World Cup 2022: The story behind Wales fans' love for bucket hats

Ahead of Wales football games hosted in Cardiff, Wrexham or any European city, the streets have always been awash with red and white Cymru shirts as fans make their way to the stadium.

In recent years though, there's been a new edition to the match-day uniform: a bucket hat in Welsh colours.

The headgear is now so emblematic of Welsh footballing identity that even giant bucket hat installations in towns and cities across Wales have not looked out of place.

The explosion of bucket hats in Welsh footballing circles all started with one Wales fan's love of the Manchester music scene in the 1980s and 90s.

"As a group of lads living in Bala we used to enjoy going to a lot of gigs and that seemed to be the get-up at the time", Tim Williams told me.

Tim launched the 'Spirit of 58' shop in 2010, which sells a wide variety of unofficial Wales football merchandise including bucket hats.

"There are bucket hats here and around the world, is it all your fault?", I asked Tim.

"Possibly my fault yeah, but there we are", he says. "I never intended for it to be like this, it was more about having a bit of fun, add a bit of colour to the Wales support and then it's just grown over the years".

Giant bucket hat installations have popped up all over the country.

Tim says he "has a lot to be thankful for" given the success of his bucket hat designs has grown in tandem with huge success for the national team, playing at two European Championships in 2016 and 2021 and now a World Cup in 2022.

"When I first started watching Wales, going away 30 odd years ago, we went more in hope than thinking we could actually qualify", Tim says.

Tim and his mates are heading off to Qatar to watch Wales in the group stages and he says "Wales fans deserve a bit of luck" after decades of supporting a team that struggled for results in crucial games.

"I'm more of a realist", Tim went on. "I don't expect it on a plate, but you have to embrace it and I might not be around the next time Wales qualify for a World Cup so you've got to make the most of it!"

As we speak to Tim in his shop in Bala, people come in with a spring in their step, and leave with a bag from of merchandise. One father and son said they'd driven the 7 hour round trip from Cardiff to visit the store.

A giant bucket hat has also been installed in Qatar. Credit: PA

Lois and Imran had not come far, being locals to Bala, but they were coming to buy some Welsh gear before they flew to Qatar for the first group games.

"The feeling around the group reminds me a lot of Euro 2016 when it was their first Euros", Lois tells me.

"From what I can see in the press conferences with the players and manager, they seem relaxed and excited so I have a good feeling we're going to do quite well".

Up the road at Bala Town F.C, one of the oldest football clubs in Wales, there is more excitement brewing.

Iestyn Jones is a Japanese Knotweed removal specialist by trade, and a musician on the side. His band Josgins have created a new world cup anthem called "Waka Waka Cymru", which celebrates the joy surrounding the team's qualification to the world cup finals.

"It's probably been around 20 years in the making", Iestyn tells me on the pitch.

"I did my first radio session around 1999 and since then I've been messing around with music. Over the years I haven't had much airtime, but this time I'm on the playlist and it's happening. So I feel like I've won the world cup already!"

Iestyn says he thinks the tournament is a good opportunity to put Wales on the map, and hopes it will lead to a good year for tourism next year - particularly given the huge audience reach in Wales' group game opponents: USA, Iran and of course, England.

The song, Waka Waka Cymru has been released in both Welsh and English.

The song starts with a verse:

Dwisho teimlo gwres Quatar / I want to feel the heat of QatarSo ‘fynais i Rob am docyn spar / So I asked Rob [Page] if he had a spare ticket'Dwedodd genai Wilson a James / We've got [Harry] Wilson and [Dan] JamesMa’r wal goch yn galw pob gêm / The Red Walls keeps asking for each game

The chorus then goes: 'Da ni yn Cwpan y Byd / We're at the World CupWaka Waka Cymru / Waka Waka Wales

"It's quite simple!", Iestyn laughs. "I've had people message me from non Welsh speaking areas saying 'it's catchy!'.

"It's been really inspiring, and my kids keep playing it! The support has floored me, it's welled me up. I've had so much frustration in recent years so I can identify with the national team because I know what it's like to be on the losing side".

Iestyn says his daughter is normally very attached to Lady Gaga or Disney+, but there's something about the Waka Waka song that she likes. "There's only so much I can listen to it!", he laughs.