Wanted/Needed/Loved: Brandon Schwartzel’s Bucket Hat

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I’ve never been a hair person, but I’ve always been a hat person. I don’t know if that’s because I like hats, or because I don’t like hair. But what I do know is that ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been attached to hats. I once had a cowboy hat, nothing out of the ordinary, just your classic brown cowboy hat with a sheriff’s badge on the front and a little strap under the chin. I would never take that hat take off, even when I was sleeping. I would throw such a fit that my folks finally said, “Fine, just wear it! We don’t give a shit anymore.”

I was a 90s kid, so I also remember wearing a flip-up bike messenger cap along with neon bike shorts with matching tank tops. When I was in junior high, I got into skating and stuff like that, and I had a hat from the band Face to Face that I was so attached to, I’d freak out if I didn’t know where it was. There was also a red beanie, which I still have to this day…

I’m not the only one in my family who’s into hats. Whenever they see each other, my dad and my uncle have always traded whatever hats they happen to be wearing. I don’t know exactly when it started, but they were both in the Navy and the way I envision it is that they were on different boats, and whenever they would cross paths, they would trade the hats from their ships so they had a piece of each other to keep with them while they were apart.

In the early days of FIDLAR, before we made our first record, we lived in this big house, and my friend Bert was around a lot. He did some early artwork for some of the first things we put out, and we would just hang out and party.

One night we were up late, probably having some “smoking the last two cigarettes” hang. He was wearing a bucket hat, like a typical grandpa’s fishing hat, and I was wearing a navy ship’s hat. I thought about my dad and my uncle, and I suggested to Bert that we trade.

I started wearing the bucket hat at our shows. We thrash around a lot, so intensely that sometimes the hat would fall off. I started trying to flip it up with my foot and catch it on my head. People would see this move as part of the show and cheer me on. After the show, I would call my girlfriend back home, and she would ask, “Did you get a hat flip?” Fans also started talking about it online. For a while, I think there was even a hashtag, like #brandonsbuckethat!

Although I became really attached to the hat, by the end of a big tour it was totally worn out. It was actually ripped through the top, and for a while I wore it with my hair sticking out. I tried to patch the hat with a handkerchief and keep it going, but when we got back, Bert was like, “Oh, you know, I have another one…”

When Bert traded hats with me, I thought he gave me his only hat, but he was working an odd job at a warehouse where he told me he found a whole box of them!

The one I have now is version 2.0— I’ve worn it in photo shoots and promo things, etc. It’s been spray-painted in all kinds of different colors and I’ve washed in the washing machine a bunch because it gets sweaty when I wear it on the road. The hat becomes faded and ripped, and when the paint wears off it gets another layer, so it’s just become really wacky.

A few years ago FIDLAR played a Halloween show with our good friends NO WIN—Bert gave the band a bunch of bucket hats and they all dressed as me.  Afterwards they gave me the hats so now I have back stock, which is great…

I don’t know what I’ll do when they all wear out though. Although I’m sentimental about my hats, I’m really only attached to them when I have them. If I lose them, I don’t try to find them again.

It’s like a relationship. If it comes to a natural end, I’m not going to force it to go on, or try to look for a replacement who’s identical to the person I broke up with. I’ll try to find a new love, and a new hat.

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Wanted/Needed/Loved: Musicians and the Stuff They Can’t Live Without is an illustrated column where musicians share the stories behind meaningful objects. As told to Allyson McCabe and illustrated by Esme Blegvad.

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Brandon Schwartzel is the bassist for the Los Angeles-based punk band FIDLAR, whose recently released third album, Almost Free, “touches on many of the tragedies and irritations of modern life: existential dread, gentrification, the inescapable sway of the super-rich and the self-involved, post-breakup telecommunication, performative wokeness, the loneliness of sobriety or the lack thereof.” The band is currently on tour.


Allyson McCabe writes and produces stories about music for NPR, and her own subscription-based channel, Vanishing Ink. Esme Blegvad is originally from London but is now Brooklyn-based. Her work has also appeared at Rookie and VICE. More from this author →