Kangol Hats & Hip-Hop: A Part of Counterculture Yet Timeless and Upscale Attire

Kangol was founded in the 1920's and took its name from the “K” in silk, the “ANG” in angora, and the “OL” in wool. What makes Kangol special is that throughout the years they have made hats that capture the counterculture as well as the folks who favor timeless and upscale attire. Kangol hats have been donned by such famous figures as Princess Diana and were the official headwear for the Beatles in the 60's and would later become a signature of hip-hop apparel when a list of rappers took to the famous hat company during the early 1980's.

In 1983 Princess Diana appeared in Vogue wearing one of the Kangol hats and as the brand's success grew, so did the confusion surrounding the actual name of the company - with most Americans referring to them as "kangaroo hats" or "kangas". In 1983 the company recognized they needed a mark to distinguish the world-famous product. So they began experimenting with logos and sent out a whole batch for review. These ranged from crocodiles to horses and turtles. Americans had been going into stores asking for the “kangaroo” hats. So instead of trying to fight it, Kangol adopted the Kangaroo into the logo.

DJ Grandmaster Flash from the Furious Five was one of the early pioneers of hip-hop who made the Kangol a part of his signature style, as well as the Sugar Hill Gang's Big Bank Hank who wore a violet Kangol bucket hat in the music video for their infectious 1979 tune "Rapper's Delight". Six years later LL Cool J would also become known for wearing the bucket hat when he rocked a red Kangol bucket hat and OG Jordan 1's on the back cover of his 1985 debut 'Radio'. LL would further solidify his commitment to Kangol when he appeared on the cover of his sophomore album, Bigger and Deffer, in a Bermuda Casual, he then went on to sport a variety of different Kangol models throughout his career. As did other notable wearers such as Run-DMC, Slick Rick, the Beastie Boys, the Notorious B.I.G. and later on Eminem and Rick Ross.

Here's what Slick Rick told the Redbull Music Academy about his early 1980's high school experiences involving Kangol hats SLICK RICK: The Kangol crew was basically a high school group, Dana Dane was one of the members. We didn’t have turntables and mixers, none of that stuff. We was poor. So, we just banged on the desk and made up cute routines and vibed with the whole school with our routines. We went to music and art, multicultural school, you know? And then we used to wear the heat, Kangol, because Kangol was part of the fashion of the game. Anything to make you, anything to sell yourself, you know, sexy, whatever. So we had the Kangols and the suit jackets and we used to just play around like that. Then when we got famous we took it to the TVs.


Here's what famous hip-hop photographer Chi Modu told Complex about the time when he photographed Biggie who was clad in a Kangol 504, Versace sunglasses, and his famous Coogi sweater, with the Twin Towers as the backdrop, “We wanted to show Biggie as the King of New York. So what better way than getting the twin towers in the background? Being a Jersey guy I know the view from over there, so I was like, Why don’t we do it at Liberty State Park? It’s perfect.” He continued, “This was long after he did that song where he says ‘time to get paid, blow up like the world trade.’ By this time Pac was dead. It was really sort of a dark period in hip-hop. People were still making music but they didn’t know how to feel. And then the era got finally capped with Biggie’s death. Now both Biggie and the Towers are gone, so it really captures a moment in time. 


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  • Wilson Edwards


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