Friday, February 21, 2014

Bicycletiquette: Cycling Caps

Dear Jasper,
What are your thoughts on wearing a cycling cap when not actually cycling? Is it kosher or uncouthe?
Cap Curious

Dear CC,

Ah, the cycling cap—my good friend! That simple, elegant design is exquisite—a flimsy cotton headcover with a bit of elastic at the back and a budding semi-brim at the front. (I can tell you, CC, it’s an improvement over the loose cabbage leaf, nicked from my mother’s garden, that I used to wear on my head when I was in short pants on my first push-bike.) Then, as now, what the French call a casquette is a classy look almost anytime, anywhere, on or off the cycle.

It’s time, CC, to reconsider the harsh pronouncements of some cycling pundits who have greatly restricted the wearability window of that most delightful of cycling accoutrements, the bicycle-racing cap. I’m referring to the normally fine fellows over at Velominati who infamously issued the following decree:

Cycling caps can be worn under helmets, but never when not riding, no matter how hip you think you look. This will render one a douche, and should result in public berating or beating. The only time it is acceptable to wear a cycling cap is while directly engaged in cycling activities and while clad in cycling kit. This includes activities taking place prior to and immediately after the ride such as machine tuning and tire pumping. 

I have to most respectfully disagree with my learned colleagues on this one. Wearing a cycling cap while not cycling does not make one a “douche” and certainly does not qualify one for a chastising or pummeling. Cycling caps have been, and can be, worn in an appropriate and stylish manner in any number of non-cycling situations. It’s time to do away with this fascistic, anti-cap-ist malarkey.

It’s a little known fact, CC, that the “cycling cap” actually predates the invention of the bicycle by several centuries. During the Byzantine era, svelte clergyman routinely sported a piece of semi-brimmed headgear that looks remarkably similar to the cycling caps worn more recently by Sean Kelly, Marco Pantani, and Miguel Indurain. Headwear historians even believe that these proto-racing caps featured a type of elastic at the back, fashioned out of goat tendon.

 My point is that the cycling cap and its various ancestors are an aesthetic statement independent of the machines they are now associated with. In more recent times, cycling caps have been known to appear—sans cycle—on the runways of Milan and New York. In Brooklyn in the 1990s, the cycling cap was de rigeur for celebrities and men-about-town who never threw a leg over a bike.

The argument of Velominati is based on the premise that  a piece of clothing originally designed for a specific purpose can’t be adapted to other situations.  This is absurd. I ask you, how is a cycling cap worn off the cycle any different from a baseball cap worn off the diamond? Are we to believe all those ball-cap wearers are “douches” as well? Where does this madness end? Would our brethren at Velominati also seek to ban fellows from wearing Speedos in the grocery store?

Fact is, CC, the cycling cap is comfortable, practical, stylish, and versatile—suitable for any occasion when a full brim is too much and no brim is not enough. I wear my cycling cap to bed most every night. In fact, some nights it’s all I wear to bed, as I slip between my woolen sheets. (On extra frigid winter nights, I occasionally also don a jaunty scarf, Bonhomme-de-Neige style.) I find that a good deal of body heat escapes out the top of my balding pate, but a thin Bianchi cap keeps me toasty warm without encumbering my slumber. Plus it makes me dream of Italy.

If that makes me a “douche,” so be it. The Dusty Musette is proud to be a D-bag. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the Byzantine photo almost as much as I love looking at the occasional Speedo-clad shopper at my local IGA.


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