Archive for the ‘Designs’ Category

The Bowler Comes Back
November 22, 2010

The bowler began as an English hat style, originating back 160 years ago.  Its popularity spread across continents and class till it could be said that it was infused into the subconscious of Western culture.  The bowler broke the mold of what hats were prior to its entrance.  It is no surprise that, as hats are coming back into prominence, it is also enjoying renewed popularity.

Designed by Lock’s of St. James Street in 1850 for Sir Thomas William Coke, this was the first hat to have a hard top, a smart function for its commissioner was a game warden and would frequently go horse riding.   At first it was called the coke hat, yet as it grew in popularity with the London city gents, it took on the name bowler, since the design was in fact being produced by the Bowler family of Southwark.  Soon the bowler was offered in flexible styles as well, bridging a gap between the soft felt styles of the lower classes and the stiffer top hat styles of the upper classes.  The bowler was the first hat to be mass produced, making it more affordable and popular with the middle class.  It enjoyed many decades of prominence in men’s fashion, until it was surpassed by the fedora in the 1920s.

I have heard many people disagree on what is considered a derby and what is a bowler, usually mentioning something to do with differing shapes and sizes.  They are, however, essentially the same hat.  The bowler took on various dimensions at different times, and was called a derby when it came to America.  The derby was worn popularly by all classes of American tradesmen and artisans.

Hats typically denoted rank in society, but the bowler was the first hat worn across class and did not signify one particular mode of business.  Interestingly, it was one of the few hats chosen by stage and vaudeville entertainers, perhaps because it had become an icon of industrialization and power.  Charlie Chaplin most famously employed it to express the poor man’s woes.  Today, it is commonly seen as a comedic hat due to this legacy, yet its popularity with the creative genre of steampunk has now given this style a firm heading in the arts world as well.

The extent to which this hat seeped into the fabric of society is seen in Rene Magritte’s use of it as an cultural emblem in his surrealist paintings.

You can find a nice version of a beaver felt bowler in O’Lover Hats’ Made to Order Fall/Winter line.

Beached Trash Given New Residence
September 22, 2010

I have loved wandering and exploring beaches since I was a little girl in Seattle.  My family would take day outings to various locations around Puget Sound, and I anticipated the endless discovery that turning over rocks and examining tide pools produced.

Many stories have brought to awareness the damaging effects of the surplus of trash that we people continue to spew, and this fact would not be disputed by anyone who takes a trip to the local beach.  You cannot escape the plastic bags, styrofoam, soda bottles, cigarette buts, and endless varieties of trash lodged between rocks and sticking out from the sand.  Come back again at low tide to see how thick it really is. Much of the polystyrene becomes broken down so it mixes evenly in with the rocks and pebbles, purporting to be a part of the natural landscape.

Oddly, the multicolored plastic can at times appear beautiful, if one forgets the difficult ecological implications of our garbage working its way into the food chain.  I was inspired to clean up beaches in Alameda and incorporate the trash I found into some of my designs.

trim: plastic fishing ball with plastic packing strips

trim : tin lid with tab

trim: plastic bag

To learn more about the effects of our trash on the ecosystem visit the beautiful and disturbing work of photographer Chris Jordan who chronicles the death of pelicans in the most remote places in the Pacific.

The Boater
June 4, 2009

IMG_2556Boaters, also known as Sailors, are as dashing today as they were when first worn in the 18th century by British sailors.  They are sporty straw hats, usually with narrow crown and flat top and rigid round brim.  Though its dimensions and trimmings have varied with style trends, the Boater possesses an unmistakable appearance of fun and relaxation that is cemented in our subconscious due to its rages of popularity through time.

 

The Boater’s fun-loving attitude was first expressed in the 1880s by women who made them the hat of the decade due to their sporting image.  This was a time when women became active participants in sports such as bicycling.  They wore their light colored straws with a strip of dark trim above puffed sleeved white blouses, dark neckties and dark full skirts.

 

The Italian Gondoliers also adopted the Boater in the 1880s. The Gondoliers trimmed the crisp angles of straw braid with a long doppio natro, the natro usually in navy and red (stripe). This sleeker lined style, with a wider and shallower crown, adjusted the sporting theme of boating to also connote outdoor leisure activities, as a boat ride through Venice elegantly typifies.

 

Like spaghetti, the Boater came to America by way of immigrants.  So great and prolonged was its public appeal that it was given the name “the hat of the people”. Its influence spanned social spheres.  It was a favorite for vaudeville entertainers and their fans. During pre-war times, the Boater was thought to be worn by some FBI agents as a sort of unofficial designation. The hat’s popularity with Classic Hollywood and the American image can be seen in its namesake comedy, “The Italian Straw Hat” (1927).  For decades on, Hollywood stars like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire further popularized the Boater with American audiences, wearing these dapper hats while wowing audiences with their wit and dance.

 

The Boater’s image undoubtedly maintains strongest associations with gaiety, boats and outdoor leisure.  Its attitude is seen clearly in the lighthearted 1950’s when its popularity was so widespread that it was worn by all.

 

Wear your inner Boater this summer.  Or transform yourself from the inside out with one of the new mini-boaters at http://www.oloverhats.esty.com.