One of my bicycle-related gifts this Christmas past was a curious garment called a “Buff” — a tubular length of microfiber that can be worn as a scarf, skull cap, headband, balaclava, facemask or wristband. It probably has other uses, as well.
I wasn’t aware of the Buff’s multiplicity of configurations and uses until I spotted a video about it on Facebook. Hey, I’ve got one of those things, I thought.
It turns out that the Buff has been around since 1992. It was developed by Joan Rojas, a textile manufacturer and avid trail biker from the small Spanish city of Igualada, in Catalonia about 37 miles from Barcelona.
“I was wearing some military briefs around my neck to protect me from the wind and the cold and I got the idea to improve them because they were itchy and looked pretty ugly,” he says on the Buff website.
So in 1991, he began working on drawings and conducting tests in the family’s textile factory until he found a way of manufacturing a seamless, tubular garment out of microfiber.
“At first I just gave them to my kids and to my friends,” he said.
“He also promoted them among ski instructors and in shops,” the website says. “In 1992 he launched the first collection. Three years later, he began to market them abroad, mainly in France, Switzerland and Germany.”
All of the tasks to bring the Buff to market — design, production, printing, publicity and packaging — are carried out by a staff of a little more than 50 at the small factory in Igualada. About 80 percent of the sales are in exports to more than 60 countries through exclusive distributors. The company opened a U.S. sales office in 2003 in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Anyone who has watched the CBS reality series Survivor may have seen participants sporting Buff headwear.
Check out the video below for a demonstration of the Buff’s many uses.