Yes, you can kankan: boater hats go with everything

April 16th, 2010 by Sandra Barron

Boater hats of all stripes fill a shop shelf

Boater hats of all stripes fill a shop shelf

Once upon a time in America, men traded their felt winter hats for boaters on National Straw Hat Day every May and thus marked the unofficial start of summer. This year, in the coldest April in recent Tokyo history, the boaters are a season early, and it’s the women who are wearing them.

While grown-up headwear, from square fedoras and berets to flowery katyusha hairbands and whimsical head-perching mini-hats, are all responsible for upgrading the era of hip-hop’s baseball cap, it is the boater that is getting dressed up and down Tokyo. The Japanese name, kankan-bou (カンカン帽), like many fashion terms used in Japanese, comes from the hat’s French name, the canotier.  A classic straw version with a simple, solid wide ribbon gets top billing on the pages of online hat retailer, but simple is just the beginning.

In addition to the standard wheat straw and other natural materials such as sweet-smelling cypress and raffia, the hats come in a range of styles and fabric. Would you like that in linen, denim and cotton printed with tiny flowers? Even animal prints are prowling the spring streets. The band is endlessly customizable, showing up in sequins, nautical stripes and black and white polka dots. In step with the decofuku (decorated clothing), trend, people are adding bows,  flowers or bouquets of buttons.

On morning show Mezamashi TV, a model traipsed through Tokyo shops trying on a few different styles, showing how the hat can be paired with many of the season’s other musts: denim shirts, frilly blouses, embroidered jeans, cowboy boots, short shorts, overalls, rompers or maxi dresses. Striking a pose for the camera, she tipped off viewers to a final fashion do: tilt the flat hat just so, to about a 30 degree angle.

Singer Miliyah Katou and model Rinka, a frequent cover girl for fashion magazine Sweet, are credited by some with helping to popularize the hat. Styles can be, as one site explains, “girly” or “mens-like.” Natural colored straw or burlap look at home with the cottony forest-nymph style of dreamy Mori Girls. At the other end of the fashion spectrum, for the Shibuya Girls who seem to embrace any color combination as long as it does not occur in nature, a hot pink leopard print might be just the right topper.

Fashion blog Puddhing asks, “Is there anything the kankan doesn’t go with?” One might think there are all kinds of outfits that a boater hat shouldn’t go with. But a stroll down a fashionable street in Tokyo this spring could prove otherwise.

Prices are from less than ¥2,000 at stalls on Takeshita Dori in Harajuku to over ¥10,000 on Noticed any eye-catching fashions on the street?

A homemade stuffed bear, the logo of her favorite store, WC.

A homemade stuffed bear, the logo of her favorite store, WC

Tags: ,

2 Responses

  1. I saw a girl in a Koenji sushi shop wearing this the other night. She had it perched on an angle on a teased up tangle of blondish hair — kind of neo-Edwardian punk.

  2. Good sighting! I have been seeing them all over the place since this went up, too.


Recent Posts

  • Marketers capitalize on university entrance exam time

    This week there is something weighing heavy on the minds of many students who’d like to advance to college: the National Center Test for University Admissions. It’s being held Jan. 18-19. Those with their heart set on a particular school who don’t get a good enough score may choose to spend a year, or in [...]

  • Pulsations 1.13.14

    The first batch of Pulsations in 2014 features a twist on chopstick design, a spectacular holiday illumination in Osaka and more.

  • Feelin’ lucky? The highs and lows of ‘fukubukuro’

    Whether you count fukubukuro “lucky bags” as a thank-you to shoppers, a scheme to unload less popular merchandise at the end of the year or just a way to kick off the New Year’s sales, buying a mystery pile of stuff worth [hopefully far] more than the price tag is a tempting offer to many. [...]

  • Pulsations (12.6.13)

    This collection of Pulsations brings holiday cheer in bento form, a must-see project for font-lovers, a solo stop-motion animation effort and more!

  • Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013

    Joysound karaoke announced their top songs of 2013! However, just because they’re popular does not mean they came out this year . . .

  • Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo

    Eggs Benedict with awesome bacon, with a near lack of eggs, with raw tuna! Wait, raw tuna?! We sample a handful of Tokyo’s Hollandaise sauces.

  • Pulsations (11.19.13)

    Fashion, art and snacktime collide in this collection of Pulsations! Plus: Doraemon makes his 3D film debut!

  • J-blip: Tsutaya launches one-stop ‘lifestyle’ bookshop

    Bookseller Tsutaya moves into the lifestyle business and gives consumer more ways to use T-points.

  • Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products

    The change of season prompts a change of snack flavorings – great for those with a pumpkin craving.

  • Tokyo Designers Week 2013

    This year’s Tokyo Designers Week gets its creative juices flowing with more markets, music and a festival vibe.

Read more:
Pulse Rate:

Japan isn't exactly the land of discounts, but the Web is at least helping consumers pinpoint the price drops in...