Kangol: you can leave your hat on

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During its 75-year history, Kangol's caps have been on the heads of everyone from squaddies to Princess Diana to LL Cool J. The label just keeps staying ahead of the game, as Emma Akbareian explains

There will always be hats. And designers will always find some inspiration from the past. There were retro-inspired shapes at Moschino and Saint Laurent and more modern interpretations of the trusty sporty baseball cap at Alexander Wang.

Fitting, then, that this year is the 75th anniversary of Kangol. There aren't many brands that can boast a history including outfitting the British army, the royal family and world-famous rappers, but these are just some of highlights in its colourful history.

Founded in 1938, Kangol began life in Cumbria when Jacques Speiregen's berets were worn by soldiers and workers. It is a myth that the brand's name derives from the Kangaroo logo, which actually appeared much later in its history. Kangol gets its name from the combination of the K from knitting, ANG from angora and the OL from wool.

The brand's fame spread when it provided berets for the British army during the Second World War, before going on to outfit the British Olympic team for the 1948 Olympic opening ceremony. Fashion overtook function in the 1950s with designers Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin collaborating with the label – and legions of new fans arrived when the label inked a deal during the 1960s heydey of The Beatles, for the band to wear the headgear, including a special range. Slightly more surprising, but no less helpful, was an appearance in Vogue magazine in 1983 of Princess Diana wearing a Kangol hat. Suddenly women who would never have desired a felt cap started buying them. Not long after, a new generation fell in love with the brand (and possibly stole their mother's hats) once they'd seen rapper LL Cool J wear one at every possible opportunity. That kind of brand devotion these days is usually the result of a financial deal – he just loved the hats.

Sean Leon, Global Marketing Director explains Kangol's enduring appeal: “The brand is ever evolving, creating understated styles which are trend-led without being ostentatious.”

While, he adds crucially, “staying true to its heritage.” The mainline collection for spring/summer reflects this commitment. To celebrate 75 years in the hat making business there is a limited edition anniversary collection of some of the most iconic Kangol styles, including the Spitfire and the 504.

New for the season – and following on in the footsteps of an impressive line of designer collaborations – is the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. The range pops with vibrant colours and plaid patterns plus there's a distinctive graffiti tag design beret. So what's next?

“We're looking forward to creating new history with our upcoming partnerships, the next one being Disney for AW13,” says Leon. Perfect for a label that is still young at heart...

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