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When it comes to fashion, aesthetics play a significant role. However, many fashion staples have had a lasting impact because they are not only fashionable but also functional. One such item was the bucket hat.
The Origin of Bucket Hats
The bucket hat appeared in the early 1900s in Ireland as a way to protect farmers and fishermen from the elements. The downward-slanting brim helped shield wearers from the rain. The name “bucket hat” is thought to have been derived from its shape, resembling an inverted bucket.
The first bucket hats were simple and unadorned, primarily focused on function over fashion. They were constructed from raw wool, which naturally contained lanolin, a waxy substance that made the material water-resistant. They were also easy to clean, and you could fold them to fit in your pocket, making them highly portable.
Materials used in the production of the hats were also locally sourced. Ireland’s rich sheep farming tradition provided ample raw wool, making the bucket hat an accessible and affordable option for everyday workers.
This combination of price and functionality made bucket hats a must for Irish farmers and fishermen who had to be outside regardless of weather conditions.
Bucket Hats and The Military
While the bucket hat began its life as an accessory for Irish farmers and fishermen, its design versatility quickly made it an appealing option for military use. During World War II, bucket hats became part of the standard issue gear for troops, especially those based in rainy climates or the tropics.
Years later, bucket hats became a standard issue for the troops during the Vietnam War. These hats were made of olive cotton for camouflage and were used to protect the heads and necks of soldiers. Since troops were stationed in jungles, the lightweight cotton hats provided more relief from the heat than the traditional wool alternatives would have.
The use of the bucket hat by the military led to its assimilation into various cultures around the world. Soldiers returning from wars brought back these hats, sparking interest and leading to its broader adoption.
Bucket Hats in the 1960’s
While the bucket hat served as a functional piece of clothing for many years, it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became fashionable. At the height of the mod movement, new bucket hats were made of felt and other stiff fabrics to maintain a particular aesthetic for women’s hats. However, the traditional tweed fabric remained popular among men throughout the 1970s.
Hip Hop & Bucket Hats in the 1980’s
In the 1980s, the bucket hat became the sought-after headgear for rappers in the hip-hop community. High-profile rappers and hip-hop artists like LL Cool J, Run-DMC, and Big Daddy Kane wore bucket hats in music videos, concerts, and album covers.
In the hip-hop world, the bucket hat quickly became a symbol of street style and artistic flair. It was more than just functional headwear; it was a statement.
Many rappers wore this style of hats in music videos and on album covers. However, despite its popularity among rappers, the bucket hat never quite acquired the fame of other hats like the baseball caps.
Public Perception & Pop Culture
Some believe the reason for the hat’s lack of popularity has to do with its utilitarian roots. Others believe its association with characters like Bob Denver from the TV show “Gilligan’s Island” has impacted the general perception of the hat.
The Modern Revival
Bucket hats persist as a style option and even make appearances on the runway from time to time. Within the last decade, several designers have tried to revive the hat by creating variations on the old design. That includes bringing the hat back to its functional, waterproof roots.
The association of bucket hats with hip-hop has been so strong that they are often immediately linked with the genre. Brands like Kangol, Fila, and Adidas have all released their own versions, some even collaborating with artists to create special edition bucket hats.
There is a niche market for bucket hats among professional archers. That’s because the flexible brim is perfect for shielding an archer’s eyes from the sun while not interfering with the bow string.
While we don’t see crowds filled with bucket-hatted heads, there’s no denying it’s a favorite in certain circles. Even though the bucket hat hasn’t made a full-fledged return to fashion, it’s still considered a classic hat. It likely won’t go away anytime soon.