What Everyone Ought to Know When Styling a Bucket Hat

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How to Style a Bucket Hat

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Last Updated on August 1, 2021

Did you know that your favorite item from the 90s, the bucket hat, has made a huge comeback this season? If you are thinking of going shopping but are undecided about what kind of bucket hat is right for you, this might be your lucky day! 

Read ahead for a complete history review of how the bucket hat came to be, the many styles you can choose from, and how to make a complete outfit out of them. Plus some special inspiration from your favorite celebrity looks, of course!

A Little History

What makes a bucket hat… A bucket hat?

Generally speaking, a bucket hat has a wide brim with a gentle slope that points downwards and is made from heavy-duty cotton (canvas or denim are much preferred) or heavy wool (like tweed).

It can occasionally have small metal eyelets for ventilation, too. Bucket hats are also known as a fisherman’s hat, an Irish country hat, or a session hat in the music festival scene

The Origins

The bucket hat came to be around 1900 and it was originally made from felted wool or tweed cloth by Irish farmers and fishermen. The unwashed felted wool made these hats waterproof, providing some shelter from the rain. They were also longer on the back so that the rain would slide down and don’t get inside their collars. 

After the world war years, they were quickly adopted internationally because of how handy they were since they could be easily cleaned, folded in a pocket, and reformed with a little steam.

During the Vietnam War, the US Army came up with a tropical version of the bucket hat made from olive drab cotton that would later be called a boonie or booney hat. This lightweight version has a stiffer brim and a foliage ring that is meant to hold additional camouflage elements. It became really popular for fishing purposes.

Later on, in 1960, bucket hats spread like wildfire all over Great Britain thanks to being adopted by the Mod subculture. They rapidly became the new ladies’ fashion item to have, both in the UK and internationally. 

They were featured in varied media, like Gilligan’s Island, and in various hip-hop performances throughout the 80s, but their true moment of glory was during the 90s.

The 90s: Bucket Hat’s Golden Era

Although the bucket hat had been popular during the 80s thanks to celebrities like Jam Master Jay and LL Cool J, it became the coolest accessory to wear during the 90s thanks, in part, to the numerous appearances in tv series, films, and even red carpets. 

Who can forget Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen wearing bucket hats throughout their many movies? It was a staple on the twins’ wardrobe we all wanted to emulate!

Clueless (1995), one of the most fashion-memorable movies ever made, had its fair share of bucket hats. Check out its most fashionable moments here.

So did Willow, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)… Her many hats were her signature accessory!

Let’s not forget how cool bucket hats looked on the set of Dawson’s Creek (1998)… No matter who wore them!

And it didn’t just stay on the screen! We were all dying to see real-life pics of our favorite celebrities and gossip magazines didn’t disappoint.

Let’s take a moment here to note that this paparazzi culture would become very toxic, amounting to a gross invasion of privacy and zero respect towards stars’ private lives or boundaries whatsoever, which I don’t endorse at all.

But, this was the 90s, we were teenagers, and at the time, it was all fun and we all wanted to get inspired by our favorite stars. Be that Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, or Britney.

Read: A Tribute to All The 90s Headwear We’ll Never Forget

Into the Now

Although the 90s were over, bucket hats refused to be forgotten. They would appear again and again during the 2000s in huge big-screen hits that marked our teenage years.

Can you remember Anne Hathaway’s cute moment in a grey bucket hat in the Princess Diary (2001)? Or Britney Spears’ bucket hat in her short stint as an actress on her movie Crossroads (2002)? I’m pretty sure you can!

Recently, this particular phenomenon has started to repeat itself. Last year, 2020, we saw how Emily in Paris became an overnight success and not in small part due to the fabulous fashion sense of our dear Emily, played by Lilly Collins.

Her fashion extravaganzas were on par with the best Sex and the City moments and two of her best outfits had top-notch bucket hats.

2020s Celebrities Endorsement

Bucket hats are super easy to combine and provide the perfect amount of protection and comfort, making them an off-duty model and celebrity staple. It comes as no surprise then, that they are an all-time favorite of Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, and Vanessa Hudgens, among others.

Rihanna has also been a staunch supporter of the bucket hat for many years. From military-printed booney hats to tie-dyed bucket hats, she has proven they can be adapted to any occasion. She even made a case for a snake-printed hat at a FentyBeauty event with a Versace dress.

Billie Eilish is one of the latest celebrities to jump on the bucket hat fan wagon. She even wore one to the Grammys (2021), custom-made by Gucci with a face mask and entire attire to match. 

Different Styles and Famous Brands

Burberry and Kangol were the go-to brands for bucket hats during the 90s decade and this fact became such an important part of their brand DNA that they are, to this day, the most famous and easily recognized bucket hats you can purchase. 

Read: The Definitive Guide to 90s Fashion Brands

Brands like New Era have specialized in niche markets like sports while high fashion brands like Gucci, Versace, and Miuccia Prada launch their runway bucket hats to great success. Luckily for us, there are a ton of easily accessible ready-to-wear styles to shop nowadays, courtesy of labels like H&M, Mango, and even Forever21. 

mong the myriad of options, I like raffia for formal ensembles or stylish summer wear, and printed organza for casual and romantic looks. Tie-dye effects are one of the most sold styles of bucket hats from Mango, Zara, and Asos right now but I am not quite sold on the style just yet.

Shop Raffia:

Shop Printed Organza:

Some other great models for warmer weather include embroidery, two strings, patches, and multi-colored tie-dye effects

Shop Embroidery:

Shop Two Strings:

Shop Patches:

Shop Multi-colored Tie Dye:

But come winter, plush and furry bucket hats will undoubtedly make an appearance, as will leather and waxed ones.

Styling Your Bucket Hat with Your Hairstyle

Short hair looks amazing with any type of hat, but particularly so with bucket hats. No matter if you have wavy or straight hair, it just looks so chic peeking under! You could also wear two low pigtails, or pull the longer strands back with a couple of butterfly clips.

For medium hair I just love soft beach waves cascading free, and I have tried twin braids to great success!

Long hair and bucket hats are a match made in heaven. Free your curly hair and go natural or tie it up on a side ponytail, both styles enhance the shape of the hat and frame your face wonderfully. Alternatively, if you are into braiding, I can’t help but love how thin braids look under a bucket hat.

Read:

Nineties Jewelry Trends: A Complete List of Items by Style

25 Photos of ’90s Hairstyles You Secretly Still Love

29 Infamous 90s Fads That Had Us All Buzzin’

By Occasion

Casual street style outfits

Come spring, enjoy the sunny weather and let yourself be inspired by the sun. Match your hat and top for a stylish effect, be it a baggy t-shirt, a tied cardigan, or a crop top... It will look fancy no matter the style!

Go crazy with your choice of pants: baggy, wide, or balloon denim jeans will look wonderful. Alternatively, for the ultimate relaxed combo, pair a baggy white t-shirt with your classic straight black jeans and black Converse. Some classics never go out of style. 

Read:

How to Style Cargo Pants the Cool Way

How to Style Neon Pants

Stand Out From The Crowd – How To Wear Camo Pants All Year Long

Who said bucket hats couldn’t be worn with dresses? Dreamy florals and nap dresses are perfect for each other, go for a romantic flower-printed bucket hat if you are feeling the cottagecore love in summer. You can also go for a contrasting color: both mint, lavender, and pale blue are super trendy this summer.

Check Out: Your Favourite 90s Dresses (Nostalgia Alert)

Worry not, come fall, bucket hats go furry! And even if you are not into the furry option, the thick canvas provides the necessary warmth you need. Plus, they look superb with feather and corduroy jackets alike. I am really digging matching your hat to your jacket. It looks really smart!

Winter looks have to focus on warmth. At least, there is nothing I hate more than freezing myself due to fashion! That is why going for a feather duster or jacket and matching bucket hat feels like a sensible and stylish choice that can be worn without regrets in the harshest of weather. 

Read:

How to Wear a Denim Jacket with Style (Men’s Outfit Guide)

11 Best Puffer Jackets for Women in 2021

The 90’s Bomber Jacket: The Ultimate 411

Formal style outfits

When it comes to formal styles, the most important part is to create a streamlined ensemble that gels together. Since there are degrees of formality, there is no 100% fool-proof rule, so discretion is advised.

When in doubt, opt for the option that makes you feel more secure and the ensemble that feels the most “you”. If you are confident and comfortable, you will look radiant no matter what!

That being said, opting for a same-color outfit is a pretty safe way to make it look polished and elegant. Add different lengths and layers to create interest and depth if the color is precisely the same, like in our first image above.

Another great tip is to keep all clothing items around a central color, like in our second image above where the main color is black but the white printed top creates a focal point of interest that takes it to the next level. 

Another route is to create a classic ensemble and add a bucket hat that has nothing to do with it. A sweet and discreet flowery print or a toned-down color like beige will usually go with anything. This works particularly well for summer or spring if you are wearing a dress and there is no chance of matching your bucket hat to it.

Winter and fall tend to be less friendly when it comes to dressing formally. A matched suit and bucket hat, with contrasting high heels, is one of the most couture choices you can go for. If you are not comfortable with crazy patterns and prints, an all-black ensemble works just as well! 

A classic trench can also be a great ally if you are facing rainy weather, be it either classic beige or a creative Burberry lookalike. Now that we know that bucket hats were specifically made to be used under the rain, it just seems perfect to wear rain boots and a trench coat with them, don’t you think?

Bibliography

  • Stalder, Erika (2008). Fashion 101: A Crash Course in Clothing. San Francisco, CA: Orange Avenue Publishing.
  • http://www.irishculturalsociety.com/essaysandmisc/careofairishat.html
  • Steele, Valerie (2000). Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. Yale University Press (first published August 11th, 1997)
  • Akiko Fukai (Editor), Tamami Suoh, Miki Iwagami, The Kyoto Costume Institute. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century—The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. Published August 30th, 2007 by Taschen (first published 2002).
  • Seeling, Charlotte. Fashion: The Century of Designers 1900-1999. 2000 by Konemann UK Ltd.

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Lorena Lombardo is a fashion designer specialized in trend forecasting and fashion journalism. She studied at the UAL (University of London), ORT (Universidad ORT Uruguay), and taken various courses about traditional craftsmanship while living in Tokyo. Some of her favorite memories during the 90s include wearing bucket hats and trying to copy Rachel’s hairstyle. Her absolute favorite show was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer but she was also a huge fan of Clueless because of its amazing fashion choices. Her top track of the decade is currently disputed between How soon is Now? by the Smiths and Here with me by Dido. Both also happen to be the opening songs for two great 90s shows: Charmed and Roswell. Coincidence? I think not!