Original shepherd’s hat popular with the military
A beret is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, usually of woven or hand-knitted wool or wool felt, or often made today using acrylic fibre.
Originating from the traditional hat of Basque shepherds, the modern beret was first mass-produced in 19th century France and Spain, countries with which it remains strongly associated with.
French Chasseurs Alpins are the first military users of the beret in 1889. The Royal Tank Regiment adopted the beret in 1924 to address the practicalities of knocking your hat off when climbing in and out of a tank. The beret continued to be adopted widely in the military from then on.
Berets are worn as part of the uniform of many police units worldwide, as well as by other organisations.
The beret is stereotypical of the intellectual, film director, hipster, artist, poet, bohemian and beatnik types. The painter Rembrandt and the composer Richard Wagner, among others, wore berets. Women’s berets soared in popularity in the Britain and the US in the mid 20th century. Berets were also popular with bebop and jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Gene Krupa and Wardell Gray.
Famous Beret wearers
- Che Guevara
- Frank Spencer
- Citizen Smith
- Royal Marines
- Parachute Regiment
- Green Berets
- Richard Thompson
- Jane Fonda
- Dizzy Gillespie
- Thelonious Monk
- Chasseurs Alpins