My son, the older one, said, “When you do something good in France, do they say ‘hat’ to you?” He’s a funny one, that boy, with a precocious sarcasm that will no doubt endear him to teachers and administrators alike. I was wearing the cycling cap above, a gift from the folks at Walz Caps, who have hatched this Caps Not Hats campaign with Bill Strickland and Superissimo.
The idea here is that cycling has traditional headwear. It’s made of cotton. It hugs the head and has a short-ish, rounded bill. It’s a cap. And yet, the baseball hat, pretender to the throne of leisure time sports headwear, has somehow supplanted the humble cycling cap on podiums and in the soft goods catalogs of too many cycling products companies. The aforementioned collaborators are seeking to reverse that trend, to return the simple cap to its former primacy in the cycling world.
This is an entirely serious, un-serious endeavor, or a passionate folly, depending on how you look at it.
When they asked if I’d like to have a cap, I thought about it. In taking it I was agreeing, although we never spoke about it, to write about the cap and campaign, and I wondered if I really had anything to say about cycling caps. Well, it turns out that I do.
I like cycling caps. I almost always wear one under my helmet. I like the way they look. I like the way they feel. I like them in winter. I like them in summer. Sometimes I buy a cycling cap, but I don’t wear it. I just have it. To have.
My wife hates when I wear a cycling cap when I’m not on the bike. She agrees with Rule 22, that the cycling cap is for cycling, and for nothing else. But you know, I don’t care for rules. I don’t like being told what not to do. And I don’t subscribe to the self-loathing idea that continuing to inhabit my cycling persona when I’m not actually riding is somehow wrong. When I see someone in a store or coffee shop with a cap on, I think, “Hey, a friend, a fellow traveler,” and I think that’s a good thing.
Further, I think the more cyclists people see in their world the more accepting they become of cycling. We need to be visible off the bike, too. And we need to not hate ourselves for being skinny (I’m kidding), shaven legged (I don’t), lycra wearing (mostly) suffer freaks (sometimes). This is who we are, rules or no rules.
Getting to the specific point of the campaign, to coerce the Contadors and Cancellaras of this world to doff the proper sombrero as they receive their bouquets and podium girl kisses, well, I don’t know. I don’t know how the modern baseball hat (colloquially a cap in its own right) managed to ford the Atlantic Ocean, like some sort of African swallow toting a coconut from tropical climes. How is it that this unlikely hat made the trip, but not the stultifyingly boring, yet compulsively statistical sport it connotes? And how will supporting Caps Not Hats, presumably by donning one of these caps, help the situation? I don’t know, but I decided to wear one.
I accepted their cap, and I pulled it gleefully from the padded mailer when it arrived at the house, and I put it on and commenced to attending my domestic duties, whereupon my wife tut-tutted and my boy said, “What does chapeau mean?” And I said, “It means ‘hat’ in French. It’s something you say when someone has done something well, as though you were tipping your cap to them.” And he nodded for a moment, and then smirked and delivered his line, happy with himself. My wife smirked, too.
They’re not cyclists.