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.
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