This spring and summer, I have been wearing and testing three unique hats for outdoors activities, including a wool cycling cap, a headband-adjustable model, and a retro hat made with waxed cotton.
The Summer Storm cap from OUTLIER (www.outlier.cc) might appeal most to a fixed-gear-riding hipster in Manhattan’s East Village. Indeed, the four-panel cycling cap is made in New York City, and its throw-back aesthetic rides a fine line between irony and old-fashioned good looks.
OUTLIER touts its product line as “classically tailored garments made with the best technical fabrics around.” The Summer Storm cap is sewn with Zegna wool suiting, giving it a silky hand. It is lined with a soft Supplex nylon fabric, adding a layer between your head and the wool suit material.
The Summer Storm cap, as per its name, is water resistant and made to perform in bad weather in case rain falls while you ride. It is also touted as breathable. But in my tests, the Summer Storm cap was a tad clammy and warm while riding through the city on an 80-degree day.
Overall, OUTLIER has created a neat custom look with the Summer Storm cap, and it is made with quality, fitting well and performing fine for use on a bike. It costs a pricey $80.
Hat No. 2 in my test, Nobis’ Al Koholic model, has an adjustable Boa Dial Technology knob built in. You spin the tiny knob to tighten the hat’s headband for a precise fit.
The company (www.nobis.ca) has a unique line of caps, from beanies to Asian-peasant-influenced “rice hats.” The Al Koholic, a fitted ball cap that costs $50, is among the more conservative models in the company’s line. But its look is still stand-out, with a cotton denim fabric and embroidered bead-stitch detailing on the front panel face.
I found the Boa dial feature to be a slick accessory on this hat. It quickly tightens the headband to cinch the hat on your head when the wind picks up.
Finally, the Stormy Kromer Waxed Cotton Cap appears to draw its influence from a lumberjack or maybe a wheat farmer in the Midwest. But the company’s line of hats — invented 80 years ago by a railroad engineer in Wisconsin — has a strong following with outdoors types looking for something different to put on their heads.
The Waxed Cotton Cap, which costs $29.95, includes the company’s (www.stormykromer.com) patented pull-down earflap. It is a ring of fabric that slides up and down for added protection against wind and chill.
But in my test with the Waxed Cotton Cap, the earflap did not pull down far enough for full protection. My earlobes were left uncovered and exposed in the wind.
In the rain, drops collect in this cap’s “gutter” area, which is a concave space above the earflap fold. Water then runs to the brim and trickles off. Like many things on the Stormy Kromer cap, it is an odd feature.
If you’re going more for a unique look, and less for absolute performance, the Waxed Cotton Cap — as well as the other two hats in this column — offers a striking, conversation-starting alternative to the average ball cap on the street.
—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.