The return of the bucket hat

Return of the bucket hat
Finlay Renwick

The bucket hat is back and we’re mad for it…

I was at Glastonbury a month or so ago (a little festival, somewhere west, it’s quite low key) and among the shift and swell of 250,000 people – the music, dancing, shouting, spoon whittling and dodgy pizza stands – I was struck by the sheer volume of bucket hats. Men, women and children in everything from three-figure fancy Italian nylon styles to lads in tatty England football hats.

Since then I’ve been noticing them everywhere, well away from a giant, muddy field in Somerset. Seen on old men sat on park benches in fishing vests and chinos; on kids in plastic shades clutching melted ice creams; and on trendy teenagers in baggy denim and baggier sweatshirts.  

The bucket hat, it would appear, is well and truly back.  

While it might be a staple of 1990s British pop culture (Spike Island, Italia ’90, Madchester, Liam Gallagher with his hands clasped behind his back or bad temperedly whacking a tamborine), the bucket hat began life in slightly less charged surroundings, specifically on the rugged coast and rolling hills of rural Ireland, initially created to serve as a purely functional bit of kit.

Farmers and fishermen, looking to shelter from the wind, the rain and the rare sliver of sunshine, made hats from wool or tweed, fabrics that were naturally weather resistant and relatively abundant. They could handle a beating, had a wide brim for inclement weather and could be folded into a waxed jacket pocket. Later on, as these things tend to go, the bucket hat was adopted by armed forces looking to shade troops in tropical locations. Military standard issue was taken up by the American counterculture - Hunter S Thompson and hip-hop – and later by Liam Gallagher and the aforementioned 1990s Manchester scene. 

Bucket hats

While you could put the bucket resurgence down to the current general 1990s and early 2000s revival present across menswear (big jeans and baggy suits), the trend also conflates nicely with a major and seemingly indefatigable interest in the Great Outdoors and the gear that goes along with it. Fishing, walking, hiking and rock climbing, pursuits that require you to both A) be outside, and B) wear some really good technical clothing. You could say that the bucket hat is returning to its coastal roots, being a functional bit of kit that also happens to suit everyone. 

One of my favourite contemporary ways to wear a bucket is most prevalent in Japan. In Tokyo it’s paired with classic tailoring: suit, shirt, tie, the works, are worn under a parka or raglan-sleeve raincoat in a proper water-resistant fabric, and the whole look is rounded off with a bucket hat to keep the barnet in check and the drizzle out. It combines smart suiting, outdoorsy fabrics, and function all rolled into one cool and useful package.  

From wind-whipped Galway to the Pyramid stage and the bright lights of Shibuya streetstyle, the bucket hat is back, it’s bigger than ever, and it means you’ll never have to worry about carrying an umbrella ever again. 

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