CLIQUE WEAR: the bucket hat
The bucket hat is back. Over the last two seasons, those who know what’s what in fashion cannot have failed to notice its resurgence. But it never really went away. It was just lying dormant. Icons never die.
Wikipedia tells us that the Bucket Hat was born in the early 20th century, probably in Ireland and most likely in an area where it regularly rained cats and dogs.
It then carved out a niche for itself as the headwear of choice for fly-fishermen, hunters, mountain climbers and other fans of the great outdoors. Its first “swag” use came when the wide-eyed girls of Carnaby Street donned a slightly more bell-shaped version to protect themselves from the rain. But the bucket hat nevertheless remained the kind of hat your dad might wear. It was not yet the accessory everyone wanted. It was missing a poster boy.
The wind changed in the mid-1980s, when Reni from the Stone Roses brought it back into vogue. He was soon followed by Britain’s new generation of e-popping youngsters. Baggy trousers, checked shirt or football shirt, military parka and bucket hat was the quintessential combo, often bearing the labels of the leading sportswear brands of the period, such as Fila, Tacchini, Ellesse and Slazenger.
This was a time when groups of lads with guitars intermingled with those with TR-808s, all with an innate sense of style, whose influence continued to be felt for many years to come.
In 1996, the leading figures of the Britpop movement, Oasis and company, were not averse to a bucket hat or two.
Still in the mid-80s, on the other side of the pond this time, a 16-year-old boy who could not live without his radio or his bucket hat became one of the first artists signed by Def Jam, a signing which proved a masterstroke. Overnight, LL Cool J found himself catapulted to stratospheric fame and, with him, so did the bucket hat by Kangol, a British brand previously known only in retirement homes.
With LL as its driving force, the entire hip hop world adopted the hat. Kangol was the brand of choice for RUN DMC, Eric B & Rakim, Slick Rick and millions of anonymous members of the public, but it was an unbranded version that would come to be the trademark of Erick and Parrish from EPMD.
In France, however, be it among baggy-trouser wearers or hip hop enthusiasts, the bucket hat never really caught on. In the 1980s, it was impossible to find Kangol in Paris, and the few guys who did wear it had better have a reputation or know how to handle themselves, or they might lose it on their way down a metro corridor.
The baggy-pants-and-bucket-hat combo looked too much like camping gear, and we were just too far from Manchester for the look to capture kids’ imagination.
Come the 1990s, baggy pants fizzled out. The pioneering hip hop generation gave way to the next, but the bucket hat’s success was built on firmer foundations, and it began to be spotted once again on the heads of trendsetting young gentlemen. In the early 2000s, Nas, Method, Raekwon and others wore the bucket hat with pride. Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, military models… All the experts thought the bucket hat was here to stay.
Alas, France was once more lagging behind. Fortunately, the Arsenik brothers, who boasted one of the best French rap looks of all time, gave the bucket hat pride of place, donning the Lacoste model, whose qualities need no introduction.
And then, fashion being the rollercoaster that it is, the bucket hat fell from grace a little. It was no longer centre-stage, but it continued to enjoy a large and devoted following.
As the third millennium entered its second decade, a new school or rappers brought up on fashion and untrammelled by ghetto dress codes reappropriated the bucket hat, thanks to Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt and Kid Cudi, among others.
And for once, France latched on to the trend immediately. Gradur, a man rarely seen without his bucket hat, dedicated a track to it, and stylish Gen Y-ers now pair it with their Asics Gel Lyte III.
The bucket hat never really dies, just waxes and wanes.
And in my view, it owes its indomitability to its utilitarian origins. As long as there are old men who go fishing, there will always be young upstarts to steal their style.
Credit: Brick Stowell