Tuesday, July 26, 2011
What's in a Cycling Cap?
So that is how I came to be in possession of my very own article of Rapha clothing that I'd critiqued only a week earlier. It's (even) less flattering to my face than my other cap, though admittedly it works better under a roadcycling helmet and the fabric and stitching are of higher quality. But more than anything, I like the unusual manner in which I acquired it. Sometimes an item can serve as a memento of a day or a social exchange, attaining the status of a personal keepsake.
Cycling caps are a very particular design that has become iconic: The skull-hugging panel construction, the small visor that flips up, the racing stripes. I don't think that any of the variations look especially good on most people, but their symbolism seems to hold at least as much appeal as their objective attractiveness or their cycling-specific usefulness. I would bet that the sale of cycling caps went up when Breaking Away came out, as well as more recently, when the Yehuda Moon comic became popular.
On a personal level, a specific cap might remind us of an experience associated with cycling that was exciting, formative or inspiring. Maybe our favourite racer wore one just like it. Or the cool older kid in the neighbourhood used to ride his bike around wearing one. At some point I realised that one of my first memories of my father involved a cycling cap. He is not a cyclist, but it was popular to wear them in Europe in the '80s, especially on the beach. I have a very clear memory of him sitting on a blanket and sipping beer while watching my mother swim in the sea, wearing a cycling cap with the visor flipped up. It was either yellow or white, and it definitely had the "world champion" rainbow stripes. Funny.
When the woman at the RSC asked for my cap, I had the distinct feeling that it reminded her of something, and it made sense to give it to her. But I will probably buy myself another one at some point: Those rainbow stripes remind me of Europe in the early '80s, of vintage bikes, and of childhood days at the beach.