Fashion model wearing a beret (top); traditional Basque-style beret with headband folded in (bottom)

Fashion Model in Hat (31553515671)
Sven Palmqvist 1965

A beret (UK: /ˈbɛreɪ/[1] BERR-ay or US: /bəˈreɪ/[2] bə-RAY; French: [beʁɛ]) is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, usually of woven, hand-knitted wool, crocheted cotton, wool felt,[3] or acrylic fibre.

Mass production began in 19th-century France and Spain, countries with which it remains associated. Berets are worn as part of the uniform of many military and police units worldwide, as well as by other organisations.[4]


Archaeology and art history indicate that headgear similar to the modern beret has been worn since the Bronze Age across Northern Europe and as far south as ancient Crete and Italy, where it was worn by the Minoans, Etruscans and Romans. Such headgear has been popular among the nobility and artists across Europe throughout modern history.[3]

The Basque style beret was the traditional headgear of Aragonese and Navarrian shepherds from the Ansó and Roncal valleys of the Pyrenees,[5] a mountain range that divides Southern France from northern Spain. The commercial production of Basque-style berets began in the 17th century in the Oloron-Sainte-Marie area of Southern France. Originally a local craft, beret-making became industrialised in the 19th century. The first factory, Beatex-Laulhere, claims production records dating back to 1810. By the 1920s, berets were associated with the working classes in a part of France and Spain and by 1928 more than 20 French factories and some Spanish and Italian factories produced millions of berets.[3]

In Western fashion, men and women have worn the beret since the 1920s as sportswear and later as a fashion statement.

Military berets were first adopted by the French Chasseurs Alpins in 1889.[6] After seeing these during the First World War, British General Hugh Elles proposed the beret for use by the newly formed Royal Tank Regiment, which needed headgear that would stay on while climbing in and out of the small hatches of tanks. They were approved for use by King George V in 1924.[7] Another possible origin of the RTR beret is that it was suggested to Alec Gatehouse by Eric Dorman-Smith. While the two officers were serving at Sandhurst in 1924, Gatehouse, who had transferred to the Royal Tank Corps, had been given the task of designing a practical headgear for the new corps. Dorman-Smith had toured Spain, including the Basque region, with his friend Ernest Hemingway during the past few years, and had acquired a black Basque beret during his travels.

The specifications were that it had to protect men's hair from the oil in a tank but not take up space in the cramped interior, and he led Gatehouse straight to his room. Hanging on the wall was his Basque beret from Pamplona. He tossed it across, and Gatehouse gingerly tried it on. The beret design was adopted...[8]

The black RTR beret was made famous by Field Marshal Montgomery in the Second World War.[3]


Italian Soldier Olypmic Games Turin 2006
A soldier of the Italian Folgore Brigade wearing the beret.

The beret fits snugly around the head, and can be "shaped" in a variety of ways – in the Americas it is commonly worn pushed to one side. In Central and South America, local custom usually prescribes the manner of wearing the beret; there is no universal rule and older gentlemen usually wear it squared on the head, jutting forward. It can be worn by both men and women.

Military uniform berets feature a headband or sweatband attached to the wool, made either from leather, silk or cotton ribbon, sometimes with a drawstring allowing the wearer to tighten the hat. The drawstrings are, according to custom, either tied and cut off or tucked in or else left to dangle. The beret is often adorned with a cap badge, either in cloth or metal. Some berets have a piece of buckram or other stiffener in the position where the badge is intended to be worn.

Berets are not usually lined, but many are partially lined with silk or satin. In military berets, the headband is worn on the outside; military berets often have external sweatbands of leather, pleather or ribbon. The traditional beret (also worn by selected military units, such as the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais or the French Chasseurs Alpins), usually has the "sweatband" folded inwardly. In such a case, these berets have only an additional inch or so of the same woollen material designed to be folded inwardly.

Newer beret styles made of Polar fleece are also popular.

National traditions and variants

Olentzero Hendaia 2006
Olentzero, a Basque Christmas figure, wears a beret

Basque Country

Berets came to be popularised across Europe and other parts of the world as typical Basque headgear, as reflected in their name in several languages (e.g. béret basque in French; Baskenmütze in German; Basco in Italian; or baskeri in Finnish), while the Basques themselves use the words txapela or boneta. They are very popular and common in the Basque Country. The colours adopted for folk costumes varied by region and purpose: black and blue are worn more frequently than red and white, which are usually used at local festivities. The people of Aragon adopted red berets while the black beret became the common headgear of workers in France and Spain.[3]

A big commemorative black beret is the usual trophy in sport or bertso competitions, including Basque rural sports, the Basque portions of the Tour de France, and the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. It may bear sewn ornamental references to the achievement or contest.

Artesano en Cantabria
Cantabrian craftsman wearing a boina


The black beret was once considered the national cap of France in Anglo-Saxon countries and is part of the stereotypical image of the Onion Johnny. It is no longer as widely worn as it once was, but it remains a strong sign of local identity in the southwest of France. When French people want to picture themselves as "the typical average Frenchman" in France or in a foreign country, they often use this stereotype from Anglo-Saxon countries.[9] There are today, three manufacturers in France. Laulhère (who acquired the formerly oldest manufacturer, Blancq-Olibet, in February 2014 [10]) has been making bérets since 1840. Boneteria Auloronesa is a small artisan French beret manufacturer in the Béarnese town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie,[11] and Le Béret Français is another artisan béret maker in the Béarnese village of Laàs.[12] The beret still remains a strong symbol of the unique identity of southwestern France and is worn while celebrating traditional events.


In Spain, the beret is usually known as the boina, sometimes also as bilbaína [13] or bilba [14]. They were once common men's headwear in most of the country, mainly across the north and central areas of the country, in the regions of Castile (both north and south),[15] Aragon,[16] Navarre,[17], Leonese, the Basque Country,[17] Cantabria,[18] Asturias,[19] Extremadura [15] and Galicia.[20] The first areas to wear it were the Basque Country, Navarre and Castile, but it spread all over most of Spain during the 19th century.[15]

All over Spain it's actually ended up becoming a stereotype of rural people, often with negative connotations of boorishness and uncouthness, found in expressions such as "paleto de boina a rosca" ("a hick wearing a screwed-on boina"), which has reduced the number of boina wearers even more.[21][22][23][15]

Kilwinning Archer's bonnet
The traditional bonnet of the Kilwinning Archers of Scotland


There are several Scottish variants of the beret, notably the Scottish bonnet or Bluebonnet[24] (originally bonaid in Gaelic), whose ribbon cockade and feathers identify the wearer's clan and rank. It's considered a symbol of Scottish patriotism. Other Scottish types include the tam-o'-shanter (named by Robert Burns after a character in one of his poems) and the striped Kilmarnock cap, both of which feature a large pompom in the centre.[3]


The beret was brought into Vietnam during French colonization and was adopted as male headgear by the Nung, Tay and Cao Lan people.


As uniform headgear

Russian paratroopers 9 may 2005 b
Russian paratroopers wearing the beret during a 2005 military parade

The beret's practicality has long made it an item of military, police and other uniform clothing.

Among a few well-known historic examples are the Scottish soldiers, who wore the blue bonnet in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Volontaires Cantabres, a French force raised in the Basque country in the 1740s to the 1760s, who also wore a blue beret, and the Carlist rebels, with their red berets, in 1830s Spain. In World War II, British officer Bernard Montgomery ("Monty") took to wearing a black beret given to him by a corporal, and it became his trademark.[25] In the 1950s the U.S. Army's newly conceived Special Forces units began to wear a green beret as headgear, following the custom of the British Royal Marines, which was officially adopted in 1961 with such units becoming known as the "Green Berets", and additional specialised forces in the Army, U.S. Air Force and other services also adopted berets as distinctive headgear.

In fashion and culture

Photograph of Richard Wagner in his beret

The beret is part of the long-standing stereotype of the intellectual, film director, artist, "hipster", poet, bohemian and beatnik. The painter Rembrandt and the composer Richard Wagner, among others, wore berets.[26] In the United States and Britain, the middle of the 20th century saw an explosion of berets in women's fashion. In the latter part of the 20th century, the beret was adopted by the Chinese both as a fashion statement and for its political undertones. Berets were also worn by bebop and jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Wardell Gray and Thelonious Monk.

As a revolutionary symbol

The Guerrillero Heroico portrait of Che Guevara

Guerrillero Heroico, one of the most famous photographs of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, shows him wearing a black beret with a brass star.

In the 1960s several activist groups adopted the black beret. These include the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), the ETA guerrillas (who wore black berets over hoods in public appearances), the Black Panther Party of the United States, formed in 1966,[27] and the "Black Beret Cadre" (a similar Black Power organisation in Bermuda).[28] In addition, the Brown Berets were a Chicano organisation formed in 1967. The Young Lords Party, a Latino revolutionary organisation in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, also wore berets, as did the Guardian Angels unarmed anti-crime citizen patrol units originated by Curtis Sliwa in New York City in the 1970s to patrol the streets and subways to discourage crime (red berets and matching shirts).


Rasta Man Barbados
Rastafarian with beret

Adherents of the Rastafari movement often wear a very large knitted or crocheted black beret with red, gold and green circles atop their dreadlocks. The style is often erroneously called a kufi, after the skullcap known as kufune. They consider the beret and dreadlocks to be symbols of the biblical covenant of God with his chosen people, the "black Israelites".[3]

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). 1989.
  2. ^ " Unabridged". Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Chico, Beverly (2005). "Beret". In Steele, Valerie (ed.). Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. 1. Thomson Gale. pp. 149–150. ISBN 0-684-31394-4.
  4. ^ Kilgour, Ruth Edwards. A Pageant of Hats Ancient and Modern. R. M. McBride Company, 1958.
  5. ^ "AMIGOS DE LA BOINA DE CALATORAO ( ZARAGOZA )". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  6. ^ Mollo, John. Military Fashion. p. 200. ISBN 0-214-65349-8.
  7. ^ Lt Col George Forty, A Pictorial History of the Royal Tank Regiment, Halsgrove Publishing 1988, ISBN 978-1-84114-124-4
  8. ^ Lavinia Greacen, Chink: A Biography, MacMillan London Ltd., London, 1989, pp. 93, 95
  9. ^ In the movie Crazy for Love shot after WWII in Normandy, the hero wears a cap at the beginning of the movie, but then he changes for a beret, to make ″more French″. Later a lady is looking for him in the village and asks everybody "Have you seen somebody wearing a beret passing by...?"
  10. ^ "US". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  11. ^ "L'ancien de Laulhère fait des bérets tout seul". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Qui sommes-nous - Le Béret Français". Archived from the original on 8 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ a b c d [3]
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ a b [5]
  18. ^ [6]
  19. ^ [7]
  20. ^ [8]
  21. ^ [9]
  22. ^ [10]
  23. ^ [11]
  24. ^ "Bluebonnet". Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  25. ^ "Jim Fraser obituary". The Guardian. 27 May 2013.
  26. ^ Bruyn, J., van de Wetering, Ernst & Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings IV: Self-Portraits Springer, 18 Oct 2005, p. 290.
  27. ^ p.119 Ogbar, Jeffrey Ogbanna Green Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity 2004 JHU Press
  28. ^ "Black Berets". Retrieved 27 March 2018.

External links

  • Media related to Berets at Wikimedia Commons
Beret, Hungary

Beret is a village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County in northeastern Hungary.

As of 2008 it had a population of 287.

Berets of the United States Army

Since June 14, 2001, the black beret is worn by all United States Army troops unless the soldier is approved to wear a different distinctive beret. In the U.S. Army there are four approved distinctive berets: maroon, tan, brown, and green.

In 2011, the Army replaced the black wool beret with the patrol cap as the default headgear for the Army Combat Uniform.The maroon beret has been adopted as official headdress by the Airborne forces as a symbol of their unique capabilities, the tan beret by the 75th Ranger Regiment, the brown beret by the Security Force Assistance Brigades, and the green beret by the Special Forces.

Black beret

The black beret is a type of headgear. It is commonly worn by paramilitaries and militaries around the world, particularly armored forces such as the British Army's Royal Tank Regiment (RTR), the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC), and the Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC). Notable non-armored military units to wear the black beret include the Russian Naval Infantry (and formerly Soviet) and Russian OMON units, the United States Air Force (USAF) Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members, and the Royal Canadian Navy ("navy blue"). It was also worn by the United Kingdom's Royal Observer Corps (ROC) with their Royal Air Force (RAF) uniform, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Black berets are also worn by navies. In some navies, the naval color called black is officially "very dark blue". The Dutch Navy and Marines wear dark navy blue berets; a silver anchor for the Navy and a gold or dark brown (field duty) anchor on a red background for the Marines. The Portuguese Marines and San Marco Regiment, the Marines of the Italian Navy also wear a dark blue beret. The Royal Norwegian Air Force also use a dark blue beret. Finnish Marine Infantry wear a dark blue beret with the Navy insignia.(Finnish Coastal Jaegers - marine commandos - part of the same Nylands Brigade, wear the green beret).

Perhaps the most famous Commonwealth wearer of the black beret was Field Marshal Montgomery who wore a Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) beret complete with cap badge, presented to him by the regiment, to which he added his own general's (later field marshal's) rank insignia.

Blue beret

A blue beret is a blue-colored beret used by various (usually special) military and other organizations, notably the United Nations peacekeepers who are sometimes referred to as the Blue Berets.

Bust of a Man Wearing a Gorget and Plumed Beret

Bust of a Man Wearing a Gorget and Plumed Beret is a 1626/7 oil on panel painting by Rembrandt. It measures 39.8 by 29.4 centimetres (15.7 in × 11.6 in) and is held in a private collection. It is believe to be the earliest extant single figure painting by Rembrandt.

The work is dated to around 1626/27, when Rembrandt was in his early twenties working in Leiden. X-ray analysis shows that it was painted over an earlier work depicting the head of an old man.

The identity of the subject is not known, but it is believed to be a character study or "tronie" of a historical character, wearing costume - gorget and cap with feather plume - fashionable in the 15th century, possibly inspired by a woodcut print of a lansquenet.

The subject is depicted in a pose typical of Rembrandt's work, with the subject looking over the left shoulder. It uses an exaggerated fall of light, creating bright highlights and deep shadows, perhaps inspired by Caravaggio.

The early history of the painting is not known with much certainty. It may have been held by Leo Nardus. It was acquired by Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza around 1929, and displayed at Schloss Rohoncz at Rechnitz and later at Villa Favorita in Lugano. It was sold by his daughter Margit von Batthyány before 1954, and then auctioned at Christie's in London in 1974 and acquired by Herman Shickman and Lila Shickman. It was acquired by Pieter Dreesmann (son of Anton Dreesmann of the Dutch department store chain V&D) and Olga Dreesmann in 2002, and sold from their collection at Christie's in London in 2012, for £8,441,250.A copy of the painting was sold at Christie's in 1952.


A cap is a form of headgear. Caps have crowns that fit very close to the head. They are typically designed for warmth, when including a visor used for blocking sunlight from the eyes. They come in many shapes and sizes, and various different brands.

Green beret

The green beret was the official headdress of the British Commandos of the Second World War. It is still worn by members of the Royal Marines after passing the Commando Course and personnel from other units of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF who serve within 3 Commando Brigade and who have passed the All Arms Commando Course.

There are certain other military organizations which also wear the green beret because they have regimental or unit histories that have a connection with the British Commandos of the Second World War. These include the Australian, French and Dutch commandos. It is the norm in the armed forces of the Commonwealth Nations, where most regiments wear headdresss and cap badges which reflect regimental history and traditions.

Maroon beret

The maroon beret in a military configuration has been an international symbol of airborne forces since the Second World War. It was officially introduced in 1942, at the direction of Major-General Frederick "Boy" Browning, commander of the British 1st Airborne Division. It was first worn by the Parachute Regiment in action in North Africa during November 1942. Although coloured maroon, the beret of the British Parachute Regiment is often called the "red beret."

Military beret

Berets have been a component of the uniforms of many armed forces throughout the world since the mid-20th century. Military berets are usually pushed to the right to free the shoulder that bears the rifle on most soldiers, but the armies of some countries, mostly within Europe, South America and Iran have influenced the push to the left.

In some countries, berets are associated with elite units, who often wear berets in more unusual colours.The maroon beret is traditional for elite units in the western world.

Raspberry Beret

"Raspberry Beret" is a song written by Prince and the lead single from Prince & The Revolution's 1985 album Around the World in a Day.

Red beret

The red beret is a military beret worn by many military police, paramilitary, commando, and police forces. The term is also used to refer to the British Parachute Regiment, although members wear the maroon beret.

Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar

Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar is a 1659 oil on canvas painting by the Dutch artist Rembrandt, one of over 40 self-portraits by Rembrandt. It has been noted as a self-portrayal of subtle and somber qualities, a work in which may be seen "the stresses and strains of a life compounded of creative triumphs and personal and financial reverses". Once owned by Andrew W. Mellon, it has been in the National Gallery of Art since 1937.

Tan beret

The tan beret also known as a beige beret has been adopted as official headgear by several special operations forces as a symbol of their unique capabilities.

The Red Beret

The Red Beret (aka The Red Devils, The Big Jump and retitled Paratrooper for the US release) is a 1953 Technicolor British war film directed by Terence Young and starring Alan Ladd, Leo Genn and Susan Stephen.

The Red Beret is the fictional story about an American who enlists in the British Parachute Regiment in 1940, claiming to be a Canadian. It is notable as the first film made by Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli's Warwick Films, with many of the crew later working on various films for Warwick Films and Broccoli's Eon Productions. It is partly based on the 1950 non-fiction book with the same title written by Hilary Saint George Saunders, about the Parachute Regiment and its second operation, Operation Biting, in February 1942.

Uniform beret

This article describes the use of the beret as part of the uniform of various organizations. The use of the beret as military headgear is covered in a dedicated article, Military beret.

United States Air Force Security Forces

United States Air Force Security Forces (SF or SECFOR) is the infantry and military police force of the United States Air Force. Security Forces (SF) were formerly known as Military Police (MP), Air Police (AP), and Security Police (SP).

United States Army Special Forces

The United States Army Special Forces, colloquially known as the Green Berets due to their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force of the United States Army tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare (the original and most important mission of Special Forces), foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping, psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.As special operations units, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF units may report directly to a geographic combatant command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities. The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits from the Army's Special Forces. Joint CIA–Army Special Forces operations go back to the MACV-SOG branch during the Vietnam War. The cooperation still exists today and is seen in the War in Afghanistan.

United States military beret flash

In the United States (US) armed forces, a beret flash is a shield-shaped embroidered cloth or metallic insignia that is usually attached to a stiffener backing of a military beret. Today, the attached flash is worn over the left eye of the wearer with the excess cloth of the beret folded and pulled over the right ear giving it a distinctive shape. The embroidered designs of the US Army beret flashes represent the approved distinctive heraldic colors of the unit to which they are assigned while the US Air Force's represent their Air Force specialty code (AFSC) or their assignment to a special unit, such as Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) squadrons. Joint beret flashes, such as the Multinational Force and Observers and United Nations Peacekeeping flashes, are worn by all of the US armed forces on unique berets while assigned to a specific multinational mission.

With the exception of Joint beret flashes, US Army soldiers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) attach their unit's distinctive unit insignia (DUI) to the center of their beret's flash while warrant officers and commissioned officers attach their rank insignia. US Air Force commissioned officers who are in the Air Liaison Officer (ALO) carrier field (AFSC 13LX), Security Forces carrier field (AFSC 31PX), assigned as Air Mobility Liaison Officers (AMLO), or assigned to CAA squadrons do the same while commissioned officers assigned to AFSCs authorized metallic flashes attach a miniature version of their rank insignia centered below their flash. US Air Force airman and NCOs only wear their metallic flash or cloth flash and crest on AFSC or unit specific berets.

Val d'Aran

Aran (Occitan: [aˈɾan]; Catalan: [əˈɾan]; Spanish: [aˈɾan]) (previously officially called Val d'Aran) is an administrative entity in Catalonia, Spain, consisting of the Aran Valley, 620.47 square kilometres (239.56 sq mi) in area, in the Pyrenees mountains, in the northwestern part of the province of Lleida.

This valley constitutes one of only two areas of contiguous Spain (and the only contiguous part of current Catalonia) that are located on the northern side of the Pyrenees. Hence, this valley holds the only Catalan rivers to flow into the Atlantic Ocean (for the same reason, the region is characterized by an Atlantic climate, instead of a Mediterranean one). The Garonne river flows through Aran from its source on the Pla de Beret (Beret Flat) near the Port de la Bonaigua. It is joined by the Joèu river (from the slopes of Aneto mountain) which passes underground at the Forau de Aigualluts. It then reappears in the Val dera Artiga de Lin before reaching the Aran valley, then through France and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. The Noguera Pallaresa river, whose source is only a hundred meters from that of the Garonne, flows the opposite way towards the Mediterranean.

Aran borders France on the north, the Spanish Autonomous Community of Aragon to the west and the Catalan comarques of Alta Ribagorça to the south and Pallars Sobirà to the east. The capital of the comarca is Vielha, with 5,474 inhabitants (2014). The entire population of the valley is about 9,991 (2014). As of 2001, a plurality of people in Aran spoke Spanish (38.78%) as their native language, followed by Aranese (34.19%), then Catalan (19.45%) with 7.56% having a different native language. Speakers of languages other than the local Aranese are typically people born outside the valley, or their children.

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