STYLE AND CULTURE
CULT ITEM: BUCKET HAT
By Matt Glazebrook, 3 August 2018
If the Fendi, Valentino and Versace menswear shows are anything to go by, it looks like the bucket hat is here to stay as the retro accessory to get on board with. Perhaps it's the humble bucket's versatility that makes it such a phoenix-like headgear choice: after all, how many other garments are equally at home on the heads of rhyme-slinging rap superstars, street-styling fashionistas, 80s Australian cricketers and gardening pensioners? Not many. To try to get to the bottom of its enduring appeal, we delve into the history of this most distinctive (and divisive) lid below.
The bucket hat first acquired its unique shape as part of the outerwear arsenal for turn-of-the-century Irish farmers and fishermen. The sloping brim helped sluice rainwater away from the noggin of the wearer (fairly essential, we imagine, for Irish farmers and fishermen), while the foldable cloth structure allowed for easy pocket stowage if the clouds parted. As the 20th century progressed, this humble headgear passed from the peasantry to the landed gentry, reimagined as a tweed 'walking hat' for the leisure classes (as modelled by Sean Connery in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade).
The bucket's practicality meant that a lightweight, canvas iteration proved popular wherever standing around in the sun was required, from anglers and cricket players to army grunts and desert-based gonzo journalists (Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas author Hunter S Thompson was a celebrated devotee). But it wasn't until a fresh-faced rapper out of New York named LL Cool J stuck a fuzzy Kangol version on his head that the bucket hat emerged as a true youth style icon.
Across the Atlantic, it was guys with guitars rather than men with mics who claimed the bucket as a key staple of on-stage style. Stone Roses drummer Reni was rarely pictured without his eyes obscured by the bucket's brim in the late 80s and early while, a few years later, frontman Liam Gallagher found the classic floppy brim ideal for glaring out moodily from. Even today, no festival is complete without a few roving gangs of lads clad in buckets and shirts, affecting the traditional Britpop look.