Back in the day I was a hip hop junky, soaking in pretty much everything from the music and slang to the fashion and culture of Hip Hop and that’s when I had my first experience with the Kangol Brand.
Every rap star was wearing a hat with a little kangaroo logo on but the most prominent display was in the Hip Hop fuelled, New York City Crime movie “New Jack City”.
This movie was like a cinematic billboard for Kangol with the hat prominently featured on all the main characters.
A few years the brand was heavily featured by Samuel L Jackson in Quentin Tarintinos movie, “Jackie Brown” where his character wore a Kangol hat throughout.
Because of this Kangol is synonymous with the Hip hop culture so its pretty shocking to find that Kangol is actually a luxury British brand created in the 1920’s!
Founded by War veteran Jacques Spreiregen, Kangol originally produced hats for soldiers and golfers and after supplying the World War 2 armed forces it became the fashion industries finest brand of hats having been worn by the Beatles and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Kangol remained a British brand in the 60’s and 70’s but in the 1980’s Hip Hop was slowly becoming mainstream in the U.S with rappers like Run DMC, Slick Rick and LL cool J growing famous in both pop and underground culture. Each one happened to adopt the Kangol hat, boosting Kangol’s symbolism to new heights.
When rap stars wore Kangol hats they turned Kangol into a mainstream icon and embedded it into the Hip Hop culture.
Why the Kangaroo?
The hats were made from Silk (K), Angora (ANG) and Wool (OL) but it wasn’t until the 1980’s when Kangol decided that they needed a stronger brand identity. It’s said that most people were asking for a “Kangaroo” hat when searching for Kangol and to be honest with a name like Kangol, why not use a Kangaroo.
In this case the creation of the Kangaroo mark was actually quite funny with no real depth or heritage used for the symbolism of the design. It was more so just common sense with a splash of what sounded/looked good.
Kangol is like a brand divided. On one hand its still known as an British brand specialising in quality hats to those who can afford it and it was desired by the Hip Hop culture for that very reason.
Kangol hats still hold their heritage and exclusivity but other Kangol products focusing on urban wear are not as desirable begging the question why the brand half-heartedly watered itself down for the highstreet.
In any case the creation of the Kangaroo mark was actually sublime. Original, unmistakable and highy iconic especially when featured on a hat. The Kangaroo is in my eyes a great success in brand design.