Derby & Bowler Hats
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.
Bowler Hats Have Vintage AppealNodding to the yesteryear panache that just seems to be part of the derby, this hat offers loads of vintage appeal. Whether your personal style celebrates the best of past eras, leaning toward the tailored look of a business suit or is decidedly contemporary with the casual comfort of jeans and a T-shirt, the addition of a derby hat automatically adds a bit of vintage charm to your overall look. It's the simplicity of the design that makes the difference. Take the Christy's of London Bowler Fur Felt Hat for instance. A traditional derby hat with lots of style, it salutes the past in a thoroughly modern way. Even those who might not ordinarily look to the past for fashion inspiration are enticed by the vintage appeal of the derby.
The Derby has an Androgynous FlairThere's just something about an accessory originally intended for a man that makes it a little provocative when worn by a woman. Such is the case with the bowler hat. With the height of the crown and smallness of the brim accentuating facial features, it's an almost universally flattering look for men and women alike. Yet its diminutive size is a draw for many women. The Stacy Adams Wool Felt Derby in ivory, is a great example. Working equally well as an accent to men's wear as well as women's fashions, this hat underscores the wonderfully androgynous flair of derby hats. Not to mention, wide brimmed bowler hats are rising in popularity with women. The brim size is typically larger than 3 inches.
Bowler and Derby Hats Capture a Classic StyleAs avant-garde as the derby can be when partnered with cutting-edge attire, it is ultimately a classic. Always on trend and never out of fashion, the derby has earned its place as a fashion classic. Indeed, for hat aficionados, a derby is a wardrobe staple. It's the hat chosen when you need an extra dash of moxie for an otherwise somber outfit or a touch of whimsy for an ordinary ensemble, knowing that this choice will always be right. For example, a derby hat designed in wool felt in a classic shade of walnut, brown, grey or white will look as fresh and fashionable years from now as it does today. That's definitely classic.