Journal

  • La casquette; sun, sweat and style

    The humble cotton cycling cap is one of the finest designs in cycling.
    It can be found in the same design top drawer as Tuillo Campagnolo's
    quick release and rear derailleur and John Boyd Dunlop's pneumatic
    tyre.

    Yet with the advent, and subsequent ubiquity, of helmets it's almost
    been forgotten. The majority of cyclists now have no idea of its
    function and see it as some kind of anachronism when worn on its own
    (rather than under a helmet). Speculation about the reason for the
    cotton cap on cycling forums range from pre-helmet head safety to
    keeping bald men's heads warm under their vented helmets. The fact
    that people with those ideas aren't laughed off their forum is a sign
    of how bad things are for la casquette. The few remaining cotton cap
    wearers however know and cherish it's form and function. For them,
    going for a ride without a cap would be as unimaginable as going for a
    ride without cycling shorts.



    When riding, and especially descending, in heavy rain the brim can be
    adjusted so the rain doesn't hit you in the eyes. The same goes for
    hail and snow. When it's hot, the cap keeps the sweat and salt from
    your eyes. The cotton soaks the sweat from your brow and, with the
    brim adjusted, the sweat runs to the tip and drips off. When riding in
    hot climes in summer sunshine, the hat keeps the beating rays from
    your head and the short brim acts as a sun visor.

    As well as forgetting what the cotton cap is for, generations of
    cyclists now have no idea how it should be worn. As with any design
    worthy of its salt (or salt soaking ability), the cotton cap matches
    its function with form. But only if it's worn in the time honoured
    style. High on the head with the brim low at the front and some loft
    at the back.



    The point at which the brim is too low becomes clear when adjusting it
    while riding - if you can't see up the road, it's too low. The amount
    of loft possible at the back will depend on the wearer's head and the
    cap's size. Whether a rider chooses to wear his hat with maximum loft
    will depend on how confident he is rocking that look. Look at photos
    of the pro's from the golden age of cycling (roughly 1940 - 1980) to
    see how it should be done.

    The cap should never be pulled down tight, baseball cap style. The
    reason should be obvious to anyone who checks in the mirror.


    By Antoine Ventouse

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