Headwear and hip-hop have always had a tight relationship. Back in the ’80s, rappers slowly started making a statement not only with their rhymes and flow but also with what they wore up top. Kangol has always had a tight relationship with hip-hop, but the brand’s history may not be the one you thought it was.
Founded in the ’20s by Jakob Henryk Spreiregen, a Polish-born Jewish man who emigrated to England in 1915, the brand began manufacturing hats in London. Becoming popular for its basque berets imported from France, it didn’t take on the name Kangol until 1930, when Spreiregen coined the name by combining the K for “knitting”, ANG for “Angora” (a kind of wool), and OL for “wool”. Kangol started expanding soon after, and, with the help of Spreiregen’s nephews, factories opened in England’s Frizington and Carlisle.
Nevertheless, it’s during and after WWII that Kangol started becoming popular in the UK. In fact, during the War, Kangol became the main beret supplier for the British Army, with production reaching a whopping one million hats a year.
In the ’60s, Kangol added designers Pierre Cardin and Mary Quant to its roster, who started designing hats for those in the know, such as the Beatles and even the late Princess Diana. This kind of celebrity exposure caught the attention of the U.S. market, and Americans soon began wondering where they could buy themselves a Kangol hat. This is when the brand started using the iconic Kangaroo logo, and — contrary to popular belief — no Kangol hat has ever come from Down Under.
But it was the ’80s that catapulted Kangol into the hip-hop scene. The first notable rapper to have ever worn the iconic Kangol bucket hat is none other than LL Cool J. While the rapper had always had a pretty note-worthy hat collection, and was known for always rocking the freshest headgear, the Kangol hat was a game-changer. Folks flocked to cop the hat worn by LL Cool J, and the British brand saw a huge spike in US sales.
Countless rappers of that era followed suit, including Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, and Missy Elliott, to name a few. Brooklyn hip-hop group UTFO even had a member named Kangol Kid, so the love ran deep. New Jack City‘s Nino Brown — the iconic character portrayed by Wesley Snipes — can be seen rocking various Kangol hats throughout the movie.
Stylish iterations of the brand’s headwear, such as the Furgora Spitfire, were released in the ’90s and notably rocked by Samuel L. Jackson. While the naughties and tens saw Eminem wear a Kangol cotton twill army cap in his Beautiful video, and Kangol headpieces spotted on the likes of Ludacris, T.I., Rick Ross, and ScHoolboy Q.
“Kangol has been in the game since forever,” says Highsnobiety’s Nigel Minani. “They were born in England but raised in New York, the ultimate birthplace of streetwear. This makes it one of my favorite brands ever, and places it next to key players like the Nike’s, Stüssy’s and Carhartt’s of the world!”
Keeping up with the bucket hats place in recent summer wardrobes, Kangol’s modern-day designs have been lowkey, linking with notable streetwear brands like Stüssy, Patta, and HBA. That said, bringing its signature styles back into the spotlight, the brand is making one of its biggest comebacks ever with its latest releases, which you’ll likely have seen on the heads of various young and upcoming influencers. In particular, Kangol bucket hats have been spotted on industry insiders such as Andrew Harper, A-COLD-WALL*’s Business Director, but also style influencers such as Gully Gully Leo, Elias Riadi from streetwear YouTube show PAQ, and stylist Nessie.
And so, we’re putting you onto some of the best Kangol designs out there right now. Below, you’ll see designs that pay homage to the golden era of hip-hop, such as a white Bermuda bucket hat and a Bermuda logo headband. And for those looking for more modern designs, we have those covered too, via a utility-inspired snapback and a washed baseball hat. Best of all, with prices from $18 to $66, these accessories are super affordable, so there’s no excuse not to have your head in the Kangol game.
Whether you’re trying to channel your inner LL Cool J or ScHoolboy, see the rest of our picks below.