The iconic Kangol hat would be a part of hip-hop’s fashion Mt. Rushmore if such a thing existed, but long before breakbeats were ringing out over park jams and B-Boys were spinning on the cardboard, the British headwear company was creating a storied history of its own.
Sometime in the 1920’s World War I veteran Jacques Spreiregen began importing Basque berets from France as headwear for the military and workers and in 1938, the first of three major factories was opened as the manufacturing HQ for his own creation, Kangol (K from knitting, ANG from angora and OL from wool). By the time the second World War came around the company was the major supplier of berets to British troops and since then Kangol has been at the forefront of the headwear industry creating various timeless and classic pieces fit for any occasion as the distinct kangaroo logo graced products on the heads of everyone from The Beatles to Princess Diana including the entire English Olympic Team in the 1948 London Games Opening Ceremony.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and shift locations to the United States and its emerging hip-hop culture. As it has done time and time again, hip-hop has managed to take a fashion staple, add its own flair and swagger, then give it a whole new breath of life. From LL Cool J and his furry red ‘Bermuda Casual’ bucket hat to Slick Rick on the cover of The Rulers Back, the inner-city superheroes were influencing an entirely new counterculture for Kangol. In fact, UTFO’s Kangol Kid was the first rapper to formally be contracted to rep the brand.
Kangol has been on display in some of the most historic images of artists such as MC Shan, Notorious B.I.G and Missy Elliot and made its way into the film industry thanks to not only the constant wearing by Samuel L. Jackson (most famously as Ordell Robbie in Jackie Brown), but also Wesley Snipes rocking the top as Nino Brown in the cult classic, New Jack City. These rolls helped popularized the back to front style of the ‘504’. More recently Eminem has given life to the ‘Ripstop Army Hat’ thanks to his video clip for “Beautiful” and he was rarely seen without one for that entire era.
Kangol has managed to stay relevant for over three-quarters of century without succumbing to fads and trends, instead their products make and assist the styles of the times.
The talk of 2018 has undoubtedly been the performance of Beyoncé at Coachella, whose array of backup dancers were seen sporting a custom line of ‘Monty Berets’ that Bey’s styling team and Kangol came together to produce (which you can purchase online although not in the mustard yellow). Collaborations have always been a key element in the brands ability to seamlessly keep their popularity whilst crossing from one generation to the next.
South London based Steady Levels and Kangol came together in a partnership that saw a release of a limited edition t-shirt featuring a slightly edited graphic of the aforementioned The Rulers Back cover art to promote Record Store Day. Other notable recent collaborations with Disney, Alexander Wang, A-Life, SSUR, Stussy and Dutch streetwear powerhouse Patta have also kept the kangaroo bouncing around from head to head worldwide with no signs of slowing down to date.
Here’s to 100.