Whenever reggae starProtojetakes the stage, people beg him for one of the hats that he’s wearing, and for good reason—nobody else sports the particularly capacious Rasta crowns like he does. He’s certainly not the first to sport the storied headgear, which he’s quick to point out: “These are styles that I would see artists from the ’70s and ’80s inJamaicawearing, legends like Dennis Brown,” the Kingston-based musician says.
But they’re hard to come by these days, and while lots of artists have no qualms with giving away something that they’re wearing onstage to an adoring fan, whether it be a T-shirt or a tank top, Protoje is understandably reluctant to part with his collection. “I’ll be onstage singing and people are like, ‘Please, please!,’ but they’re one of a kind, so I can’t just give them away. I gave one away one time. This girl in the crowd was just begging for one, and afterwards I gave my brown one away.”
The artist, whose newly released albumA Matter of Timepremiered at number one on theBillboardreggae charts, was always interested in the wide hats—he’s long been fascinated with the sounds and styles of ’80s Jamaica—but he only saw older men wearing them. One day he randomly approached an elder with one of the crowns on to ask where he had gotten it, and the man directed him to two men who handcraft the hats 50 meters away from each other on the side of the road in a little crevice of the busy streets of downtown Kingston. “[In the past] you probably had a lot more people making them,” Protoje says of his signature accessory. “It’s a dying art, so these two guys that are making them are probably two of the guys that were making them for those artists back in the day.”