Thomas Bowler, making the hats forever bear the Bowler name. The Bowler hat, although stylish, was very durable as Coke was said to have placed it on the floor when it was finished and firmly stamped on it without the hat giving in. Thus the hats fulfilled their purpose of being created and were pronounced by Coke as the headgear suitable for gamekeepers and he paid the company 12 shillings (about £50 in today’s money).

Brief History of Bowler Hats

While the founding of the “Bowler Hats” name presents an insight into the history of the hat, the bowler hat’s journey through history involves a lot more ranging from a blend of practicality to high fashion. 

As earlier mentioned, the Bowler hat was born after Edward Coke placed an order for it and was created by the London hat-makers Thomas and William Bowler in 1849. The hat was popular in use by working-class men in Britain as British bankers and civil servants made it part of the working uniform, but it swiftly found favor among London’s upper echelons of finance and governance early in the 20th century. Iconic figures like Sir Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin contributed to its rise to sartorial stardom.

Outside Britain, the Bowler hat also received a measure of popularity. For example, indigenous Bolivian women were the chief wearers of the hat in Bolivia and referred to it as “Bombin”. The hats even carried significant meanings depending on how they were worn — when placed on the top of the head, it signified that the woman was married whereas when tilted to one side it implied that the woman was single or widowed. In America, the hat was referred to as “Derby” and worn by Americans to watch the derby which was a horse race set up by Edward Stanley, the twelfth Earl of Derby in 1780.

Over time, though, the bowler hat was replaced with the cloth cap for its snobby look making its popularity fade. However, the bowler hat is making a comeback today and has put up a hard fight to retain its cultural significance with a classic and refined aesthetic.

10 Ways to Style Your Bowler Hats

Bowler hats continue to be an integral part of today’s fashion and depending on how they are styled, they can transform the outlook of your outfit. Here are 10 different ways to style your bowler hats to give you a prestigious and classic-British look: 

1. Classic Elegance

A man wearing a tailored suit and a brown bowler hat

The bowler hat when paired with a tailored suit leaves you with a sophisticated and timeless look. You can decide to storm your next business meeting or appear at work on a Monday dressed this way to gain confidence and an energetic aura for the day. If you like, you can include the umbrella to give you a complete British look. 

2. Casual Chic

A lady wearing a black bowler hat, white shirt, jeans and ankle boots

Dress up with a bowler hat, white shirt, jeans, and ankle boots for a laid-back yet stylish ensemble. This look is easy to create with outfits already in your wardrobe and can be worn when going shopping or on a friendly outing.

3. Vintage Vibes 

A lady wearing a red suit and black bowler hat

If you are looking towards embracing retro fashion, you can combine a brown or black bowler hat with a vintage-style dress or high-waisted trousers. This can serve as your go-to dress for a date or work. 

4. Street Style Edge

Infuse an urban flair in your dressing by wearing a bowler hat with a leather jacket, ripped jeans, and heels boots. This style can be paired with a bright-colored handbag to give you a vibrant look. 

A lady wearing a black bowler hat with a streetwear outfit and a yellow bag

Infuse an urban flair in your dressing by wearing a bowler hat with a leather jacket, ripped jeans, and heels boots. This style can be paired with a bright-colored handbag to give you a vibrant look. 

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5. Bohemian Charm

A lady wearing a bohemian dress with a brown bowler hat

A bowler hat with a boho-inspired outfit will leave you with a touch of whimsy. It is perfect to be worn for a concert, a picnic with family or friends, and a beach date. You can also choose to wear this for a religious gathering. 

6. Monochromatic Mastery

A man wearing a black bowler hat with a white shirt, black trousers and suspenders

Create a sleek, modern look by opting for a bowler hat in the same color family as your outfit. You can choose to include the suspenders based on your preference. The monochromatic look can also be created with a black bowler hat and a white dress or vice-versa for females. 

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7. Feminine Flourish

A lady wearing a floral dress, ankle boots and a black bowler hat

Balance femininity with a touch of androgyny by pairing a bowler hat with a floral dress and ankle boots. This look is classy and chic anytime and any day.

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8. Athleisure Appeal 

A lady wearing a wine-coloured bowler hat with leisure wear.

Combine a bowler hat with athleisure pieces like joggers and sneakers to give you a sporty-chic look. You can wear this to work on Fridays or to any casual outing. 

9. Festive Feathers

A brown bowler hat with a feather attached to it

Elevate the spirit of special occasions by adding a feather or decorative pin to your bowler hat. You can wear this with any festive outfit of your choice. 

10. Accessorize with Confidence

A lady wearing a blue scarf and a black bowler hat

Feel free to experiment with accessories like scarves or statement jewelry to enhance the outlook of your bowler hats and your overall appearance. 

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Conclusion

In the fashion world, bowler hats are a monument to timeless style. From humble origins to adorning the heads of renowned personalities, these hats have carved a legacy that spans centuries. Whether you go for a classic, timeless appearance or add a modern twist, the bowler hat is an accessory that exudes refinement and uniqueness. As design trends come and go, the bowler hat’s appeal persists, making it a true fashion icon.

FAQs

What does a bowler hat symbolize?

Bowler hats represent a distinct combination of tradition, sophistication, and a dash of rebellious attitude. These hats, which have historically been connected with both the working class and the wealthy, contain a symbolic resonance of adaptability and everlasting style.

How much does a bowler hat cost?

A bowler hat’s price varies depending on criteria such as material, brand, and craftsmanship. Entry-level bowler hats can cost roughly $50, while high-end, designer bowler hats can cost hundreds of dollars.

When should a man wear a bowler hat?

BowlerBowler hats are appropriate for a variety of occasions, including formal events such as weddings and business meetings as well as informal outings. They offer a refined touch to any ensemble and may be worn confidently when going for a traditional and polished look.

What hat is similar to a bowler?

The Homburg hat shares similarities with the bowler, featuring a similar crown but with a wider brim that can be slightly upturned. Both hats exude a sense of classic style, making them suitable alternatives for those seeking a refined headwear choice.

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