Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Charlot to Chanel

The prestigious firm of John Locke marched over to the firm of the Bowler boys in the mid-1800's to have one of their new designs manufactured. Thus the Bowler, or Derby, was born.....created for a landowner, rooted in English country life, it soon became an urban icon.  Worn well into the 20th Century, first by immigrant roustabouts on familiar grounds, then by upstart politicians, and so into the well bred atmosphere of the upper classes.  The Bowler was a tad bit more relaxed than the ubiquitous tophat, long popular as an evening item for gentlemen, and as a daytime proclamation of their class, worth, or economic level.
Somehow, it became world famous on the head of Charlie Chaplin, and 1920's slapstick comedians like Laurel and Hardy, and later, on Lou Costello, of Abbott and Costello.  Always a prop, yet tied into their personnae as much as an old shoe, the Bowler made it's way into popular culture and its history.  
In the 1960's it was seen on the heads of John Steed, in The Avengers, then later on Odd Job, of James Bond fame, Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and in Clockwork Orange.  We all know these references, and we can easily recognize the Bowler because of them.  The current Chanel ad campaigns have brought the bowler into the forefront of fashion once again, on the heads of Coco wannabees.......or any fashionable dame with the right face for the shape of this particular hat.  Thank you, Mr. Lagerfeld, and to the beauteous Keira Knightley for helping to advance the Cause of the more chink in the armor, eh, what?

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