A Case for The Bucket Hat

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If you didn’t like the knit cap article, you’re definitely not going to like this one.  

As you guys know, I’m always on a search for ways to make menswear more slouchy. It’s not a case of making it “cool and hip” for younger audiences but more for my sake; I have no problem wearing a suit, but I’d rather wear it in an easy way rather than something structured and perennially “formal”.  They are just clothes after all!

Writing about the knit cap (or beanie) was one of my first real forays into that subject.  While I have nothing against hats (I do like fedoras and panamas from time to time), I found that the beanie was a great way to dress down your outfit in a stylish way and still provide functional heat during the colder months.  My knickerbocker ones got a lot of wear and even elevated my casual game, which I always felt was lacking a certain something.  But as Los Angeles’ temperature reaches Satan’s butt hole and the sun seems to be renting space long into the evening, it seems that I need an alternative. And that came in the form of the bucket hat.

The bucket hat is a fairly simple piece of headwear, made (usually) of cotton and has a rounded top and a floppy brim that provides 360 degrees of shade.  At it’s heart, it’s a pretty utilitarian piece, shielding you from the elements and able to be rolled up and packed easily.   You can think of it as “unstructured” when compared to stiffer hats like fedoras, flatcaps, or even certain variations of baseball hats, which makes it incredibly casual.    Just avoid the ones with drawstrings.

It definitely has more of an “old man” appeal since it seems that men of a certain age are the one’s to wear it, but it’s important to remember it’s ties to militaria, the outdoors, and even hip hop/streetwear.   Due to this fact, you can find different treatments of the bucket hat, with some models playing with the crown height, brim width, or the materials.  Think cotton for more rugged stuff, velour for streetwear, and nylon for athletics.

In terms of formality, it’s probably on the same (or lower level) than the ballcap. In my mind, it’s elevated in terms of “style and personality” due to how unconventional and rare it is.  And that’s all apart of the appeal.

Like the knit cap, this piece has been shunned by most people who are in contact with classic menswear, whether they are contemporary or vintage.  It has mainly to do with how casual the piece is, never mind how it was popular during the ivy movement in the 1960s.  However there are a few brave souls who wear this piece of floppy headwear today.   In the first camp are guys who have a casual, slightly oversized, minimal Japanese/Americana look.  Next we have the gentlemen who actually take inspiration from the 1960’s ivy style and update it.  Lastly we have the guys in classic menswear/tailoring that actually just wear it because it’s such a cool and practical piece.

I personally like all of them, because as you know, I get inspiration from a lot of places.  Not only is it functional, but it adds a slouchy, “finishing touch” to an outfit.  Dark colors (especially navy or olive green) help you lean in on the dark tones of your outfit, tying it all together, whether your’e wearing tailoring, casual, or something in between.  Light brown isn’t a  bad choice either and works better for more dad themed outfits.  A friend of mine even called it camping-tailoring chic!  It basically dresses down any outfit; a suit by itsself is too formal, but a suit and bucket hat makes it a bit better to wear after work (though not with a regular worsted fabric).

In general, I prefer it over a ball cap.

One particular classic menswear icon that makes a strong case for the bucket hat is Andreas Larsson, the creative director of Berg & Berg.   I like that he just seems to throw it on, no matter what his outfit is; I think that’s an important lesson to take away.

The Walker & Hawkes Waxed Cotton Bucket Hat

So for those of you guys who follow my instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been on the bucket hat search for a little while now.  I had already had most of these pictures saved in my inspo albums (especially in Drake’s and the one of Mr. Larsson) and really wanted it, as a summer replacement for my knit cap from Knickerbocker.  Wearing the beanie was a subtle addition but a major game changer for my style and I wanted to achieve the same effect.  After the beret, I was confident that I could pull off anything I knew I wanted.

One of the first places I looked was Drake’s, seeing that they’ve been promoting it a bit in their lookbooks. Theirs are cotton but based on the pictures, I felt like they wouldn’t frame my face well; the same sentiment arose with Olof1982’s linen ones.   I was really being picky without any physical experience, but that’s usually what happens in similar situations.  I did end up buying one from Dick’s Sporting Goods but eventually returned it since the shade of blue was odd and the brim was really wide.  It was meant for outdoor use rather than fashion use after all.

My friend Pedro (who is actually in the inspiration section earlier in the article) recommended that I try Walker & Hawkes, a English brand.   He’s a fellow menswear enthusiast that I met in NYC and has a similar approach to style, so I trusted him; he already has a few and swears by them!  While W&H has their own website, I decided to purchase a navy one through Amazon, just so I could go through their buyer protection if needed.  At the time, it wasn’t apart of Prime shipping, so the cost came out to around $17 for the hat with $8 shipping.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a tracking number provided, but they arrived in a little over a week, no doubt due to customs.

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I was in love immediately.  The navy was actually pretty dark and the waxed cotton was soft to the touch; I can tell it’s going to break in wonderfully over time.  It even had a cool checked cotton lining!

The crown is pretty short, which actually works in my favor since I always feel like I have an issue with ones that are too tall (probably has to do more with my face shape).  The brim wasn’t super stingy or overly long; it even crinkled slightly but not in a way that was too sloppy.  It fits pretty well on my head, as I had Cody look at the Walker & Hawkes website and give me a size recommendation based on their guide (I went with a large).  Needless to say, I started wearing it right away.

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The first outfit I wore it with was literally made up of pieces from an outfit earlier in the day. I simply changed the jacket and trouser choice and here we are!

Obviously this is a play on the ivy-esque outfits worn by Matt and Chase, wearing a navy jacket with denim.  My jeans aren’t dark-wash or selvedge (for once) and are actually just a pair of tapered 501s that I found at a thrift store! They have a “plain wash”, which contributes to the “dad jean” moniker that I’ve bestowed upon them.   With a nice cuff, decent shoes, and a softly tailored jacket makes the dad vibes intentional (and good) instead of sloppy.

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While I am no stranger to “dad” looks, I think that the bucket hat here adds something extra. I’m pretty self-conscious of wearing these jeans with tailoring, especially if I want to look like this rather than this. The hat ties in the dark blues of the outfit and gives it that ivy vibe that I needed.  With that said, I probably won’t wear it too much with tailoring, even if if I have jeans to make the outfit less formal.

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Now this sartorial-casual outfit is probably more in line with how I would wear my bucket hat. It’s still tailored (thanks to a button up and these dope Stoffas), but decidedly less stuffy, no doubt thanks to the bucket hat and my trusty jungle jacket.  It’s a little bit 1970’s mixed in with that camping chic I mentioned earlier.  This rugged-sartorial mix is something popularized by Brycelands/Tony Sylvester and is definitely where I want to go for my summer attire.

Without the bucket hat, the outfit would be “fine” but it’s addition just adds some extra personality.

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After those first few outfits, I was pretty confident that I had made a good purchase with this bucket hat.  I’ve been incorporating it ever since!

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This outfit was shot for an upcoming article on Birkenstocks.  It’s party inspired by this outfit by Kamoshita-san but when I put the tee shirt and suit together, I felt like it was missing something. Tee shirts and suits are hard to put together without looking like Miami VIce, which is why the bucket hat came in handy.   Helping you lean into an interesting, casual vibe is what the bucket hat does well.

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Summer ready with the bucket hat and runaway collar.

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I’ve gotta say that this one was very iffy for me.  I was going to bar trivia with my friends after work and didn’t want to simply do the tie-less suit look (of which I’m not always a fan).  I think that the bucket hat adds some of that ivy/dad vibes that make this look more interesting.  Obviously I wouldn’t recommend this look for you young guys who are looking for something to impress the ladies, but you should know by now that this isn’t that kind of blog.  What matters is that I liked it and it made the outfit into something I was more comfortable with wearing!

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Another ivy-esque outfit.

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Grandpa style. Great to break out once in a while!

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If this blog was geared toward hardline style advice, I’d say that these last outfits are what you should wear your bucket hat with, if the dad/ivy style isn’t your thing.  Up top we have a similar outfit to the one with the jungle jacket, just with Birkenstocks.  It’s perfect for summer and absolutely well needed for the warm day it was worn for.  Without the hat, it would look like a modern interpretation of casual 1940s-1950s style; with the bucket, it has a more contemporary (and slouchy) spin that I’m much more at home with.

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Looks like I posed too similarly; it happens when you try and document every outfit!

This outfit is another casual sartorial outfit, even if the only ties to suiting is the linen trousers.  With the bucket hat and jungle jacket, it has a very modern take on military/workwear style. The other pieces are comparable to period casual/vacation wear, but it has a similar vibe with the blue striped tee, blue canvas Vans, and linen trews.

This one is a great example of a minimal, Japanese inspired outfit.  Over a plain grey pocket tee I have a linen chore-blazer, which has lapels but still works with decidedly casual attire due to it’s wrinkly nature.   Again, I feel like the outfit wouldn’t be finished without the hat, since it’s a pretty “mom” look.   You’ll probably see more of this type of stuff moving forward into summer.

Conclusion

If you want a hat that combines the casualness of the ballcap with the 360 degree shade of a fedora, you’ve got the bucket hat.  In fact, I prefer wearing mine over the two, due to how formal a fedora is (you can’t really wear a fedora with a tee shirt, can you?) and how “sporty” the ball cap can be (I am not a sport-o). Instead, the bucket hat sits in it’s own category, able to be dressed up or down as needed.  It’s pretty similar to the knit cap in that regard!

Now I’m not saying that you guys have to go out and buy a bucket hat.  I understand that its a pretty controversial piece and that most of you will be opposed to incorporating it into your wardrobe.  The entire point of this post (and many others) is to simply open your eyes to new styles of clothing.  I’m going to admit that I was definitely against the bucket hat for a long time until I finally saw it in an appealing way.  Hell, I was pretty much against headwear and have only recently gained the confidence to rock it!

If you want to try it out for yourself, just keep its connotations in mind.  It definitely takes a bit of thinking to figure out how to add it into your rotation. One way is just to  lean into that casual look!   I’ll probably throw it on with a sportshirt or a tee. Like I said numerous times above, it just adds an extra touch that makes an outfit a bit elevated, style-wise.  When it comes to tailoring, I say it keep it neo-ivy, like with a sportcoat, ocbd, knit tie, and denim/chinos.  I definitely wouldn’t wear it with a worsted DB or a 3PC POW check suit.

In the end, it’s a perfectly functional piece of headwear that just happens to provide some style points.  As the clouds leave the sky and the sun’s death rays shine through, I’m definitely going to get a lot of wear out of mine; it’ll even be useful in the rain.  I’ve actually enjoyed the navy blue one so much that I’ve just ordered the olive one to get more of those militaria vibes!  I’m sure you’ll see it worn plenty of times this season.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W. 

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza 

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