At KAVU we’ve got more than a few classic designs under our patterned nylon belt, but if we were forced to pick the ultimate classic KAVU creation, it’d have to be the Strapcap. Functional and hard-wearing—with a serious dollop of flavour—the Strapcap has been around since before KAVU was even called KAVU, and if it wasn’t for this ingenious—and much-imitated—slice of headwear, there’s a good chance there’d be no KAVU in the first place. 

This most majestic cap wasn’t the product of board meetings or the desire to create the next big thing—but was instead born out of necessity, devised at sea back when our founder Barry Barr worked as a commercial fisherman in the Bering Sea in the late 1980s. 

Anyone who’s read The Old Man and the Sea or sat through The Perfect Storm will know that fishing at sea comes with its fair share of hazards, but one rarely mentioned is that of the harsh breeze blowing your cap clean off your head and into the briny deep. And after losing one hat too many, Barry set out to find a solution.

It turned out the answer was directly under his nose… on his Teva sandals. In the same way that these functional kayaking sandals stayed firmly fixed to feet via strips of patterned jacquard webbing strap (originally made using watch-straps), could a cap with a similar strap design keep his precious headwear from going overboard?

At first he applied the webbing to a trucker hat he had lying around, before going on step further and devising his very own design—honed and refined over the next few years for life at sea. Combining seriously tough 10oz canvas cotton with a heavy-duty tubular webbing strap which ran around the full circumference of the head, Barry made a unique four-panel cap that stayed fixed firmly to his head, even in the strongest of gales. What’s more, the large peak kept the sun out of his eyes, whilst the hardy canvas and generous use of bar-tacks meant it’d withstand years of abuse. 

Whilst it was created to solve a very specific maritime problem, Barry was quick to realise the Strapcap was good for more than just those toiling on the deck of a fishing boat—and the same details that made it so good for fishermen would also make it useful for those on dry land. Luckily for Barry, by the 1990s there were more reasons for hats to fly off than ever before. By that point being into ‘the outdoors’ didn’t just mean going for a walk in the hills anymore, and the list of outdoor pursuits was growing at a rapid exponential rate. 

Already established activities like hiking, rock climbing and kayaking were bigger than ever (hiking in the US grew 93% from 1982 to 1994, if you were wondering), each fracturing off into countless sub-categories, whilst new kit and equipment meant there were more ways than ever to experience the natural world (or at least hurtle past it). As work for the American masses became less physical and more dull, they sought new ways to stay healthy and take risks, whether that was blasting down a hill on a mountain bike or paddling a canoe into the unknown. 

But anyway, back to the cap. A keen outdoorsman from an early age, Barry knew the Strapcap was perfect for the new wave of outdoor adventurers, so he decided to take his design beyond being just an interesting side-project and turn it into a brand, and in 1993 KAVU was born.

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Barry didn’t have to go far to find those heading into the wilderness, and would sell the cap (along with watch straps and belts made out of the same patterned jacquard webbing) at the trailheads of popular hiking spots, before eventually catching the eye of outdoor shops like REI.

Even when displayed alongside the finest outdoor gear of the day, the Strapcap stood out instantly thanks to its uncompromising design and eye-snagging patterned straps. Not only was it functional, but it was fun—meaning that not only did its appeal stretch beyond fishermen, but it stretched beyond the outdoor world too—the kind of cap that worked just as well with shorts and sandals on the river as it did with a pair of jeans stood proudly by the BBQ. Designed for commercial fishermen on trawlers, worn by JFK Jr on his yacht, the Strapcap was a true masterpiece of versatility.

30 years later, what do we need to say? Whilst some classic designs can become diluted or watered down, the Strapcap has always stayed true to itself—and is still made in America in the same factory the same way it was all those years ago. What’s more, there’s also lightweight nylon versions, as well as some nice and toasty fleece options, meaning there’s a Strapcap for every situation—from the stuffiest summer day right through to the bleak midwinter. May your hat never fly off your head again.

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