What's the Difference Between a Derby Hat and a Bowler Hat? -Stephen, Albuquerque NM

We're not certain there's any difference at all.  From what we've seen, the terms have always been used interchangeably.  Having said that, across the pond in much of Europe, the term "bowler" seems to be common, whereas here in the US, we tend to hear derby more frequently.  As a matter of fact, a quick search reveals some other less common monikers as well: the derby hat is occasionally referred to as not only a bowler hat, but also a  billycock, coke hat or bombin depending upon your part of the world.

Where Did These Names Originate?

Permit us to go on and on about the origin of the bowler/derby hat, and we will include an explanation of the names as well, because this hat has an interesting and rich history:

Conflicting Stories About the Bowler's Origin

In the mid 1800's, an original derby style is said to have been worn by politician Edward Coke.  Around the same time, polo players were making requests for tight-fitting, low crown hats that were basically used as helmets to protect the riders' heads from low tree branches on the polo field.  It is not known which of these wearers were the original inventors, but we tend to think it was the polo players.  After all, when's the last time a politician had an original idea?

Bowlers Take Off Among All Classes

Within a matter of a few years, the derby hat style took off as the outfit of the working class.  A tight fitting, quality hat was a necessity around this time period as protection from dirt and grime in soot-filled industrial revolution times.  Towards the late 1800's the bowler hat style was adopted by the upper class and aristocracy, finding its way into military and police uniforms in Europe.  In some countries, the derby is used in military and police uniforms over 100 years later.

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