The Bowler hat or derby hat — by any name, is a classy choice for finer gentlemen with true grit and a real sense of style. Also called the bombin, a bowler hat is the genuine article with charm and character that is immediately recognized. With a round crown and curled brim, Derby and Bowler hats have been classics almost from their introduction in 1849. We offer a range of stylish bowler and derby hats for discerning hat owners. Each captures the essence of a classic look, uninfluenced for decades.
The History of the Bowler Hat
As the creation of London hat designers James and George Lock and produced by hatters Thomas and William Bowler — hence, one of the hat's names — the bowler hat or derby hat was originally commissioned by the Earl of Leicester. Accounts vary as to whether it was intended for his own use as a riding hat or as protection for the heads of his gamekeepers as they went about their daily work on the grounds of his large estate. Either way, the hard crown proved to be a favorable upgrade from the soft-textured top hats previously worn by both the workers as well as by the landowners. The derby hat became part of gamekeepers’ daily wear while also becoming the riding hat of the landed gentry, firmly associating the hat with both groups for over a century.
In fact, the bowler hat was the hat of choice for lawmen such as Bat Masterson, and outlaws followed suit like Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid, giving the derby hat somewhat of a tough-guy image. Perhaps that, along with its durability, explains why the derby far outpaced the cowboy hat in the American West as it gained popularity throughout Europe and the Americas. Later, however, the hat became closely linked with British “City Gents,” the name given to 20th century businessmen of the financial districts. It also became popular with entertainers of the era. From comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy to musical productions choreographed by Bob Fosse such as “Cabaret”, the derby was everywhere. If ever there was a hat for everyone, the derby may well be the one.
It’s that characteristic shape that makes the derby hat a standout. Usually crafted from felt, the high, rounded top and curled brim give the hat a whimsical look that lends itself to being paired with both men’s and women’s fashions. Yet it retains the same strong structure that made it both a serious hat and ever so trendy from the outset. What’s more, a few other characteristics keep the derby fashionable today. Please feel free to browse our collection of derby and bowler hats for sale.