Up until the last few years, I'd never had a love or desire for 'old' things; I was only ever interested in the new: vintage clothing; charity shop finds and antiques were of absolute zero interest to me. Even on holiday, when I should have been rooting out unusual fabrics, leather goods and jewellery, I was always on the look out for a Topshop or a retailer I knew from home.
This changed six months ago when I found myself in a secluded village in Oxford: Steeple Aston. It was here I came across a huddle of antique rooms, nestled in the country lane. They were shy-looking things - large wooden sheds for those people who didn't realise their purpose - however hidden inside were some really lucky finds. And here comes the main point of this piece: I am now a proud owner of a 1930s, Dunn&Co bowler hat.
Yes, I know it doesn't sound much, however having fully looked over the hat itself, I am intrigued by the history of this find. Dunn&Co actually folded in 1996 having been a successful menswear retailer since 1886, however that is practically all the information I can find on the company. As a rival of the infamous Lock&Co hatters (which interestingly were the initial creators and stockists of the bowler hat in 1850) I would have expected there to be floods of information online and even more in books. All I have managed to find, aside from this information, is an old photograph of the Dunn&Co building located on the Strand, Piccadilly Circus.
It is a sad image as, although I have no idea if the building is still there, seeing the image of where it was made and holding the hat in my hands is a slightly odd emotion. If I hadn't of found this object in an antique dealers in Oxford, it's history and social purpose would have never been fully appreciated. Although typically considered an item worn by middle-class men during the early 20th century, the bowler became a hat that bridged social classes rather then creating them.
My bowler still bears the original Dunn&Co label inside with an address and manufacture label and has a cute, petite bow to signify the back of the hat that has been worn down over time as men or women have worn it. As is the case for the majority of bowler hats, the material is felt and incredibly sturdy; if it wasn't so loved it could be almost be confused with the new.
Celebrity stars Jude Law and Colin Firth have both been seen sporting one in the last year, while androgynous styles on the catwalk for AW11 have encouraged women to style the look. Over time the bowler has gone from a strictly menswear item, to something worn by all as a fashion statement. Although I haven't quite plucked up the courage to wear mine as of yet, I'm incredibly proud to own it. The more I look at it, the more I appreciate it and the more I want to wear it. I just need to dig out my patent brogues, crisp white shirt and black, pencil skirt and I'll be ready to go.
Follow Rebecca Stevens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Dairymilk3