What is "Beret" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 08-Jan-2024 (6 months, 12 days ago)
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Berets: An Icon of Style, Rebellion, and Cultural Identity

Deciphering the Cultural and Textile Significance of the Beret

With its roots steeped in history and its influence spanning across various industries, the beret has emerged as an iconic headpiece. Over the years, the beret has navigated its way through the realms of military uniforms, haute couture, and rebellious counterculture, solidifying its status as a versatile and timeless accessory.

Origins and Brief History of the Beret

The beret traces its origins back to the Bronze Age, where it was donned by ancient agricultural communities in Europe. The modern beret, as we know it, began to take shape in 17th century France and Spain, particularly in regions such as the Pyrenees, where it was commonly worn by peasants. The beret's transition from a simple farmer's hat to a military emblem and subsequently to a fashion statement illustrates its adaptability and enduring appeal.

Types of Berets

Through the centuries, the beret has evolved into several types, each with its distinctive style:

  • Military Berets: Adopted by many armies worldwide, these berets often come in different colors to denote ranks or units. They're typically worn tilted to one side.
  • Fashion Berets: These berets are a staple in the fashion industry, known for their chic and timeless appeal. They come in various materials like wool, cotton, or even leather.
  • Traditional Berets: This type represents the beret's peasant origins. They're usually larger, made of wool, and worn flat on the head.
  • Artistic Berets: Historically associated with artists and intellectuals, these berets have become symbols of creativity and free thought.

Tips for Handling Berets

Proper care and handling of berets ensure their longevity:

  • Avoid machine washing, particularly for wool berets, as this can cause shrinkage and misshape the beret. Instead, opt for hand washing.
  • To maintain shape, avoid wringing out the beret. Instead, gently squeeze out excess water and dry flat.
  • For leather berets, consider using a specialized leather cleaner to prevent damage and preserve the leather's quality.
  • Store berets flat, away from direct sunlight to prevent color fading and material degradation.
  • Periodic reshaping may be necessary for wool or cotton berets to maintain their form.

Profiles of Major Manufacturers and Users

  • Laulhre: Based in France, Laulhre is a historic manufacturer that has been producing traditional French berets for over 170 years, known for their high-quality wool berets.
  • Borsalino: An Italian luxury brand, Borsalino offers high-end berets made with premium materials like cashmere and leather.
  • Kangol: Based in the UK, Kangol is famous for their berets, particularly the wool 504 beret, which has been worn by various music and fashion icons.
  • United States Military: The U.S. Military uses berets as part of their uniforms, with different colors representing different units, such as the green berets worn by the Special Forces.
  • Chanel: This luxury fashion house often incorporates berets in its collections, bringing a touch of Parisian chic to the global high fashion scene.

Applications of Berets

The beret's various applications further demonstrate its versatility:

  • Military Uniforms: Berets have been an integral part of military uniforms worldwide, serving both functional purposes and as symbols of pride and identity.
  • Fashion: In the world of fashion, berets have been embraced for their ability to add a chic or edgy touch to an outfit. From high fashion runways to street style, berets continue to make a statement.
  • Cultural Identity: For certain communities, such as the Basques in Spain and France, berets play a crucial role in cultural identity and heritage.
  • Work Attire: In some professions, like chefs or security guards, berets serve as part of the work attire.
  • Art and Media: The beret has often been associated with artists, musicians, and filmmakers, symbolizing creativity and non-conformity.


The beret's significance transcends its function as a headpiece. Its rich history, widespread application, and enduring appeal make it more than just an accessory. The beret's historical journey from rural farms to military barracks, and onto high fashion runways, underlines its unique adaptability. Each type of beret - military, fashion, traditional, and artistic - offers a glimpse into its multifaceted persona.

Understanding the appropriate handling and care of berets, from washing techniques to reshaping and storage practices, ensures the preservation of their quality and lifespan. Furthermore, the involvement of notable manufacturers like Laulhre, Borsalino, and Kangol, as well as prominent users such as the United States Military and Chanel, reflects the global recognition and esteem of the beret.

Ultimately, the beret serves as a testament to how a simple piece of textile can assume various roles - a symbol of authority, a fashion statement, an emblem of cultural identity, and an icon of artistic expression. As we continue to explore the evolution of textiles, the beret stands as an intriguing intersection of history, culture, fashion, and functionality.

A beret is a soft round cap with a flat crown and is normally worn by both men and women. The cap fits snugly around the head, and the soft crown can be shaped in a variety of ways. It is commonly pushed to one side. Berets were originally worn by Northern Basque peasants and were knitted from wool. Today berets are normally made from wool felt.

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Did you know this fact? Fashion designer Anna Sui was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award by the CFDA in 2009.
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