Only 24 hours to spend in London; what should I see...? London Advice: British English
Get acquainted with the English you'll hear in London... History: A century of London on film
Video clips starring London, from the 1890s to the 1980s... Music: Reggae & Ska in London
Imported from Jamaica, Reggae and Ska took root in London... Buildings: London's tallest buildings
After years of stasis, London is building upwards. Main ones here... Blog Highlights: Great London Eccentrics
The human mole, Stanley Green & the Flying Pieman of Holborn Hill... Who Are Londoners?: Second World War
1940-42, London suffered sustained bombing during the Blitz... Art & Culture: The British Museum
A trip to London minus the British Museum, is a partial trip... Hidden London: Brockwell Lido
For several weeks a year, London temperatures are smoking. Cool in the pool...
In the minds of many abroad, painfully anachronistic as it is - exists an image of a Londoner, wearing a pinstripe suit, taking a red bus to work with briefcase, furled umbrella and a bowler hat perched on his head. Monty Python produced numerous sketches featuring this kind of commuter, perhaps perpetuating the myth during its death throes. It was a look that was firmly on the way out in the 1960s. During my extensive time in London I've seen only three people wearing a bowler hat, once near the Royal Exchange, also with a luxuriant handlebar moustache - he was no doubt just another British eccentric. The other two were both on TV news reports from the City of London. During the first Gulf War (actually the second - the first between Iran and Iraq, quietly forgotten, was how Iraq acquired its arsenal of dated weaponry), CNN was an emerging channel and with the news that 'dirty nuclear devices' may be detonated in London there was an immediate scramble to get the view of the man on the street. Two of the three interviewed by CNN had pinstripes and bowler hats - where they got them, who knows? Perhaps they dressed them that way. The point being, that people wearing bowler hats to work died off decades earlier, but at one time they were so numerous that trying to find a hat-free head would have been a task. Where did bowler hats come from, why were they so popular and ultimately why did they disappear from the streets of London? Read on.
History of the Bowler HatLock & Co. are a company of hat makers, still in St. James's, London where they've been since 1676. Edward Coke the brother of the Earl of Leicester wanted a hat to protect the heads of gamekeepers, that would deflect low branches and not blow off in a stiff breeze. The year was 1849 and Victoria had been on the throne for a mere dozen years. Lock & Co. commissioned hat makers Thomas and William Bowler to design the hat, which is how it earnt its name (they're sometimes called coke hats - pronounced 'cook'). The dome of the hat is protected by adding shellac, a tough resin extracted from insects. Coke stamped on the hat twice and it survived, so he paid 12 shillings for it and a new fashion was born. The name switched to bowler when the brothers started churning out 60,000 a year (in America it's called the Derby, after the horse race where it was de rigueur).