Casquetteurs - If the cycling cap fits...
Cycling caps. The humble casquette. A simple cloth cap that graced the heads of all the greats. A good casquette is the masonic handshake of the cycling fraternity; a point of understanding as well as a faintly ridiculous display to everyone but your biking brethren.
We've all got to admit to owning one. It's part of the cyclist's pedigree, along with the odd tans, bib shorts, and back pockets. Yes, we cyclists are distinct from the rest of the world, and the rest of the world likes to remind us of that fact. The cycle cap though, by virtue of its implementation in an ensemble, invokes an entire two wheeled history, and that's what keeps your head up when the others in the playground start calling you names.
Maligned but magnificent.
Little more than protection from the rain and sun, and often barely that, for anyone who clings to celluloids of Coppi, mawks at images of Merckx and scans through cuttings of Simpson grinding gears up the Col Du Glandon, they are symbolic of an era of dirt roads, dodgy derailleurs and doing things the hard way.
The history of the cycling cap is a muddy, but happily, machine washable one. The consensus view is that, as with almost all bicycling bastions, they sprung forth from France. The early brevets and the infant editions of Paris-Roubaix exposed the steely so(u)led riders to the elements. Some form of head wear was sorely needed. The rudimentary flat-cap was the obvious biking choice in an era of top hats and tails, a decision evidenced by the Paris-Roubaix start line circa 1899.
Clearly though, tweed was not auxiliary to the need for speed, and eventually, the simple principle of the jockey's cap crept to the fore.
Throughout the 50s and 60s, the cap served as the ultimate mark of a professional. Cap in hand no longer meant cap in hand. It was a mark of a cyclist, good and proper. With the refinement of production techniques in the 70s and 80s, the cap became a way of spreading your name in cycling, one which the sponsors made the most of. With the introduction of helmets though, the cloth cap cowered, hidden from the light, never quite the choice of the modern pro peloton.
The casquette though, is not a reserve of history, a mantelpiece possession, or idle cycle geekery that singularly shouts “I REALLY LOVE CYCLING” to the randonneurs amongst the randomers on the street. No. The casquette is making a comeback, not only as a trendy complimentary piece to a jersey and bibs, but as a functional and useful piece of kit. After all, there was a reason they were made in the first place…
Recently, we have seen efforts from Californian brand, Cadence, who produced this rather snazzy little mesh cap to help you keep a cool head when the temperature and terrain start ramping up.
Equally, combating the perceptibly solid winters of the Northern European Classics calls for a different beast; one that has evolved flaps for your ears so you keep spinning those gears. Very much a modern day take on the traditional Belgian Winter Cap the simple, elegant and stylish design values blow any headband out of the icy Flandrian-muddy-puddle water. With caps available to conquer the chill available from Walz and Cafe Du Cycliste, this Showers Pass casquette illustrates nicely the transition from then to now.
We're a little sad to have lost the bobble though...
Most of all, though, a cap should be fun. After all, it has to match that smile that is summoned by the spinning of your legs. French brand Café Du Cycliste have got this one worked out to a thé, with packaging for their cap that has you applauding.
Hats off to them.
That the cycling casquette's story shall go on is unquestionable. For members of the cloth, they represent a yarn spun pedaling across Europe. A history as well as a living and breath(ing/able) piece of kit that will always be cherished by rouleurs out on the roads.
If you are looking for the crowning glory for your cycling ensemble, it's probably best you have a flick through our selection here...