Mad Hatters

www.thelegendsoflondon.wordpress.comJames Lock & Co, a family-owned company in St James Street, Mayfair, is a famous hatter which has been making hats for the British gentleman since 1676. Then, in the late 19th century a man called Coke requested a practical hat for his gamekeepers. He wanted a hat that wouldn’t get caught in trees – possibly curved. He also wanted it strong to protect the gamekeepers from any blows from poachers. He produced a rough design for the family to work from. When he collected it he took it out onto the street and jumped on it, to ensure it was satisfactory. Not long afterwards a company called Bowler Bros started producing these hats in large numbers – hence bowler hats!

And ‘mad as a hatter’? Mercury was used in the felting process, which made hat makers a bit strange!

Dawn Denton ©



  1. Hi! that same bowler hat is part of the traditional Bolivian costume for women. Apparently at the beginning of C19th when Bowler hats became out of fashion, an entrepeneur travelled overseas with a shipload and convinced the Bolivians that this was high fashion among women in Britain. He sold the lot and they still wear the hats to this day!

  2. I love the Bolivian export story too, thanks for that! One quibble with your post, Dawn – Lock have been making (many other types of) hats since 1676, but the ‘bowler’ was first made only in the mid-19th century.

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