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Hip hop hats are one of the most recognizable hip hop accessories and refer to various types of hats that have become synonymous with hip hop culture and fashion. Hip hop has its roots in the 1980s, and from the beginning the headgear was an important part of completing a rapper's persona. Although many hip hop artists helped to influence hip hop style, legendary rapper LL Cool J has undoubtedly been the greatest early influence on the type of hip hop hats worn. In the 1980s, the teenage rapper was just beginning his career and could often be seen wearing Bermuda Casual bucket hats created by Kangol®, a United Kingdom–based hat designer, in his videos and stage performances.
Regular bucket hats featured a wide and downward sloping brim. The Bermuda Casual bucket hat, however, had a more structured bell-shaped design. This small difference gave the hat a more polished and cool look that quickly helped establish Kangol® as a favorite brand for hip hop fans and musicians.
Early hip hop was also influenced by black nationalism. As young artists examined black culture and the black condition, they began to wear clothing reflective of their African roots, including Kente cloth hats. Kente cloth is an African textile in a range of bright patterns and colors created from weaving together various strips of silk fabric. The bright, soulful hip hop hats were often paired with colors reflective of Africa, such as red and green.
In the 1990s, hip hop music became mainstream, and various styles rose up reflecting different regions of the U.S. and different influences from gangsta rap to street fashion. During the middle of the decade, for instance, some rappers took inspiration from mafia looks of the 1930s and could be seen wearing fedoras and other men’s dress hats. Among the most popular styles in hip hop hats that emerged in the 1990s was that of the baseball cap. These soft caps featured long, stiff brims and were worn in fluorescent bright colors. Often the cap was worn backward or cocked to the side to show a brash or confident attitude.
With some rappers having connections to prison, prison style also made an impact on rap in the 1990s. Durags, sheer cloth coverings that can be worn to protect the hair, were adopted from the prison subculture. They would often be worn under hip hop caps.
Following the success of the rap music in the 1990s, urban fashion designers began creating clothing, hats, and sunglasses associated with hip hop fashion. Influential rappers of the era also began creating their own fashion lines and putting their own spin on the offerings in hip hop hats, a trend that has continued into the new millennium. Hip hop music has always emphasized individual expression, and as of 2011, hip hop artists and fans continue to rock various styles of hats that reflect their own personal taste. Throwback and retro-style Kangol® hats, for instance, have continued to be a trend. Hat customization has also become extremely popular among hip hop stars and fans. These hip hop caps are available in an array of color combinations and can feature logos of sports teams, comic book characters, and bold graphics.
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