For the longest time hats were a measure of one’s social status and one did not go out in “polite society” without covering one’s head. Even the very first baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers, wore hats not to protect their heads from the sun, but because “they were respectable men in a public space.”
Today, a hat is not required to be considered polite or respectable, and while we might associate certain types of hats with the Kentucky Derby or the Queen of England, nowadays hats are just another way of expressing yourself through fashion. From fedoras to bucket hats, from beanies to snapbacks, hats are arguably the most important accessory you wear. This is especially true when it comes to streetwear and urban wear. Let’s break it down by type of hat:
Until the late 80s, the bucket hat was most likely most associated with the white topper Gilligan wore on “Gilligan’s Island” – not very cool. Then LL Kool J started sporting a red Kangol and soon the bucket hat became a staple in Hip Hop. Buckets may go in and out of fashion, but never really go away. Kangol, the master of the bucket hat, continually updates their styles and prints, and in 2012 Louis Vuitton included a bucket in their men’s 2013 spring collection. While it didn’t become a trendsetter, its inclusion was confirmation that buckets were back, and the hip hop world has been the first to embrace them again.
For the longest time, if you weren’t Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart or a member of the Rat Pack, you would never consider rocking a fedora. While Vice News reminds s that most Americans blame President Kennedy for the death of men in hats (#thankskennedy), the fedora has made a triumphant return to primetime television: think “Mad Men.” While Mad Men may be set during a time when the fedora was part of common culture, Neal Caffrey of “White Collar” is a modern fedora wearing man. Women have been donning fedoras lately, too. Women’s fedoras generally feature wider brims and have been proven to be the perfect way to dress up, dress down, or just hide the fact that you’re having a bad hair day.
Snapbacks aka Baseball Caps
It may come as a surprise, but wearing a baseball cap off the field was considered crass up until the 1970’s, when televised sports and the maturation of the first generation of little leaguers helped make the baseball cap a part of everyday street fashion. In the 80’s and 90’s the baseball cap underwent a transformation. Manufacturers started straying from traditional team colors, mixing and matching team logos with designs and patterns. Just think of the red Yankees cap, the San Francisco Giants sporting the gay pride flag in the “SF” logo, or the Washington Nationals with stars and stripes in the “W” of the cap.
Baseball caps have become so ingrained in American culture that rappers sing about them in songs. Just think of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” where he states, modestly, “I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.”