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What is a Bucket Hat? Types, Definition & Histories

Discover the definition and history of this classic piece of clothing.
Last Updated
May 4, 2024
Editorial Staff
Girl among palm leaves
Envato Elements
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The bucket hat is having a moment in fashion right now. It's become popular amongst males and females on the beaches and the runways. Some people even wear them as part of their everyday outfits.

This trend started in the early 1900s, but it really took off in the 1990s. The bucket hat is back in a big way and is just a popular style statement and functional piece of clothing.

Bucket hats can now be seen in almost every high street shop and are just as popular for their style statement as they are for their functionality.

Let's take a look at what is a bucket hat, how it all started, and why it's become such a popular piece of clothing again and still now.

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What is a bucket hat?

Bucket hat photo mockup design
Canva Photos

So what is this hat, and how does it look? The bucket hat is a soft, round hat that is typically made out of cotton, wool, or polyester fabric.

It has a wide, downward-sloping brim and oftentimes a drawstring around the base of the hat.

It gets its name from the fact that it is often shaped like a bucket. Bucket hats come in many different colors and patterns, but they are most commonly seen in solid colors.

The brim of the bucket hat is what sets it apart from other types of hats, as it is typically much wider.

This wide brim helps to protect the wearer from the sun and can also be used to shield the head and eyes from rain or snow.

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Pros and cons of a bucket hat

Young woman in sunglasses and bucket hat
Canva Photos

There's no denying that bucket hats have made a comeback in recent years.

Whether you're a fan of the 90s-inspired look or not, there's no denying that these hats can be both stylish and practical.

But what are the Pros and Cons of actually wearing one? Let's take a look:

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  • Bucket hats can be extremely practical, providing protection from the sun, wind, or rain.
  • They're also surprisingly versatile, being able to be worn with both casual and more formal outfits.
  • If you choose a plainer style, a bucket hat can also be a great way to make a fashion statement without being too over-the-top.
  • They’re great for keeping the sun out of your eyes.
  • They’re perfect for rainy days, as they’ll keep your head dry.
  • They can also be used to keep your head warm in winter.
  • Bucket hats are perfect for all seasons, as they can be worn in the summer to protect you from the sun and in the winter to keep you warm.
  • They are also great for hiding bad hair days.
  • Bucket hats come in a variety of colors and styles, so you can find one that perfectly suits your personality.
  • They are very affordable, making them a great option for those on a budget.
  • They have a relaxed and laid-back style.
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  • They’re not suitable for formal occasions.
  • You might get too hot and sweaty wearing one, especially in summer weather.
  • They can be difficult to store, as they take up a lot of space.
  • Doesn’t accommodate all updo hairstyles on women (for instance, a high bun on top of the head)
  • They can be a bit difficult to style, as they can look somewhat bulky and juvenile.
  • Because they cover the entire head, they offer very little ventilation, which can be a problem on hot days or when participating in strenuous activities.

Overall, while bucket hats can certainly have their uses and pros, it's important to be aware of the potential drawbacks before making a purchase.

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History of the bucket hat

Bucket hat on sky background
Canva Photos

The bucket hat has long and amazing ups and downs history that can make you appreciate even better this unique piece of clothing.

Let's look at them one by one, shall we?

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When and where it all started

A photo of the beginnings of the bucket hat
State Library of Queensland

In all fairness, it wasn’t invented with aesthetics in mind at first.

It is believed that it originated in Ireland in the early 1900s as a functional piece of headwear worn by Irish farmers and fishermen as protection from rainy days.

This is made possible because of the hat's wide downward-slanting brim, which was constructed from durable wool or tweed cloth.

Plus, the high lanolin content in the wool has made the bucket hat water-resistant.

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World War II

A photo of the history of the bucket hat in World War II
Eagle Clan

Several decades later, U.S. Navy troops introduced the hat during World War II to shield their heads and eyes from the sun as well as to prevent themselves from heat-related illnesses and glare while aiming firearms.

The reasons that attracted the troops to wear them at first because of the practical and durable qualities that were beneficial to them during the war.

They issued a denim variant of the bucket hat, dubbed the "Daisy Mae." These hats featured a regular-sized crown with an extended brim, making them ideal for the monsoon season.

Around the same time, the Israeli armed forces began using a soft-crowned hat with a wide brim, similar to the Daisy Mae.

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Vietnam War

A photo of the history of the bucket hat in the Vietnam War

After that, the American troops then used it again during the Vietnam War from the '50s to the '70s.

This time, the hat has gone through a slight makeover in the '60s to a standard-issue style made from olive drab cotton fabric and called the "Boonie Hat".

It was originally issued for Green Berets special forces but then adopted by other units and even soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

The Boonie hat is very similar to the bucket hat.

The only main differences between them are a flatter crown, stiffer brim, and the inclusion of extra features such as a chin strap and loops on the sides for attaching leaves or branches.

The design of the Boonie hat allows it to provide better protection for their necks and from the sun and also wind (which is better than a standard baseball cap) while also providing more ventilation.

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A photo of the history of the bucket hat in pop culture
Gilligan's Island / CBS

By the mid-1960s, the bucket hat made its way into mainstream fashion and popular culture, becoming popular and having been embraced by civilians (both men and women) and celebrities alike.

Bob Denver’s character in the mid-sixties sitcom “Gilligan's Island” famously sported a khaki bucket hat throughout the series.

Also, the esteemed American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson became known for regularly rocking a white cotton bucket hat.

The '60s also saw ladies of the Mod subculture wear adaptations of the bucket hat that featured colorful patterns and unique embellishments.

Celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy were also often photographed wearing them.

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The Declined Era of The Bucket Hat

They continued to be popular throughout the 60s and 70s but eventually fell out of favor and declined in popularity during the 80s.

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The Comeback

A photo of the history of the comeback of the bucket hat in 1990s
@tyrabanks / Instagram

Fortunately, in the 1990s, the bucket hat made a comeback and became associated with Counterculture movements, such as the Hippies and Beatniks.

It also became a symbol of "hip-hop" culture due to its popularity amongst rappers as well as other music artists and has since become a staple of streetwear.

Today, the bucket hat is worn by celebrities, trendsetters alike, and people of all ages and cultures and has cemented itself as a fashion staple.

It can also be found in a variety of colors and materials. Whether you're looking for protection from the sun or a stylish accessory, the bucket hat is a versatile choice for any fashion-savvy individual.

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Types of Bucket Hats

Now that we know what a bucket hat is let's take a look at some of the different types that are available.

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The Classic:

Woman wearing a classic bucket hat
Canva Photos

This type of bucket hat is what most people think of when they hear the word "bucket hat." It is characterized by its soft, round crown and wide brim.

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The Fashion:

Woman wearing a black fashion bucket hat
Envato Elements

As the name suggests, this type of bucket hat is more about style than function. It is often made from lighter materials such as cotton or linen and features a smaller brim.

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The Outdoor:

Image of outdoor bucket hats
Adobe Stock

This type of bucket hat is designed for functionality and protection from the elements. It is usually made from heavier materials such as canvas or waxed cotton and has a wider brim.

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The Sport:

Woman wearing a black sports bucket hat
Stirling Sports

This type of bucket hat is designed for athletes or those who participate in outdoor activities. It is usually made from moisture-wicking materials such as polyester or nylon and has a shorter brim.

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How to Wear a Bucket Hat

A woman wearing black bucket hat
Canva Photos

Now that we know what a bucket hat is and some of the different types that are available, let's take a look at how to wear one.

  • Pair it with casual clothing: Because bucket hats have a relaxed and laid-back vibe, they pair well with other casual items such as jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sneakers.
  • Dress it up: If you want to dress up a bucket hat, pair it with items such as chinos, a button-down shirt, and loafers or boat shoes.
  • Accessorize: You can also accessorize your bucket hat by adding a scarf, sunglasses, or a pin.

This is just a short summary of how you can wear and style your bucket hat. We have compiled a full guide on how to wear a bucket hat. You can read it here.

In summary of all this amazing history, while the bucket hat was originally designed as a practical piece of clothing, it has since become a popular fashion item, particularly among young people.

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