The beret has a compelling history, growing from humble origins to grace the heads of many renowned people. It also comes with some intriguing trivia.
An intriguing fact about the beret is that it originated in the Basque region of France and Spain, worn by the working class in various colors. The black beret became a staple of the Parisian art culture because it was accessible and warm. Today, the beret is worn by peacekeeping forces and militaries.
This article will discuss seven intriguing facts about berets, from their history and material to the people who wear them now.
The Beret’s Signature Fabric, Felt, Was Originally Made by Shepherds
In the 17th century, shepherds would stuff their shoes with wool to keep warm throughout the winter. The combination of moisture and pressure inside their shoes pressed the fibers together into a kind of felt. They might have thought to wear hats made from the material then, if not for the stench from their sweaty feet.
It wasn’t until later that the concept was picked up by the fashion industry, where they mimicked this technique for making felt (but not using feet).
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The Beret Was First Made in the Basque Region of France and Spain
The Basques region, situated along the Pyrenees Mountains in both France and Spain, is known as the birthplace of beret. In fact, the traditional beret is also known as the Basques beret. Most people living in this region were fishermen and sailors, which may explain how the hat was brought overseas to Scotland. Discover more about why the French wear berets here.
The Beret Was Worn by Renowned Artists Not Because It Was a Fashion Statement, but Because They Were Poor at the Time
Artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries like Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, and Marie Laurencin were known to wear the beret, along with many Parisian artists of the Left Bank. While some argue that they were trying to imitate artists of the Renaissance, the more likely explanation for them wearing this hat is that it was inexpensive, and they needed to stay warm.
The Beret Was a Symbol of French Resistance to the Nazi Regime
When the Nazi army occupied France during World War II, the hat became a symbol of France’s autonomy and freedom. The French Resistance movement, the Maquis, adopted the beret as their signature hat because of this symbolism and because the hat was common enough not to arouse too much suspicion.
Today, the beret is also worn by numerous official military regimes and United Nations peacekeeping forces, each with their own color to signify their alliances. Within the United States Army, different colors signify different rankings and associations.
The Color of the Beret Used To Signify What Region You Were From
Different colored berets were worn in different parts of the Basque region. For example, just within Spain, there were at least three common colors: In Guipúzcoa, the beret was red, white in Avala, and blue in Vizcaya. In France, the standard color was black.
Today, the color of the beret has less to do with the region you’re from and more to do with the organization that you stand with. However, the red beret is still a symbol in the folk tradition of Navarre in the Basque region.
The Beret Has Its Own Museum in Nay, France
The Beret Museum features exhibits about the history and culture of the beret, including audio-visual displays. You’ll learn how the beret is made, who has worn the beret throughout history, and what beret culture is like today. You can even purchase your own beret at the gift shop.
The “Red Berets” Wore Red Berets and Patrolled the Streets of Urban Areas To Halt Crime
Throughout the 1990s, volunteers who called themselves Guardian Angels patrolled the streets of cities in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, and Japan, fighting crime and bringing reassurance to members of urban communities.
The beret, originally a working-class staple, has become associated with great people and movements, from Monet to the French Resistance. The color of the beret usually carries meaning, whether it be an association with an organization or a symbol of a geographic region. Today, berets are mainly used and worn by military organizations.