There are two main styles of hat used for manipulation, the
bowler hat (or "derby" in American English) and the
top hat, also known as a topper.
The bowler hat is a short rounded hat, traditionally worn
by bankers and businessmen in late 19th and early 20th
The top hat is a tall, square cornered hat that
has been part of formal dress since the early 19th century.
Traditionally the gentlemen of a bridal party still wear
top hats with a morning suit.
The bowler hat is more suitable for body rolling moves
in manipulation, and the topper for comedy and magic moves.
Your choice of hat largely depends on the type of skills you want to learn
and your stage style and character (if you want to perform).
There are two different systems for sizing hats, one of
which uses metric measurements and the other uses imperial
Simply take a tape measure and measure the circumference of
your head (around the place where the hat will sit) in
Measure the circumference of your head (around the place
where the hat will sit) in inches. Divide this measurement by pi
(3.14) and round the resulting figure up to the nearest 1/8 of
an inch. This number is your hat size. It is usually easier and
more reliable to try a few hats on rather than trying to work it
out this way.
If you need to convert between the two systems,
size chart which may be useful
Hats for Manipulation
There are two major manufacturers and suppliers of hats for
Dubé are a New York based supplier and manufacturer
of juggling equipment who buy traditional wool felt hats and brand
them for resale. These are good quality hats that will last
reasonably well. They are soft enough not to hurt when they land
on your head. However, they do wear out and you will need to stiffen
them and occasionally paint them with ink as they turn brown with age.
Dubé hats are all black, but the bowlers have a cream lining.
Nils Poll "Manipollator" Hats are made by Danish
manufacturers Andersen and Berner and are sold by a wide variety
of juggling retailers. They are made specifically for juggling,
and are actually three hats secured inside each other to make them
more durable to the abuse they will receive.
The opening on these hats is round (different to the oval opening on most hats) which means you don't have to worry about getting the hat the right way round.
Nils Poll hats come as bowlers (which are quite tall), toppers and
short toppers that are similar in height to the bowlers but have
square corners. They come in a wide variety of colours.
Both of the authors of this website use Nils Poll bowler hats.
In 2004 Dubé started to sell a double weight hat, made by Anderson and Berner, which is the same shape as their Bowler. It's a good hat, heavy and sturdy like the Nils Poll hats, but with more classy styling. However the opening isn't round, so you do have to take care to make sure you put it on the heasd the right way round. They're available in all the same colours as the Nils Poll hats.
At the time of writing they're only available from Dubé and Larger than Life, who are our mates, please check them out.
Renegade Juggling started stocking an Anderson and Berner-made "Pork Pie" hat, which is now also available from Larger than Life too. This is short and relatively wide brimmed with an oval opening in the usual range of colours. Trickswithhats.org haven't been able to play with one for very long but it looks like it will be better suited to some performer's characters.
All these brands are quite expensive (around £50 each). If this is outside your budget try these sources:
It is possible to buy top hats reaching the end of their lives from
wedding hire shops. They usually have a bit of cosmetic damage, but
they will give you an early indication whether hat manipulation is for
Bear in mind that ex-hire hats tend to be very firm and will hurt a
bit as they land on your head.
Make your own
If you can find an old woollen felt trilby in a charity or second
hand clothes shop a reasonable hat for manipulation can be made from it.
It will be lighter than a professionally made one, but will also be a
fraction of the price.
We've even written some instructions on making your own.