Nantong Foremost Garments & Accessories Co., Ltd.
Nantong Foremost Garments & Accessories Co., Ltd.

Bucket Hats vs. Boonie Hats: What is the difference?

Nantong Foremost Garments & Accessories Co., Ltd. Updated May. 23,2024


Exposing yourself to the harmful rays of the sun is one of the most common ways to acquire skin diseases as well as skin cancer. When we do outdoor activities under the sun, the most exposed parts of our body are the skin at the back of the neck and the face. To prevent sunburn, one of the best ways is to wear a wide-brim hat.

Boonie hats and bucket hats are both types of wide-brimmed hats that provide excellent sun protection. 

Bucket hats, also known as fisherman hats, have been a popular headwear item since the 90s, and their recent resurgence has seen them become a fashion staple. 

A boonie hat is a wide-brimmed, military-style hat that helps protect your face and neck from the sun. It’s perfect for days spent outdoors, whether you’re hiking, fishing, or just enjoying the great outdoors. 

For today’s article, we will try to explain their origins and tease the exploration of their differences, let’s dive in!!

Section 1: The History and Origins

- Bucket Hats: Brief history, from Irish fishermen and farmers to a fashion icon.

The bucket hat or fishing hat is said to have been introduced around 1900. Originally made from wool felt or tweed cloth, these hats were traditionally worn by Irish farmers and fishermen as protection from the rain, because the lanolin from the unwashed (raw) wool made these hats naturally waterproof. 


- Boonie Hats: Military origins, designed for the Vietnam War soldiers.

The boonie hat was introduced to the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, when U.S. Army Green Berets of the 5th Special Forces Group began wearing them in the field, along with Australian and Army of the Republic of Vietnam units.


Section 2: Design and Features

- Bucket Hats:

- Material: Typically made from heavy-duty cotton (like denim or canvas), wool, or tweed.

Typically, the hat is made from heavy-duty cotton fabric such as denim or canvas, or heavy wool such as tweed, sometimes with metal eyelets placed on the crown of the hat for ventilation.

- Shape: Simple, floppy construction with a wide, downward-sloping brim.

The design features a round crown and a wide brim, providing sun protection. By sewing your own, you have the freedom to customize the fabric, color, and size according to your preferences. Additionally, you can make it reversible for added versatility.

- Fashion Focus: More minimalistic, often solid colors or simple patterns.

Today, the bucket hat has experienced a renaissance in the world of beachwear and youth fashion. Its functional design and ability to complement a wide range of outfits make it the perfect accessory for sunny days at the beach or relaxing strolls along the boardwalk. 


- Boonie Hats:

- Material: Lightweight fabrics designed for breathability and quick drying, such as ripstop nylon or polyester.

The boonie hat is usually made of heavy cloth such as cotton, olive drab, or tigerstripe camouflage cloth, although lighter-weight boonie hats have been introduced made with ripstop cloth.

- Features: Wider brim, adjustable chin strap, ventilation holes, and sometimes foliage loops for camouflage.

Boonie hats have wider brims to provide extra shade coverage. Bucket hats have taller crowns, making them more versatile style-wise—they can sit high on your head or be pulled down close to your eyes. Boonie hats sometimes feature neck capes, but bucket hats usually don't.

- Functional Focus: Designed for practicality and protection in outdoor environments.

The design of a boonie hat is ideal for hot, humid conditions. It can keep the rain off your face and prevent moisture loss through sweating. It shields you from the sun and allows air circulation. The brim is wide enough to provide shade but not so wide that it impedes peripheral vision in thick brush or undergrowth.


Section 3: Practical Uses

- Bucket Hats: They are primarily used for casual wear, urban fashion, and protection from sun or rain in a non-rugged context.

The bucket hat's wide brim offers protection from the sun, while its relaxed silhouette adds a touch of casual cool to any outfit. From music festivals to city streets, the bucket hat has become a highly sought-after clothing accessory for those going for a fashionable look that is also laid-back

- Boonie Hats: Their use in military, hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities requires more durable and functional headwear.

Wearing a boonie hat can prevent serious and painful sunburns. The hat's brim also cuts back on glare and helps keep your head cool, which keeps you comfortable. Lastly, the hat is great for keeping rain off your face, which happens often in tropical climates.

Section 4: Cultural Significance and Fashion

- Bucket Hats: Their resurgence in mainstream and high fashion, notable brand collaborations, and adoption by music subcultures.

The bucket hat first emerged in the 1960s as a practical and functional accessory for outdoor activities, particularly for fishermen and farmers. However, it wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s that bucket hats gained significant traction as a fashion statement. 

Today, the bucket hat has experienced a renaissance in the world of beachwear and youth fashion. Its functional design and ability to complement a wide range of outfits make it the perfect accessory for sunny days at the beach or relaxing strolls along the boardwalk.

The hip-hop community embraced the bucket hat as a symbol of urban culture, and it became a popular accessory among rap and hip-hop fans. The association between hip-hop and the bucket hat helped to cement the hat's place in popular culture, and it continues to be a popular accessory among fans to this day. 


- Boonie Hats: Their association with military apparel, adventure gear, and their sporadic appearances in streetwear.

Today, boonie hats are embraced by fashion-forward individuals looking to add an element of adventure to their outfits. From music festivals to urban outings, the boonie hat is a symbol of free-spiritedness.

In colder seasons, consider a boonie hat made from a thicker material like wool or a blend. You can still achieve a stylish look while staying warm, and the hat's design adds a unique touch to winter outfits.

Section 5: Choosing Between a Bucket Hat and a Boonie Hat

- Factors to consider: Purpose (fashion vs. function), environment (urban vs. wilderness), weather conditions, and personal style.

“Function” focused style prioritizes convenience while sacrificing the surface-level visual appeal of an outfit. In contrast, a “fashion-focused style doesn't consider how appropriate an outfit is for a specific occasion and is most concerned with how the outfit looks.

In cities, people usually choose to live in houses, that have a regular supply of water and electricity, as well as various amenities. In the wild, people may need to camp or seek natural shelter, such as caves and trees, to protect themselves from the natural environment.

Your style should be reflective of your interests, creative process, and lifestyle. When you develop a personal style you are curating a unique image and wardrobe that helps you to express yourself and embody the person you want to be.

Section 6: Care and Maintenance

Resting a hat on the brim will flatten out the brim. Dust your hat with a soft bristled brush to keep it clean. Heat will shrink the interior sweatband - avoid exposure to stoves, radiators, lamps, and car windows. Store your hat in a cool dry place to help it to retain its shape and stay clean.

Also, the best method for storing hats is to use a hat box. This is the most surefire way to avoid dust and keep the hat's structure intact. Admittedly, keeping hats in their boxes requires a little more effort to store, remove, and return every time the hat is in use.


The biggest difference between a boonie hat and a bucket hat lies in the brim: the brim of a boonie hat is stiff and can be shaped to minimize the silhouette, whereas the brim of a bucket hat is floppy.

While we offer both a boonie hat and a bucket hat at Highland Tactical, the bucket hat vs. boonie hat debate comes down to a few key factors. For Navy SEALs and other special forces operators, the boonie hat is the choice due to its superior protection from outdoor elements. The stiff brim and longer crown provide much-needed sun and rain protection, making them ideal for harsh environments. Additionally, a boonie hat can be easily modified with insignia or camouflage cloth as needed.

If you're looking for greater visibility in the outdoors and an overall more rugged look, a boonie hat is the way to go. With its classic military styling and increased protection from the elements, you can't go wrong with this timeless piece.

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