by Ariston Anderson
An iconic hat is celebrating its 70th birthday. Founder Jakob Spreiregen started importing Basque Berets to England in 1918 marketing them as post-war fashion starting the Kangol brand. His company took off in 1938, when Kangol became the main beret supplier to British troops during World War II. Rumor has it, the name is in the makeup—the K stands for knitting, the ANG for angora and the OL comes from wool.
Since its inception the Kangol beret has gone through many iterations. Stiffer materials were used to form a peak as found in the popular 504 cap which is named after the wooden block it was formed upon. In the 1950s, Kangol linked up with designers Mary Quant and Pierre Cardon who made their mark by designing styles for women.
The hat first found its way into the music world, when the most popular style icons of the 1960s, the Beatles, took a liking to the caps and designer Eileen Greig created a line specific for the fab four. However, the hat was truly integrated as a music symbol when it entered the New York hip-hop community in the 1980s by gracing the heads of Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick and Ladies Love Cool J.
Today the hat is still a major fashion symbol, taking its roots from both its British heritage and its hip-hop history. Kangol has teamed up with a variety of designers over the years including Catherine Malandrino, Comme Des Garcons, ALIFE, Stereo Sound Agency, INSA and Married to the MOB. The line today includes baseball gear, golf mesh hats, an eco-friendly line (bamboo and organic fabrics are used) and hats for transitional weather, all complete with the kangaroo logo.
To celebrate 70 years, on Wednesday, 8 October 2008, Kangol is throwing a huge bash at Le Royal in New York complete with a photo retrospective by Ricky Powell and Janette Beckman. They are also releasing a limited-edition classic wool 504. They are only producing 700 of the slick black hats, which retail for $70. Visit Kangol to enter to win this limited-edition hat and browse for more styles.