In modern fashion all the way back to Shakespeare in the 15th Century, the Hat, has been a staple of style and class. The perfect top to anchor an outfits sensibility and consideration. Now it would be remiss to consider the hat a piece of clothing fitting just one purpose. So let us begin with the obvious reasons for wearing one first. Protection: Within the sunburnt land we live in the hat provides the protection our head, hair, eyes and face need to counter the dry and damaging effects caused by the flaming red star in our sky. Protection however does not have to be the only purpose a product serves - just ask the inventor of the glow in the dark condom. Which leads us to our second reason for wearing hats. Style: This is where a plethora of shapes, colours and fits come into play with the piece of material that sits on top of one’s head.
Each style alludes to a different cultural significance and even class. Though less so than in days gone by due to the fact that every kind of person now can wear every hat, meaning it is currently harder to understand cultural interpretation through what is on top of someones head.
The Kangool hat, made famous by the likes of LL Cool J, the hardest rapper in the game in his time, is now summer accessory for rich 16 year olds. The baseball hat which found itself made famous by, yep that’s right, baseball is now that hat of choice for international superstar like Chance the Rapper. Then we have the fedora - oh the fedora. A trap set by the fashion Gods to find out who the most confused people on this beautiful planet might be.
Now let us move onto the third and perhaps most prominent reason for the wearing of hats (especially in males). You guessed it. Premature balding. Millions of men and women all over the planet are faced with the unfortunate phenomenon that is, losing one’s hair. Dermatologist John Libby recently stated: "although it is well known that baldness tends to run in families, the exact manner of its inheritance has never been satisfactorily determined". Summed up more succinctly as - we have no idea what is really going on with baldness. So you can pay ‘Ashlee and Martin’ $2000 to look as scary as Shane Warne currently does. Or you can find a hat that suits you. Though be careful. You don’t want to become - Jimbo, the person who is always wearing a hat. Be proud of you head either way and for the love of God - Don’t wear a Fedora.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest steps in headwear in the subculture that is Hip Hop.
The Bucket Hat:
Let’s get down to business first. The bucket hat was really where it all began for cloth on head in rap. Like almost everything - Cocain, Viagra and Bubble Wrap - the bucket hat was originally used for a different purpose, namely - the protection of the scalp for irish farmers in the rain sometime around the start of the 20th century. When World War Two came to an end, it was time for the Jack London wearing mods of Camden town to adopt it as their own. Roll around twenty years or so through the 70’s youth revolts and straight into the Cold War ‘error’ of 1979 and we see the first instance of the Bucket Hat in Hip Hop. The incredibly renowned, first ever music video - Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. And so a revolution began. Run DMC - innovators in taking Hip Hop from something more than music and into a culture, kept it relevant by wearing the Kangool many times throughout 1984. Since this period it has become a staple in streetwear. Names from Missy Elliot to Beyonce, Tyler the Creator to lil Dijon have donned the bucket. Though still relevant for the Irish farmers needing some protection the Bucket hat has made it’s way into the world of style and fashion through its ecclectic colours, fits and flairs.
The Baseball Hat:
When you think about the style and flair the comes with Hip hop, the baseball hat doesn’t really come to mind. In fact when I think of the baseball hat I sort of get an image of Ben Affleck smoking a dart. And ever since his recent stint in the Batman movies - that isn’t good news for the baseball hat. Contrary to my thoughts of Ben Affleck however, the baseball hat has made it’s way into the world of Hip Hop more notably in the last 20 years. In doing some research for this piece a read a quote from a sports blog that said - no hat will ever come close to eclipsing the giant that is, the fitted baseball cap. Whilst everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That is essentially like a musician saying - getting a job is a lifestyle choice or a fish saying water is really great. It is an opinion based soley around his context.
The baseball hat really took off in the 1980’s with the likes of Chevy Chase, Tom Selleck and Micheal Jordan all repping the headwear on red carpets and in countless photoshoots with sneakers and jeans to match. It’s that sports steeze. One of the biggest significances of this style of hat is the ability for wearer to rep the place they are from (or would like to be from).
Tupac repped the Oakland hat during the early 90’s - even though he way from New York. The NWA boys - Eazy- E kept his Chicago white socks hat close to head and to be honest I don’t know if Ice Cube even has a head underneath his Detroit tigers hat he is always wearing. It might just be straight brain under there. Style icon - Queen Latifa spent the early 2000’s with hat baseball hat on reguarly and most recently Chance The Rapper can be seen constantly wearing his Chicago White Sox fit.
The Top Hat:
Whilst dangerously close the the hat that must not be named (the fedora), the top hat has found itself as a key part to some of the most stylish outfits in Hip Hip red carpets in the last 20 years. The innovation comes with the width of the brim and the height.
Biggie Smalls is undoubtedly an Icon in hip hop not only for his pure poetic poise, tragic death and classic music, but also for his constant style in the way he presented himself. He could make a sweater work at an awards ceremony and a top hat a cane look like what everyone should be wearing through the drive through. It was his confidence in what he wore that made it undeniable. In his later years he adopted the class and elegance of the suit and cane with the Homburg hat. This wide brim - willy wonka style lid can be hard to pull unless you have the personality to match and biggie never failed. Mos Def and Usher have been known to put this bad boy on their noggins to.
Not one to shy away from the spotlight, the winner of the most obnoxious hat would have to go to Pharrell Williams and his Vivienne Westwood masterpiece. If you don’t remember this moment. Suss it out. Because it was a play for the history books. Pharell rocked up to the grammys in a hat so obnoxiously big and over the top that even riff raff couldn’t stop his jaw dropping and his grills falling to the floor. And Pharell, well he just acted like it was something he just picked up off the floor of his car before he arrived and that was the key here and what I personally believe is the key to all fashion. It isn’t entirely about what you are wearing but how you wear it.
Notable mention for this article: The Daft Punk Boys. Wearing the biggest headwear of them all.