Lock & Co. Hatters are the oldest manufacturers of men’s hats in the world, and also the oldest family business of its kind still in operation.
The company was founded in 1676 by Robert Davis. His son Charles continued the business and, in 1747, hired the young James Lock (1731-1806) as an apprentice. James later married Charles Davis’ only daughter, Mary. When Davis died in 1759, his son inherited the company, and the company continued to expand.
Today, 340 years later, Lock’s descendants still own and run the prestigious firm, whose flagship store has been located at 6 St. James’s Street in London since 1765.
The highly coveted hats created by Lock & Co. Hatters are made using the best fabrics and the most innovative, elegant and exclusive designs.
The company also holds the Royal Warrant as the official milliner for Prince Philip, consort of Queen Elizabeth II, and his son Charles, Prince of Wales, and recently supplied the hats for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The bowler hat has graced the heads of such illustrious figures as the Duke of Wellington, whose hat is now part of the company’s collection. Also, the valiant Admiral Lord Nelson wore his famous bicorne—made by Lock & Co. Hatters—at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The brilliant writer Oscar Wilde used to show off the label’s latest models as did British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who was a regular bearer of the famous—and very British bowler hat. The model is one of the firm’s exclusive creations and the result of a collaboration between Edward Coke, nephew of Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester and younger brother of Thomas Coke, second Earl of Leicester.
It was Thomas Coke who asked Lock & Co. Hatters to create a smaller hat to solve the problem gamekeepers had with their headgear. Traditional top hats were too fragile and too tall, often getting knocked off by the trees’ lower branches.
The famous bowler hat would become an iconic element in the attire of one of the great characters in the history of cinema, Charlot, played by actor Charles Chaplin. Together with the elegant top hats, the bowler is still one of the flagship models of Lock & Co. Hatters.
If you visit the store on St. James’s Street and want to buy a mythical and exclusive hat made by expert hands, your head will be carefully measured, you will choose the materials and the hat will be done in the same way they have done for more than 300 years. However, you can also buy ready-made hats, both at the London store and through their website.
The most popular current models are Panama and straw hats, formal hats and caps made with cashmere, tweed, cotton and linen, fur hats and folding models, and of course unique hats for ceremonies.
They are all unique pieces created by a firm that exemplifies the best of a centuries-old tradition. ■
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