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.
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.
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.
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.
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.