Characteristics: a beret is a soft, round hat with a flat crown which is worn tilted to one side of the head. Usually made from from wool, felt, knitted/crocheted cotton, leather or acrylic, the base of a beret snuggly hugs the wearer’s head. While a traditional beret is round, soft and flexible, we also see rigid versions blocked in felt or straw. These blocked versions often follow more oval, teardrop, or triangular shapes which give them that characteristic “tilted to one side” beret look. Berets are made from a single piece of material, without seams across or around the hat, which give them a smooth appearance.
History: Hats similar to the beret have been found in Bronze Age (3200-600 B.C.) tombs and on paintings and sculptures across Western Europe from 400 B.C. through the 13th century, a longevity sustained over the centuries by the availability and cheap cost of wool and the simple style of the hat. By the by the 14th and 15th century, wool berets were commonly worn by the lower classes of society, particularly farmers and artists. Rembrandt was known to often wear a beret hat, which features in most of his self portraits.
The French word “beret” was first documented in 1835 referring to a flat, woolen cap worn by Basque peasants. During the Second Carlist War in Spain (1846-1849), the beret was first politicised when Carlist leader Tomas Zumalacarregui took to wearing one in red. In France, the hat’s military association grew when elite members of the French Army began a long-held tradition of wearing a blue beret. In the 1950s, the U.S. Army’s Special Forces adopted green berets, for which the group is now referred. Today, we see berets the military uniforms of numerous nations.
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The beret first became fashionable during the roaring 1920s, becoming the epitome of Parisienne bohemian chic; by 1928, factories in France, Spain and Italy were manufacturing millions. New wave French film brought a revival in the 1960s, a revival that took a revolutionary turn, first on the heads of Cuban leaders Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, then through the 1970s on on members of the Black Panthers, Brown Berets Young Lords Party and Guardian Angels.
The beret came back into fashion popularity in the 1990s free of its former statements of social class, art, political ideology, black pride, revolution or vigilante organization. The past decade, embellished beret percher designs have dominated millinery fashion, topping heads at racing and royal events around the world.
Royals Associated with this Hat Style: No surprise, this long-standing hat style is among the most widely worn across all royal households. Click on the photos below to link back to feature posts and original photo sources for each hat.
Traditional Soft Berets:
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Hats by Stephen Jones, unknown,unknown, Jane Taylor, unknown, Dior, unknown, unknown
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Hats by Stephen Jones, unknown, Stephen Jones, Whiteley, Frederick Fox, Dior, Gina Foster,
Philip Treacy, unknown, Fabienne Delvigne, Philip Treacy and Emily London
Embellished Beret Perchers:
Hats by by Philip Treacy, Philip Treacy, Philip Treacy, Juliette Botterill, Jane Taylor, unknown, Philip Treacy
Hats by Rosie Olivia, Whitely, Amy Morris-Adams, Philip Treacy, Rosie Olivia, Philip Treacy, Jane Taylor
Hats by Philip Treacy, Rachel Black, Juliette Botterill, Susanne Juul, Eudia, William Chambers and Juliette Botterill
What do you think of the once lowly beret hat? What is your favourite beret hat to don a royal head?
Images from Getty as indicated and:
Soft berets images from: Pascal Le Segretain, The Asahi Shimbun and Chris Jackson via Getty Images
Blocked berets images from: Tim Graham Photo Library, Valery Hache/AFP, Pool/Max Mumby, Patrick van Katwijk, Rune Hellestad – Corbis/Corbis, Photonews, Samir Hussein/WireImage and Mark Cuthbert via Getty Images
Embellished beret perchers images: Freek van den Bergh/Pool, Chris Jackson, Mark Cuthbert, Andrew Matthews/PA Images, Max Mumby/Indigo, Ragnar Singsaas, Max Mumby/Indigo, Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images; Corbis; Gareth Fuller/WPA Pool, Chris Jackson, Chris Jackson, Samir Hussein/Wire Image, Chris Jackson, Max Mumby/Indigo, Julian Parker, Samir Hussein, Julian Parker/UK Press, Patrick van Katwijk/Wire Image, Max Mumby/Indigo, and Andrew Matthews/PA Images