Hats and Caps for Men
Hats have been around for centuries - It is unknown when we started to wear them, perhaps it was the first animal skin wrapped around the head of early man to protect from the elements.
Hats are worn for various reasons, be it ceremonial, religious, safety or as a fashion accessory. They were also an indication of social status, in the military hats may denote nationality, branch of service, rank and/or regiment. The Police typically wear distinctive hats such as peaked caps or brimmed hats as worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Some have a protective function. For example, the hard hat protects construction workers' heads from injury by falling objects and a British Police custodian helmet protects the officer's head. Sun hats shades the face and shoulders from the sun, a cowboy hat protects against sun and rain and a Ushanka fur hat with fold-down ear-flaps keeps the head and ears warm. Some are worn for ceremonial purposes, such as the mortarboard, which is worn (or carried) during university graduation ceremonies. others are worn by members of a certain profession, such as the Toque worn by chefs. Hats also have a religious functions, such as the Mitres worn by Bishops and the turban worn by Sikhs.
The bowler hat is said to have been designed in 1849 by the London hat-makers Thomas and William Bowler to solve a problem of an order placed by the firm of hatters Lock & Co. of St James's. Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a customer to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches while on horse back at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.
The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. The identity of the customer is less certain, with many sources suggesting it was William Coke. However research carried out by a nephew of the 1st Earl of Leicester cast some doubt on this story, and it is now believed that the bowler was invented by Edward Coke British soldier and politician, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester.
When Coke arrived in London on 17th December 1849 to collect his hat he reportedly placed it on the floor and stamped hard on it twice to test its strength; the hat withstood this test and Coke paid twelve shillings for it.
From the early 20th century bowler hats were commonly associated with businessmen working in the financial districts, also known as ‘City Gents’. The traditional wearing of bowler hats with City business attire died out in the 1980s. In modern times Bowlers are not common, although the City Gents remain in certain parts of England keeping the tradition alive. The City Gent is arguably the most iconic stereotyped view of an Englishman complete with Bowler and rolled umbrella.