Brothers Thomas and William Bowler created the bowler hat in 1849. The Bowler brothers designed the hat to fill a special order from a customer who wanted a new hat that would protect gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches as they rode on horseback.
Landowners employed gamekeepers to manage their land. Gamekeepers raised and released game, fish and wildlife on the property to be sure that there was always enough stock for hunting and fishing.
Gamekeepers were also responsible for making sure no nearby hunters were poaching or hunting on the land without permission. Before the bowler hat, gamekeepers usually wore top hats, which were so tall that they were often knocked off as gamekeepers rode under low-hanging tree branches.
Historians believe the customer who requested the new hat design was Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester. Rumor has it that, when Coke arrived to pick up his new hat, he placed it on the floor and stomped on it twice to test its strength. The hat withstood the test, and Coke was satisfied.
After its creation in England, the bowler hat became popular around the world. Despite what you may see in old Western movies, American cowboys and railroad workers preferred the bowler hat to the traditional cowboy hat because it wouldn't blow off easily in a strong wind.
British railway workers in the 1920s introduced the bowler hat to Peru and Bolivia. In these countries, the bowler hat is known as a “bombin" and is still worn by many women today.
In certain areas of Nigeria, the men wear a bowler hat and carry a walking stick. First introduced by British colonists in the 1900s, the bowler hat and stick are considered fashion accessories and part of the regional costume.