The distinctive dome of the Coke, otherwise known as the bowler, has defined some of modern history's most unforgettable images since it was created by Lock & Co in 1849.
From Charlie Chaplin's slapsticking on the silent screen, to the outlaws and lawmen riding the Wild West, its unmistakable silhouette has made it as much of an icon as any of its wearers.
Although the Coke (pronounced "cook") is celebrated for its style now, its creation stems from something altogether more sensible: nobleman Edward Coke, younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester, wanted a superior hat to that of the top hat which kept falling off his gamekeepers' heads on the Holkham Hall estate in Norfolk. Coke wanted to create a hat that was hardy enough to protect heads from low-hanging branches and poacher attacks so on 25th August 1849, he trod the boards of Lock to place an order.
A prototype was swiftly made by Lock's chief hatmaker, Thomas Bowler, hence how it received its other more recognisable moniker. On inspection, Edward Coke tossed the hat to the floor - and proceeded to jump on it to assess its durability. It duly passed this colourful test and the bill for 12 shillings was settled. To this day the Earl of Leicester continues to purchase the hat, to which his ancestor gave his name, for his gamekeepers after they have completed one year of service.
But the Coke's popularity did not stop on these shores - British railroad workers in western America wore the wind-resistant hat as did Derby-goers and those wishing to rise through the social ranks. But the practical hats were quickly adopted by Wild West outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and Billy and the Kid, before Stetson introduced its 'Boss of the Plains' in 1865. In the 1920's, the Coke hat was even chosen as the official headdress for South American women of Aymara and Quechua, thanks to railroad workers taking them across the pond to Bolivia.
Today the Coke remains one of Lock's best-selling styles, both for suited and booted City-wearers and those who wish to treasure a piece of this story. From being worn by Patrick Macnee in the Avengers and John Cleese in Monty Python to being immortalised in art by Rene Magritte, the Coke is Lock's masterpiece.
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.
Notable customers include Admiral Lord Nelson, Oscar Wilde and Douglas Fairbanks Jr (who lived in a flat above the shop), 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.
Lock & Co. is a Royal warrant holder as Hatter to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Charles, Prince of Wales.
More History and Heritage : https://www.lockhatters.co.uk/heritage/