The hat's name derives from the stage adaptation of George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby. A hat of this style was worn in the first London production of the play, and promptly came to be called "a Trilby hat".
Traditionally it was made from rabbit hair felt, but now is usually made from other materials, such as tweed, straw, wool and wool/nylon blends. The hat reached its zenith of common popularity in the 1960s; the lower head clearance in American automobiles made it impractical to wear a hat with a tall crown while driving. It faded from popularity in the 1970s when any type of men's headwear went out of fashion, and men's fashion instead began focusing on highly maintained hairstyles.
The hat saw a resurgence in popularity in the early 1980s, when it was marketed to both men and women in an attempt to capitalise on a retro fashion trend.
Lock & Co. Hatters (formally James Lock and Company Limited) is the world's oldest hat shop, the world's 34th oldest family-owned business and is a Royal warrant holder. Its shop is located at 6 St James's Street, London and is a Grade II* listed building.
The company was founded in 1676 by Robert Davis. His son Charles continued the business and took James Lock (1731–1806) on as an apprentice in 1747. James later married Charles Davis's only child, Mary. When Davis died in 1759, James Lock inherited the company from his former master, and the Lock family, James's descendants, still own and run the company today. The shop has been in its current location since 1765.
The company is responsible for the origination of the bowler hat. In 1849, Edward Coke, nephew of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester and the younger brother of Thomas Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester, requested a hat to solve the problem of gamekeepers' headgear. Traditional top hats were too fragile and too tall (often getting knocked off by low branches) for the job. The company commissioned London hat-makers William and Thomas Bowler to solve the problem. Anecdotally, when Coke returned for his new hat, he dropped it on the floor and stamped on it twice to test its strength before paying 12 shillings and leaving satisfied.
Admiral Lord Nelson wore a bicorne of the brand’s into the Battle of Trafalgar complete with eye-shade. The eternally rakish Beau Brummell procured its hats as part of his sartorial arsenal. Winston Churchill adopted their Cambridge and Homburg hats as sartorial signatures and Anthony Eden was never without his trusty Lock Homburg.
Located in the eaves of the building is a workroom from which seasonal women's couture collections are conjured up. The resident milliners also oversee the customisation of men's hats including band and bow changes and brim trimming.
At the back of the shop is a hard-hat fitting room which is adorned with framed and signed head shapes, taken from Lock's unique conformateur, of famous customers past and present, from Admiral Lord Nelson, Oscar Wilde and Douglas Fairbanks Jr (who lived in a flat above the shop) to Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Chan, Cecil Beaton, Michael Palin, Alec Guinness, Jeremy Irons, Donald Sinden, Marc Sinden, Jackie Onassis, Eric Clapton, Duke of Windsor, Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan, Jon Voight, Victor Borge, Peter O'Toole and David Beckham who is often photographed wearing their 'Baker-Boy' style caps. Also in the room is a lit-cabinet displaying the original order (ledger) for Admiral Lord Nelson's hat, the very first bowler hat, the order for the velvet and ermine fur to re-line Elizabeth II's Coronation Crown and a photograph of Winston Churchill in a Lock silk top hat on his wedding day.
Lock & Co. is a Royal warrant holder as Hatter to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Charles, Prince of Wales