Whether you’re a fan of 90s rap music or just need a functional hat to keep the sun off your neck, you’re likely familiar with the bucket hat. These lightweight, colorful hats can be worn in countless contexts and have been present in pop culture for decades. So, where does the bucket hat get its name?
The bucket hat got its name from its unique shape. Its deep, circular base with a wide brim that gently slopes down resembles an overturned bucket on the wearer’s head. This shape has gone from purely practical to a fashion accessory since its origins in the 1900s.
In the rest of this article, we’ll explore the unique characteristics of the bucket hat as well as its unique origin story. We’ll also see how the hat has evolved and the other styles of hats it’s influenced since its introduction.
What Is a Bucket Hat?
Although the bucket hat has been made from various materials throughout its history, you’re most likely to find it made from cotton or possibly wool these days. Bucket hats often have embellishments like small eyelets to allow the air to circulate around the wearer’s head.
The rim of this hat is characteristically wide and slopes downward gently. It’s not a stiff brimmed hat. Instead, the brim is naturally angled down for sun protection or pure style. You can find cheap cotton bucket hats for a few dollars or designer options that could cost you hundreds.
The base of the hat is quite fitted to your head. When you wear a bucket hat, it loosely resembles a bucket being turned over and placed on your head. The hat gets its name from this signature bucket-like shape.
While wearing a bucket on your head might not sound like the most fashionable style, the bucket hat has found its place in the wardrobe of many stylish celebrities and on runways around the world. Let’s take a look at the history of the bucket hat and all the ways this unique shape has been embraced in the last century. Check out these super popular bucket hats on Amazon.
A History of the Bucket Hat
The first version of the bucket hat appeared around the turn of the 20th century in Ireland.
Fishermen of the time wore a wool version of the bucket hat that was ideal for the conditions they were accustomed to working in. The lanolin in the material was naturally waterproof, making it ideal for any dreary, rainy weather. Additionally, the shape of the brim would protect their faces and neck from the elements, which could include both sun and rain. Ever wondered why people put fish hooks on their bucket hats? Find out here.
The hat dried out quickly and was also easily foldable. It could be tucked away in a pocket quite easily. This feature helped the hat catch on in popularity and spread outside of its home country of Ireland.
The Bucket Hat & the 1900s
Fast forward to the 1940s, and we see the first militarized version of the bucket hat became popular in Israeli military forces. They tweaked the design and materials to be optimal for fighting in the desert. The military forces swapped out the thick wool material and replaced it with lighter cotton options, such as canvas.
The Israeli forces needed headwear that would keep them protected from the strong sun. They added a few spots for ventilation to keep their heads cooler when wearing the hat for long periods. Read more about eyelets in hats in this article. The use of the hat by the Israelis was successful, and the US military took notice of this innovation in headwear.
During the Vietnam war, the US saw the need for a hat that would protect the faces and necks of American troops from the conditions of the Vietnamese jungles. They began to mass-produce army green bucket hats for US soldiers. The militarized version of the bucket hat made it a lighter, more breathable version than the original.
The Mainstream Bucket Hat
It’s this version that we are most familiar with today. By the 1960s, its shift into the mainstream had begun. On the famed American TV show Gilligan’s Island, the titular character wore a signature bucket hat throughout the show’s run. You can also spot a bucket hat on Bill Murray’s character in the classic comedic film, Caddyshack.
In the 1980s, the bucket hat continued to spread in its popularity. This time, it took hold in rap and hip-hop communities across the United States. It became an iconic fashion choice for many rappers in the 1990s. LL Cool J may be most memorable in his red bucket hat, but others before him like Run-DMC and Big Bank Hank (part of the Sugar Hill Gang) wore bucket hats as well. Read more about hats worn by hip-hop artists in this article.
Nowadays, you can spot many successful musical artists wearing a bucket hat from time to time. These musicians can cover a range of styles, from Jay Z to Justin Bieber to even Rhianna. The bucket hat also shows up on high fashion runways, with top designers incorporating elevated versions of the hat into their signature outfits. Go here to discover why the bucket hat is so popular.
The Bucket Hat Around the World
While we tend to call it a bucket hat in the United States, this hat has taken on various names and nicknames around the globe. The early Irish versions of this hat were called a “fisherman’s hat” and an “Irish walking hat.” In Australia, a military version of the hat is known as the “giggle hat” due to its perceived comical appearance.
Bucket Hat Variations
The unique shape of the bucket hat is responsible for the origin and development of other hats. The Boonie hat, for example, is a hat that took its inspiration from the bucket hat and turned it into a highly militarized piece of headgear.
Before fighting in Vietnam, a version of the bucket hat was given to military troops and was called the “Daisy Mae.” The name came from a female cartoon character popular at the time. When the Vietnam War broke out and the need for tropical, military headgear became severe, that’s when the Boonie was born. The Boonie hat became the version of the bucket hat given to American soldiers fighting in Vietnam.
In the early days of the Boonie hat, the demand was so great that these hats were often made out of recycled materials. They were typically made in olive green or camouflage to make them optimal for military use. Additionally, insect nets were also added to protect the wearer from mosquitos and other pests in the jungles.
By the end of the Vietnam War, this style of hat became a standard-issue item and continues to be part of the US Military Uniform today. You can spot the difference between a Boonie and a bucket hat with slight variations to the design.
The part of the bone that covers your head is typically not as deep as that of a bucket hat. The thought behind this is to obscure the silhouette of the soldier’s head, using the rim to create a different shape than that of a typical head. This helps to conceal American forces when they could be in view of an enemy.
The bucket hat has come a long way, from its humble beginnings with Irish fishermen all the way to the high fashion runways worldwide. It’s served both functional and fashionable purposes and has become the go-to headpiece for many military servicemen and women worldwide. While its name may come from its resemblance to a bucket, its rich and varied cultural impact has taken on a greater significance.