Every once in a while the heavens part, the stars align, lightning strikes thrice, and we are all fortunate enough to bear witness to the perfect trend storm. This magical, unpredictable event, occurred this past year when the invisible hand of men’s style decided that it was time that the bucket hat make a comeback. Six or so decades after English fishermen and farmers began wearing these circular caps to shield themselves from both the rain and the sun, the beloved bucket hat was adopted by an unexpectedly youthful audience. The appropriation of the bucket by this younger market is hardly a coincidence though as it’s been driven by a variety of factors that are as cyclical as the hat itself.
First, we have to consider streetwear, as the bucket hat has long played a critical role in the construction of a rapper’s wardrobe throughout the years. The bucket hat was donned by LL Cool J, Run DMC, and Kurtis Blow as rap blossomed into a multi-faceted genre during the eighties. A decade or so later, the bucket hat was there on the heads of Jay-Z, ODB, and other East Coast rappers as they stormed onto the mainstream charts. The bucket hat reached its mid-millennial peak in 2004 when Cameron Ezike Giles a.k.a. Cam’ron of the Diplomats wore a camo bucket hat (actually a boonie hat if we’re being finicky) in the now-legendary video for his single “Get ‘Em Girls.” Kill Cam’s inclination towards more garish bucket hats has been echoed in recent years by a class of burgeoning rappers that were raised under the influence (both in terms of vocal style and actual style) of many of the aforementioned rappers. The bucket hat has become somewhat of an unofficial trademark for rising rappers including the likes of Schoolboy Q (who seemingly hasn’t been photographed sans bucket in years), Earl Sweatshirt, A$AP Rocky, and Trinidad James.
Simultaneously, the bucket hat has experienced a revival amongst more classically tuned menswearians, specifically within the voracious Japanese market. It was not Kangol capped rappers that spurred this renaissance but rather the original bucket hat wearers of the sixties and seventies such as Gilligan, Hunter S. Thompson, (Take) Ivy Leaguers, and Serpico. Free & Easy street snaps began to showcase bucket hatted subjects, obscure Japanese lookbooks revealed multi-pattern dixie cup caps, and slowly but surely the bucket hat went from goofy to sought after. This shift of the tides grew into a monsoon wave once “dad style,” (which in of itself was a concept that can be traced back to Japanese men’s magazines) became popular here in America.
What’s most fascinating here is how these two seemingly disparate movements have now joined forces to thrust the bucket hat back into the contemporary chapeau conversation. Of course, brands like Orvis, Patagonia, and Filson have never ceased to make bucket hats, primarily from a utilitarian standpoint, but the contemporary collision of more “classic” menswear with streetwear has catalyzed this tremendous bucket hat surge throughout clothing brands large and small. Countless start-up streetwear brands have emerged over the past year to peddle tie-dye and all-over-print bucket hats, while on the more formal side of things, established brands have begun to pepper their accessories collections with bucket hats. Norse Projects, Lock & Co. Hatters, Engineered Garments, Moncler, York Street, and even Thom Browne and Junya Watanabe put out bucket hats this year, and that’s not even taking into account the countless Japanese brands such as Orslow that have just recently begun to bring their buckets stateside. The bucket hat now stands as one of the rare few items that transcends all styles, linking Supreme wearing streetwear heads with elderly gents on Madison Ave. So here’s to the bucket hat, a piece of headgear that truly brings men’s fashion full circle.