From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The bowler became a cultural identifier, ironically with two completely different meanings: throughout most of England it was associated with professional servants, e.g. butlers, and so upon seeing a man wearing a bowler in a pub or on the street, it was fairly safe to assume he was a "gentleman's gentleman," meaning a valet, manservant or butler; in London itself, however, it was associated with professionals, and so a man wearing a bowler in The City could safely be assumed to be a lawyer, stockbroker, banker or government official. As the traditional headwear of London city 'gents' it has become something of an English cultural icon. The bowler was also to some extent adopted by the surrealist movement, particularly by Magritte, as an object which typified the absurdity of "normal life" and appeared in many surrealist paintings in one guise or another.