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Choosing a Hat

When it comes to hat manipulation, if there's one thing you need it's a hat. We've put together a short guide to the different styles of hats available to you whatever your price range!

Bowler Hat

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 centuries.

Top Hat

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).


Hat Sizes

There are two different systems for sizing hats, one of which uses metric measurements and the other uses imperial measurements.


Simply take a tape measure and measure the circumference of your head (around the place where the hat will sit) in centimetres.


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, has a hat size chart which may be useful

Hats for Manipulation

There are two major manufacturers and suppliers of hats for manipulation:


Dubé Bowler and Top Hat

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

Nils Poll Bowlers

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.

The Others

Anderson & Berner double weight bowler - click for larger image

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.

Pork Pie Hat

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. 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 you.

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.

Author: LP Date created: 2003-01-20 00:00:00
Last Editor: Mike Date edited: 2006-05-08 12:15:44
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