Top Hat vs Bowler - Formal Hat Battle

  • , by Alex Torres
  • 3 min reading time

The top hat and bowler are two similar hats, with very different uses. The likenesses is such that neither hat is as popular as they once were. Back in the 19th and early 20th century these hats were common headpieces, however, our modern culture has decided not to continue the tradition.

Woman in a top hat


Though a top hat is an iconic historical item, and is commonly associated with the upper-class, what reasons would you wear a top hat today?

Chief among the reasons, for any man, are formal events. Many grooms are choosing to dress in such a way to don a top hat plus cane, going for the traditional morning dress look, consisting of a coat, waistcoat, and trousers.

Still top hats are a required accessory for certain vocations. Coach drivers hustling about in a horse and buggy are fans of the top hat, paying tribute to that illustrious Victorian era. Doormen still commonly wear the hat and look great doing it. There's nothing out of place with a well-dressed doorman.

Different fancy occasions call for a top hat. Members of Punxsutawney Phil's groundhog ceremony love to wear top hats. In England, it's still proper dress code for gentlemen to wear top hats during the Royal Ascot - Britain's version of the Kentucky Derby.


Magicians and stage performers still wear and use the hat as part of pop-culture. Where would the “rabbit in the hat trick" be without a top hat?

A current trend seeing a popularity in the top hat use, is the steampunk fashion. Steampunk, a genre of science fiction which uses machinery instead of technology, often uses the Victorian era as a style guide, and tosses in gears and mechanical work into their clothes.


The bowler is a brother to the top hat. Where a top hat has a flat crown, the bowler has a round, stiff crown.

Historians credit the first version of a bowler being used to hunting game. Hunters would trot around on horseback, and their top hats would get knocked off by low hanging branches. The bowler was introduced to combat that annoyance, remain in place, and provide a decidedly stiffer and sturdier form of helmet for the men.

In America, the bowler is considered the “hat that won the West," as it was the preferred hat worn by men, rather than the cowboy hat.


Though bowlers less prevalent than top hats today, they can be worn as a casual option, when a top hat would be out of place.

The steampunk community has likewise adopted the bowler into their fashion repertoire. The British will still wear bowler hats in varying degrees, from different themed or historical outfits, or to dress up in a dapper style.

The bowler looks great on women too, as the ladies are taking the hat and making it their own.

Otherwise, the bowler is generally associated with movies and television, as many actors favored the hat, from Charlie Chaplin and John Cleese. It's seen in movies like A Clockwork Orange and Goldfinger when the James Bond villain Oddjob tosses around the razor like weapon.

New to these Hats? Read our Guide to Get you Started

Who wins your vote for the top hat vs. bowler battle?


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