The bucket hat may be back – searches have gone up by 36% since last month (according to Lyst) while there has been a 51% increase in searches on eBay – but it never really went away.
Recently seen on Billie Eilish, Diplo, Meryl Streep in the film Laundromat and at the spring/summer shows of Bode, Kate Spade and Anna Sui, it is ideal lockdown wear: great for hiding a headful of curls that has been untouched by the hand of a hairdresser.
It is also a hat that screams “it’s summer!” while giving you a Madeline moment. The shape – both charming and pretty silly – evokes a smile and a fizz of memories. This seeming duality has given the hat a longevity that somehow transcends trends.
“The bucket hat evokes a range of things from a range of people,” says Deirdre Clemente, a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style. “Maybe a bucket hat reminds you of trips to the beach or brings to mind the first time you listened to LL Cool J. For me, the bucket hat will always be about the summer of 1993 when I spent many nights at outdoor raves. My bucket hat was neon green. You could find me anywhere in the crowd.”
Indeed, the nostalgia value of the hat is eternally appealing: The Last Dance’s reminded everyone of Dennis Rodman’s classic bucket-hat styles (remember the iconic leopard-print look on The Tonight Show?) while it has been swept up in the trend for retro looks (hi VSCO girls) and a general rewind to a “lithe surfer (or indeed raver) wandering around The Green Fields at Glastonbury” (we see you tie-dye).
For many of us, the Kangol will always be associated with the Def Jam look of the 80s as worn by The Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. It also became a defining look of the Madchester scene (Stone Roses’ Reni) and later Britpop, thanks to Liam Gallagher.
The bucket hat has historically had a glamorous glow-up. Its funky shape can be attributed to the fact that it began life as a utilitarian item for workers to keep the sun and rain off their heads, adopted, along with tracksuits and trainers, by the nascent hip-hop community. “In wearing the hat, you claimed your identify as a maker or fan of hip-hop music,” says Clemente. “The influence of hip-hop on American fashion is profound.”
Still the bucket hat is less of a trend and more of a permanent fixture. “It has transcended so many fashion movements over the years that it doesn’t really have a bracket,” says Wright. “It just keeps coming back. Why? It comes in many different forms but has a universal feature: it is easy to wear,” says Clemente.
“It’s the hat for everyone,” agrees Wright.