There’s no doubt that Kangol is one of the most well-known fashion brands in the world. Founded by Jacques Spreiregen in Cumbria, England, in 1938, the company started life as one of the main suppliers of berets to the Allied forces during World War II. After that, when everyday life had resumed, they would slowly assert themselves as one of the go-to labels for outdoorsmen.
However, the company would be reborn in the 1960s, when iconic fashion designers Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin worked with the company, helping Kangol’s products to reach the heads of icons such as The Beatles and Arnold Palmer. At this point as well, the company also supplied clothing for the Scout Association, showing there was nothing they couldn’t do.
It wouldn’t be until the ’80s in which Kangol started to cultivate real street cred. Their iconic range of berets entered a new phase when they were adopted by many members of the early hip-hop scene, including Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Biggie and of course, Kangol Kid. The 1991 crime thriller New Jack City also helped to popularise the brand, with Wesley Snipes’ Nino Brown rocking a Wool Monty Béret as he got up to his various nefarious deeds.
The brand would slowly build a reputation as one of the hottest of the decade until one man immortalised the little kangaroo forever. Samuel L. Jackson, king of ’90s fashion, is inextricably linked to Kangol, and it’s thanks to his almost constant donning of their headwear that it became such an iconic brand. Notably, he helped to popularise the furgora Spitfire design in 1997.
The man has seemingly made Kangol hats work with every outfit possible, and his long association with them in popular culture was kicked off with the release of Quentin Tarantino’s underrated flick, Jackie Brown, in 1997. Whilst, leading lady Pam Grier also rocked Kangol in the film, it was Jackson as the villainous Ordell, who really stole the show with Kangol. Whether it be the bright red 504 beret, or the black one, this was the moment where Kangol exploded.
Famously, after the release of 2000’s remake of Shaft, Jackson wore a white Kangol hat with the film’s title printed on it. If this confluence of his films with Kangol and merchandise didn’t confirm him as the de facto face of Kangol, we don’t know what would. At many film premiere’s, Jackson has rocked a piece of Kangol headwear, as well as in movies, even as recently as 2014’s Kingsman. We’re also sure that Mace Windu had a collection of 504’s in his apartment.
It’s safe to say that without Samuel L. Jackson, Kangol would not be the iconic brand it is today, and it certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed such a boom at the turn of the millennium. He canonised its importance in black culture in Jackie Brown, and ever since, he’s been tied to the company. With contemporary fashion now revisiting those heady days where anything seemed possible, Jackson’s appropriation of Kangol has never been so significant.
Watch Jackson discuss the brand below.