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A bowler hat, or derby, is a rounded felt hat commonly worn from the 1850s to the early-to-mid-1900s, especially in Victorian Britain and The Wild West. They were invented as a more compact alternative to a top hat, with the small size, round shape, and harder materials being selected for their original purpose — protecting riders' heads for equestrian country sports (which frequently involved going through trees or simply falling off one's horse). Bowler hats were once considered the national hat of England, and used to be associated with the upper-middle class there, especially with bankers, in the early half of the 20th century.

You can count on a character who wears a bowler hat to be refined (unless, say, he's a villain in a western). In fact, he might even wear a monocle to show his culturedness. The bowler hat hung on in the City of London into the 1960s. In the early 1960s, new recruits to some City law firms got an allowance for the purposes of buying a bowler. A lesser known fact about them (amongst non-wearers) is that they're quite hard (because of both the heavy felt and the shape), which meant that construction foremen (or businessmen visiting a construction site) would sometimes wear them instead of hard hats.


Compare and contrast Dastardly Dapper Derby.

Compare Nice Hat, Sharp-Dressed Man, Quintessential British Gentleman, Man of Wealth and Taste.


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     Anime and Manga 


  • Lucky the Leprechaun, the mascot for General Mills' Lucky Charms cereal, wears a green bowler with a shamrock stuck in it. While not evil, he is a trickster.
  • The British bank Bradford & Bingley portrayed its two namesakes as bowler-hatted city gents. Eventually, its logo became a stylised version of the hat itself.
  • Likewise there was a period when the symbol of the UK Inland Revenue was a stereotyped taxman in pinstripe suit and bowler.


  • Rene Magritte frequently drew men wearing bowler hats. For instance, in "Golconda", the sky above a city street is full of them. They appear to symbolise anonymity, which is why Magritte also wore one in Real Life.


     Comic Books  



  • Sherlock Holmes's friend and biographer Dr. Watson is often portrayed with a bowler hat, as the Quintessential British Gentleman.
  • Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic from Harry Potter, was often described as having a lime green bowler.
  • Sweyn embarrasses his brothers in The Great Brain Does It Again when he returns from high school back east wearing a derby hat along with a fancier, more grown-up, style suit than a boy his age would wear in Adenville.
  • The Night Circus: Any time Marco ventures outside, he is wearing a dashing bowler from a line of seemingly identical hats that were in his flat when he moved in. Isobel looks for a bowler whenever she is expecting him.

     Live Action TV  

  • John Steed of The Avengers is likely the Trope Codifier. His often had a steel plate built into the crown, useful for giving villains a quick clonk on the head.
  • Lord Bowler (so named for his hat) in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. was the Anti-Hero to Brisco's hero.
  • The Czechoslovakian character Pan Tau usually wore a magic Bowler Hat.
  • In the TV adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster, Jeeves' hat of choice is bowler hat.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus often used these as indicative of bankers and accountants.
  • Probably the principal factor in the demise of the bowler hat was "Monty Python's Flying Circus"'s infamous sketch, "The Ministry Of Silly Walks", which commenced with John Cleese, in full Civil Service getup, including bowler hat, walking down Whitehall toward his office, doing an impression of a spider on a hotplate; for ever afterward, anyone foolhardy enough to venture out of doors wearing a bowler risked being accosted by idiots demanding that they do a Silly Walk.
  • A Time Lord dressed to the nines, including a bowler hat, appears in "Terror of the Autons" as a messenger from the High Council, warning the Doctor that The Master was coming to Earth.


  • Jazz singer-pianist Fats Waller had one of these as a trademark.
  • Chap Hop star Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer often sports a stylish derby.
  • Calan frontman Beth Williams-Jones often wears this type of hat for live shows.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • Snoopy of Peanuts wears one of these when he's donning his "World Famous Attorney" persona.




  • The protagonists of Waitingfor Godot wear black bowler hats, unless they need to think, with the exception of Lucky.

     Video Games  

  • Henry Hatsworth, a previous image source for the Quintessential British Gentleman page.
  • Accessible as headgear in SSX 3.
  • The robot butler/companion Codsworth in Fallout 4 can't (or won't) wear any equipment in the game except for one of these. However he can no longer wear it if you modify him at all in the robot work bench.
  • As a robot originally designed to be a gentleman butler for the affluent, Marquis from Battleborn wears a dandy looking derby as part of his ensemble.
  • One of the smashingly classy alternate helmets available to Limbo in Warframe takes the shape of a derby hat with a strange cycloptic 'monocole' in the middle of its face.
  • A charmingly diminutive version appears in Team Fortress 2 as the Tipped Lid, originally given out to those who made charitable donations for the Tip of the Hats event.

     Web Comics  

  • Mr Davenport, the Victorian-serial version of Dave in Narbonic, wears a bowler hat, and considers himself a gentleman.
  • Pickle Inspector from Problem Sleuth wears a bowler hat, in contrast to Problem Sleuth and Ace Dick's fedoras. He's also the most gentlemanly of the three detectives

     Web Original  

     Web Animation  

  • Homsar from Homestar Runner wears one, but he is more demented than dashing. Whenever he speaks, his bowler hat will actually fly off his head for a while until he stops talking.

     Western Animation  

  • The title character of Mr. Benn was always dressed in a black suit and bowler before changing into the costume that would transport him to that week's adventure. At the end of the episode, he would change back into his black suit and bowler hat.
  • Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story.

     Real Life  

  • Sir Winston Churchill
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
    • Styme of The Little Rascals got his trademark derby from Stan himself, who had taken a liking to him.
  • Probably the best place to see large numbers of men wearing Bowler Hats is Belfast or Londonderry on the 12th of July every year: the date is the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690; when the deposed King James II attempted to capture Londonderry, the apprentice boys shut the city gates and kept him out; now , every year, the Orange Order (an organisation analogous to the Freemasons in the rest of Britain) holds a mass procession through the city wearing full regalia of grey suit, white gloves, purple sash, and all topped off with a resplendent Bowler Hat, accompanied with flute bands and led by a massive "Lambeg" drum.

Alternative Title(s): Bowler Hat Of Awesome


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