I recently purchased a Nils Poll bowler and I thought I'd share some comments about it. Since I don't get out to conventions/festivals as much as I'd like, many of my prop purchases are done sight unseen or having only briefly tried them and forgotten much of what I thought at the time; it is my hope that something like this review will help those in a similar position.
I bought it from Dube Juggling Equipment. The cost was $80.
Note 1: I am an amateur hobbiest juggler and hat manipulator. For completeness sake it should be said that my experience in this area is with only 2 props: Dube Bowlers and my newly acquired Nils Poll hat.
Note 2: Since there are no particular standards for hat trick jargon of which I'm aware, tricks discussed here will use the terminology adopted by TricksWithHats as outlined in an article called "Naming Tricks".
Note 3: I am not familiar with the entire line of Nils Polls hats and my comments are limited to the one available from Dube.
I bought the red one. Note that the Dube website indicates that the red hat is two-tone, "red outside with black inside (for great visibility when performing)." The hat I received is red all the way through, inside and out. This was not a selling point for me but is worth noting in case it is for you. They can make sure you get what you want if you are specific.
The first thing I observed when taking the hat out of the box is that it is much heavier than a standard bowler. As it is made of 3 layers of material and advertised as being heavier, I expected this. What I had not realized is how soft it is. It is not a firm or stiff hat. Of course, had I done a search and found Steven Ragatz's comment about the hat, "Very nice feel and weight if you like a soft hat", I'd have known better what to expect.
Here are the categories of tricks and an evaluation of the hat for executing them:
I don't do twiddles yet; no comment.
The softness of this hat and particularly the flexibility of its brim makes the nose balances that I readily do with the traditional bowler much more difficult.
Initially I found the softness of the hat an impediment to doing effective spins. I don't spin the hat on the bottom of the crown, but rather on its side. I found the denting in of the crown on the tip of the finger to have the effect of slowing down the spin. As I've worked on this a bit more it has become less of a problem and the spins are working well.
I never did much in the area of roll tricks with the traditional bowler hat. The Nils Poll bowler seems, because it is round and has no front, back or sides, to lend itself more to such tricks. In fact in starting to work on rolls along my arms, I had more success with this hat even with only a few
half-hearted attempts. I plan on putting more time into this category of trick.
This hat, owing to its weight and roundness, make tumbles much easier to execute. Tumbles up and down the arm and back which I struggled with with the
traditional style bowler are coming along very nicely now. The roundess, of course, means that there is no need for concern about keeping the hat properly
positioned when doing tumbles. The weight provides extra control. In this area the Nils Poll hat is terrific.
As with tumbles, throws are a category of trick where I find the Nils Poll hat to be extremely effective. The extra weight and softness make landing these tricks on ones head much easier. The hat I got is pretty much a perfect fit for my head; usually, I'd think that this is undesirable as you'd want a slight bit of extra size for landing throws. As it turns out the hat, if thrown minimally accurately lands with a nice plop most times. Hand to head and foot to head throws are no problem. In fact, behind the back hand to head throws which I had previously been unable to do, I'm now landing with little effort. The extra weight is also a great help in terms of control. It is easy to overflip lighter hats, but this one more readily does what you want it to. And doing hand to head throws with the hat turning 2 or 3 (or perhaps more) times end over end also work; lighter hats require much more effort to accomplish this. For throws this hat is wonderful.
I do a trick where I toss a hat up to the top of a cane which is held in a chin balance. The extra weight of this hat make the landing actually much more, ah, palpable. This is overall not terribly good. It can actually hurt a bit when the hat plops onto the cane. The extra weight is also, surprisingly, an extra strain while holding the balance and even makes the cane more likely to slip off ones chin particularly when one is sweating. Similarly with doing a juggle while holding this balance. Interestingly I find it easier to execute the juggle with a Dube bowler on the cane than with no hat at all; the little extra weight seems to aid in keeping the balance stable. The added weight of the Nils Poll though seems make the balance slightly less stable and require more effort to maintain it. Of course, if you're used to balancing chairs, tables, unicycles or other heavier items already, this probably wont be an issue.
As for the tendency of the hat to land on the cane after the toss and then to bounce off and fall, both the Dube and the Nils Poll hats seem to experience this with equal frequency. (Avoiding this problem for either hat, by the way, involves having the hat come down on the cane from higher above it and land straight down onto it. That is less lateral motion.)
Overall this trick is still doable, though somewhat more challenging with the Nils Poll hat.
Dropping the hat back onto ones head, however, is easier with the Nils Poll hat because it is round and there is much less need to worry about positioning.
I only juggle one hat in combination with two or three clubs. I do not do two or three hat juggling. I've only done a bit of this so far so will limit my comments. While the weight of the Nils Poll hat is an advantage, it's softness is not. The jury is still out.
As I said, I bought the red Nils Poll hat. I already had two Dube Bowlers which are more of the traditional "gentleman juggler" look. I was looking a) to try a Nils Poll hat which I heard good things about and b) get a hat that had more comedy potential by itself; which is to say that the Dube hat certainly can be made part of comedy routine, but the Nils Poll hat simply by virtue of how it looks, lends itself more readily to that, I believe. The Nils Poll hat is a bit higher and a bit fatter around than one might expect from just a picture.
Conclusion and recommendation:
I would say that I am very happy with this hat and more so each day I use
it. There are many things that I previously either couldn't do or that clearly would require a great deal of time to master with other hats. Is it making progress come TOO easily for me? I'd say, no, it's simply getting me toward
more difficult and challenging tricks more quickly.
Since I don't have an "act" it is difficult for me to comment on how the look of it fits in. I like the bright red color although my wife detests it, thinking it looks too clownish. Of course, the Poll bowler comes in other colors including a more standard black which are available from Dube and other
Given the tricks this hat has made possible for me, I'd highly recommend it.
It's effective, fun, motivating and great looking, if a bit pricey. I also believe that succeeding at certain manipulations with this hat will make it
easier to nail them with a different hat(s) that presents other challenges due
to shape, stiffness and/or weight. Certainly if you'd like a variety of hats
to use this one should be among them.