La casquette

The cycling cap, la casquette, has a long and venerable tradition in our sport. The most current design, with the lightweight fabric shell and a small peak – easily stowed and adjusted – can be dated to the 1960s when it replaced some earlier designs.

Cap 1
Shorts have changed design, too.

While bare-headed, and often immaculately coiffured, riders are the iconic imagery of cycling, the cap has also offered defining images. There are a number of styles that that wearer can adopt, peak forward or to the back, peak raised or lowered, or the cap itself poised jauntily in moments of easy frivolity, or snug for serious racing.

Cap 2
Anquetil and Gaul sport the older style.

There is no more of an enduring image in cycling than the grimpeur attacking a climb with his cap pulled low to mask the pain of his efforts.

The cap can offer protection from the elements, both the sun and the rain, provide another billboard surface for the sponsor, be tossed to fans, or – by the account of many riders – offer a convenient receptacle in times of…well, best that we don’t talk about that.

Cap 3
Merckx attacks Ocana at the Dauphiné.

Helmets are now compulsory in races, and riders have found that modern designs are lightweight, aerodynamic, and cooling. Seeing helmet-less racers from just a few years ago serves to denote a passing of an era.

Yet the cycling cap has endured, more often than not on the podium, or to keep out the pre-race sun, or on a training ride on those safe European roads, or tucked under a helmet as an extra barrier to the ride conditions of the day. It has survived the brief popularity of the headband in the 80s and remains the head adornment of choice.

Cap 4
A grimpeur’s hat of choice.

For the non-professional, a cycling cap is a serious accoutrement. It can denote membership of a local team, distant loyalty to the European peloton (and if from an obscure team, symbolize some shared history in a tale worth telling), or identification with a particular era of cycling.

Having the cap of particular cycling team may itself denote another era, and the more discerning rider may wish for a more fashionable statement – a nod to current trends, as well as acknowledging the long and rich tradition of this particular chapeau.

Yes, this is a shameless plug for some particularly fine caps. Follow this link to find out more.

Cap 3
Mastrotto and Poulidor show the casual side of cap wearing.

7 thoughts on “La casquette

  1. The cycling cap. Riding a bike isn’t the same without one. Who can resist? I never get on my bike without one, and in times of (cycling cap) drought, wear the same ones until they nearly fall apart. What a great post.

  2. I love the cycling cap so much I started my own range of them. Simple elegant and oh so stylish!

    Thank you for a great post on why this simple accessory holds dear to many a cyclists heart.

  3. I have found that while cycling caps themselves are very good, it only suits certain people. Obviously, an overweight man with a face like a mellon isn’t going to look so graceful with a cap like that over his head. Certainly some look more good than others. I take it this way. If I like it and it makes me look fine, that’s for me. I don’t like to follow traditions.

  4. Congratulations on a very stylish blog. I just came over from Richard.

    Oh, and on the topic – it’s not that easy to find stylish cycling caps anymore. It took me years to find mine.

  5. My caps. With me on every ride. Like your post says, it’s a nod to the history of our sport. My favorite style: on its own, forward, brim down a la Miguel Indurain. Honorable mentions go to the “backwards-over-the-hairnet” style of King Kelly. Or the “forward-under-the-hairnet” style of Moreno Argentin. Classic. One of my fave eras of cycling (looking back now) is the late ’90s/early ’00s when cycling was a mix of old and new. Carbon bikes and hairnets. (There’s the title and topic for another post!)

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