It started as a promotional stunt in the 1980s by Mount Gay rum, which dubs itself the sailor's drink. The Barbados-based company soon began handing out the caps at the roughly 50 sailing regattas it sponsors each year.
But not just any racer can get one. To preserve the cap's cachet, Mount Gay makes far fewer hats than sailors at its regattas. The caps are so popular, the 40,000 produced this year were not nearly enough to satisfy demand.
"We want to keep the mystique of the hat alive," said Pamm Houchens, a sector manager for Remy Amerique, the New York-based parent company of Mount Gay. "We only produce a finite amount."