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Berets, Anyone?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by NonEntity, Jan 26, 2008.

  1. Berets came up on the caps thread, and someone there said he was going to start a thread dedicated to them, but I did a search and did not find anything.

    So, I'm starting one.

    I have two berets and did extensive research to educate myself on the topic before I purchased the newest one. As a result, I probably know more about berets than any other type of headwear.

    I'm going to uncharacteristicly keep this post brief to test the waters, and if there's interest, then I'll cover you up with stories and details!
  2. I own one beret and that was given as a gift from my father. It is of tan suede and I enjoy wearing it while golfing or other similar casual activities.
  3. HungaryTom

    HungaryTom One Too Many

    2 Berets

    I owned 2 Berets:1 German Fallschirmjaeger Beret (red-brownish) with the matching Falcon insignia and I owned one Hungarian ejtőernyős (Partrooper) beret - it was dark green.

    I purchased both at Military shops in Budapest some 16 years ago.

    Since I wear my hair longer they became too small and would look quite ridiculous with hairs hanging out:eek: .

    I am also not a paratrooper so I do not want to insult paratroopers by wearing those headgear.


  4. D.W. Suratt

    D.W. Suratt One of the Regulars

    I hate wearing berets. I really hated when the Army started everone wearing them. I always felt stupid wearing them. Although they look good on some, I just didn't like wearing them.
  5. Why wait? Provide the stories and details. This will help spark interest.
  6. RockBottom

    RockBottom One of the Regulars

    I was wearing my Kangol "Monty" today. I'd love it if it wasn't made in China.
  7. People often feel awkward wearing things because of the associations they make with them. When it comes to berets, those connections range from military men like Lord Montgomery and the Special Forces segment of the U.S. Marines to labor leader Che Guevara and Hollywood film directors. There are many other associations, as well.

    Actually, the original beret was a woven affair, in the same familiar shape though quite large and floppy, worn by sea fishermen from the Basque region of Spain and France. If you want a tough and hardy association, these fishermen are it.
  8. cooncatbob

    cooncatbob Practically Family

    I have a Hoquy beret that a coworker got for me when she was in Paris.
    I loved that Beret but I took it to the dry cleaners and when I got it back the leather band just crumbled.
    I bought a replacement online from the Berkeley Hat store but now that I shave my head it doesn't look as good.
  9. About 20 years ago my mother sent about 15 berets to people for Christmas. She found them in a catalog. They were nice woven wool, made in Czechoslovakia. I got a gray one and my wife got a bright red one. Mine got swiped (grumble!) so I eventually started wearing the red one. The reactions have always been across the board.
    It's pretty worn now, so I recently got a nearly identical replacement. But I still prefer the original. It gets a little itchy, but it's such a handy, warm comfortable little hat. And I think it has a lot of elan. And you can tilt and shape it into all sorts of shapes and angles. Berets are tres cool.
  10. ideaguy

    ideaguy Practically Family

    c'mon everyone-the coolest thing a cat could wear back in the day
    was a black beret...and black turtleneck, shades were NOT optional, and
    mumbling was the mode of communication; any hep-cat that didn't wear
    a beret was wearing a stingy-brim; no base-a-ball caps; dig?
  11. Beret Clinic, Sesion 1

    Tap, tap, tap. (9 mm P7 M8 Heckler and Koch rapping on the desk)

    All right class, let's settle down and take our seats. It's time to begin the Beret Clinic.

    Berets are constructed of just about any material you can think of, but, for now, let's limit our focus to felt. Pure wool felt is best, as blends and synthetics do not "breathe" as well and are less comfortable. 100% wool felt is warmer in cold weather and not as "clammy" in not-so-cool temps. So, look for a label indicating all wool ("pure laine," in French).

    Wool felt varies considerably in quality. Denser is better, as it will wear longer, be warmer, and resist rain. Felt ranges from somewhat stiff to very soft and pliable. As long as it's dense, these differences are a matter of personal choice. Though top-quality wool felt is rain-resistant to begin with, some makers add a treatment to make it completely water repellant ("impermeable" in French), which in itself will stiffen the felt a bit.

    There is no standard or "regular" diameter of a wool felt beret; they vary from 9 inches to a foot, as measured across the center when laid flat on a table. Before you purchase a beret, you must find out what diameter looks best on you. This, in combination with how you prefer to arrange it on your head, makes a HUGE difference in appearance.

    Go to a retail store and try on as many diameters as you can even if you don't like that particular material or color or something else about the hat. Bring a measuring tape with you to find out what is best for you, and be sure to get the exact diameter of a beret before you puchase it sight-unseen online or by catalogue. Call and ask the vendor to hand-measure the very one they're going to ship to you before you purchase it.

    It may take quite some time to arrange the beret in various ways on your head to discover what appeals to you: On the top of your head, just below the front hairline, edge equidistant all around, with a sharp crease. Straight on top, but pulled far down to the top of the brows, eliminating the crease entirely. Pulled tight straight back and down. Pulled to various degrees over one ear or the other, straight out or curved down. The choices are almost infinite, but do this before you buy the beret or make sure you can return it if you do buy in case you find out that particular hat will not work with the way you ultimately decide to wear a beret. Of course, you need not wear it the same way all the time.

    Color is another important decision and is predicated on what clothes you plan to wear the beret with and where you'll be going in it. While the beret is not a formal piece of headgear, it is a versatile hat as appropriate with wool sport jackets/blazers and neckties matched with worsted, flannel, and gabardine wool slacks as it is with flight jackets, peacoats, corduroy jackets, and flannel shirts with faded jeans.

    I used to work for a company that was a key supplier to Anheuser-Busch and, based on our TQM process and, shockingly, my perceived communication skills, was selected to facilitate a series of meetings possibly leading to a formal partnership between our companies.

    Well, I was literally walking out of my office to pay a call on another company when the president of my company called me and told me to show up at A/B in an hour to lead the first of the meetings that would hopefully lead to that partnerhip. I put the pedal to the metal of my Taurus SHO and walked into the 10:00 AM meeting at exactly 10:01.

    To tell you the truth, I was a nervous wreck because my "ally" within my own company had given me bad directions to make me late and look bad but did not realize I could drive like a mother and had fast wheels to get there.

    Well, I strode into the meeting panting, tossed my scarf and gloves onto the leather couch, and approached the vacant head of the table. Auggie Busch was sitting not four feet away, but somehow I kept my composure. It was only at that point that I realized that the beret was still on my head, so I frisbeed it onto the couch to land squarely on my blazer. Everthing worked out beautifully, and we wound up cementing the partnership to the tune of $650 million for my company. The outcome was that my company solidified its long-term business relationship, and I was the accidental hero.

    Had I felt the beret was "stupid," to quote D.W. Suratt, and so lost all confidence, I know things would have gone down the drain and turned out differently. But I carried on, actually buoyed by the beret.

    Wool felt berets come in black, navy, gray, camel, brown, green, burgundy, and red, but not all berets come in all these colors. Virtually every beret is available in black, however, by far the most common color.

    Some berets come in specific sizes, 7, 7 1/8, 7 1/4..., and others are available in S, M, L..., but the former is not necessarily of better quality than the latter. Getting the size right seems like a no-brainer if you know what your head measures and look at the vendor's size charts, but you cannot be sure unless you try that particular hat on, and even then, some wool felts will shrink dramatically while others not so much. I have tried on a stack of the same brand berets marked in the same size and of the same color and found the actual fit to vary all over the place. This is extremely frustrating, and all you can do when unable to try the beret on in person is to phone the vendor and ask him to measure the exact hat he plans to ship to you and provide a judjement on shrinkage.

    The country where the beret is made is another consideration, but do not make the mistake of making too much of that. Berets are currently made in the Basque region of Spain and France, other parts of Spain and France, Eastern Europe, India, Southeast Asia, and China. High quality can be achieved anywhere, though it seldom is.

    There are many authentic Basque berets, but, caveat emptor, that does not equate to always being good, and there are some decent berets made outside the Basque region, the Kangol Anglo-Basque Beret, with a full lining and a fabric sweatband, being one of them. It's not as good as it was when it was made in England, but it's still above average.

    To be labelled "authentic Basque," not just "Basque", which is nothing more than an essentially meaningless style term, the beret must neverthelesss merely be manufactured in the Basque region, which could be in Spain or France, as the area straddles both countries. There is a wide range of quality among Basque berets.

    Hoquy has the strongest brand identification and is a prime example, as it comes in several grades, a choice of liner type, and six crown diameters. But you cannot readily get any combination of these here in the states. The lower grades are made primarily for locals and are not exported. The most commonly found model imported into the U.S. is the Hoquy Beret Deluxe, with an imitation leather headband, partial satin lining (in the top of the crown only, not extending all the way to the headband), in 11 1/2-inch diameter--the widest they make. Unless they have changed recently, this is the Basque beret that The Berkely Hat Co. carries, model no. BE01, cooncatbob, the one you got as a replacement.

    Cooncatbob. Cooncatbob! Wake up. This is a classroom, not a bedroom. There's going to be a quiz on this material, don't you know?

    Hoquy's top-of-the-line model is the Ultimate Beret, made of denser felt, fully lined, with a genuine leather sweatband. But before you all run out to get this one, recall that in the case of the one cooncatbob's co-worker got for him in Paris, the leather sweatband crumbled when he had it dry cleaned. My own assessment is that this is among the better berets but not the best.

    I found several berets labelled Authentic Basque, but learned clues that suggested they were made elsewhere, did a little detective work, and confirmed they were NOT of Basque origin. This is outright intentional deception, so you cannot count on the label. Labels are all made to look terribly official, with royal crests, knights, standing lions, snarling bulls, and such in red and gold and silver and black and fancy lettering declaring authenticity. Whoop-tee-freakin'-doo.

    The thing to look for is the way the label is affixed to the lining. If it is sewn, it will always be an authentic Basque beret, but if it's glued, which is far more common, it may or may not be authentic. So this little clue by itself does not turn out to be so helpful after all. If it's glued and you remove the lining--a per se destructive act--you may find a Made In China label underneath on the very same beret declaring itself to be Authentic Basque Fabrique en France. Of course, tearing up a beret negates the possibility of returning it. Unless...well that's beyond our scope here, but is covered in my seminar, "Don't Get Mad, Get Even."

    All right, ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude today's lesson. Tomorrow, will HungaryTom, cooncatbob, and dhermann1 please bring their berets. For now, let's head over to the bar for drinks on Feraud's tab.


    1. Berets may be fully, partially, or un-lined. Which is best and why? How do these three categories of lining track with overall quality?

    2. Borsalino berets indicate they are made in France. Where? How would you assess their quality?

    3. The "Super Lujo" beret is often offered in combination with what two other proper names that begin with "E." What are they, and how would you evaluate the quality of this beret?

    Bonus Question: What is the "manufacturing capital" of Basque Berets? What is the name of the oldest factory there? The other factory? What is the quality of the berets being made at these two plants?

    Stupid Question: What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?

  12. HungaryTom

    HungaryTom One Too Many

    :eusa_clap :eusa_clap :eusa_clap :eusa_clap

    finally an authority in Materials beret.
    I am really interested in authentic Basque Berets - please get us the info where can I purchase them?

    I am asking since I am reluctant to buy a basque beret from the US: too many flight tickets are included in the final price you know.

    You know my military berets were from my militaria mania age.
    The Hungarian paratrooper beret is unfortunately lost.


  13. So what kind of berets are we talking about here? French berets or military style?
  14. Pat_H

    Pat_H A-List Customer

    I'm with you on that, although my service time was in the pre general issue beret days. Indeed, because of that, I associate berets, in the American military, with the SF and have never been able to look at a regular troop wearing them and not think it odd.

    Also, given my hate usage, I've always regarded berets as an odd hat, as they don't do anything. Don't keep the sun out of your eyes, rain off your ears, etc.

    Having said all that, I'd guess they must have had a practical, and probably humble, origin. They seem particularly associated with the Basque people.

    I have three berets. One is a U.S. Army black beret, of the current type, an old NG buddy of mine gave me, after he stayed in and I got out. I have a second black beret somewhere that's a Canadian Army beret. A third one is a red Boy Scout beret from the very short time I spent in the Boy Scouts. I don't wear any of them, of course, nor would you want to, given that they're all uniform berets.

    I rarely see anyone around here who can pull off a civilian beret, but on the odd occasion you see somebody who can do that, they usually look right in them.

    Anyone familiar with the history of berets? And if so, what is it?
  15. Pat_H

    Pat_H A-List Customer

    By the way, in military berets, an interesting one is the type worn by French Alpine troops. Absolutely enormous. It'd look odd in any other usage, but looks right for them.

    The worst looking military beret was the pre WWII German armored troop beret. German armor troops wearing that huge, puffy, black beret looked like sinister Pillsbury Doughboys.
  16. RockBottom

    RockBottom One of the Regulars

    That would be U.S. Army. Marines don't wear berets.
  17. mtds

    mtds New in Town

    Second that!

    Thanks, RockBottom. I winced when I read the reference to the Special Forces and berets to the Marines. I vividly remember the reaction within the Marine community when the Army changed their uniform to include berets. Ouch. Otherwise, an informative and interesting article, even for this cap wearer.
  18. My old red Czech beret has stood me in good stead for many years. It's just warm enough to be worn in all conditions short of actually freezing. It sheds water remarkably well. I push it in all directions, depending on my mood. When I want to be jaunty I push it to the side, but more often I push it straight back.
    Last year I realized it had gottem REALLY dirty, so I washed it by hand in Woolite, and this seemed to work well. It doesn't have a leather band, so that was not a problem.
    My associations with berets are from an era before the Special Forces existed, the 1950's. To me a beret evokes Maurice Chevalier and Jean Paul Sartre. It should be worn with a long plain raincoat, or maybe with old fashioned European workman's clothes.
  19. matei

    matei Practically Family

    I have two berets that I purchased in Bucharest, at Cocor. They're all wool, black affairs.

    I don't wear them all that much, because of the association of old men and these types of berets. [huh]
  20. Flitcraft

    Flitcraft One Too Many

    To the People who can make berets look cool...

    I raise my glass!
    I always think of Hemingway's fishing buddy, Sydney Franklin, and all the cool jazz musicians from the '50's- those guys rocked that look!
    Unfortunately, in my sadly be-nighted and woefully un-hip corner of the world, wearing a beret with a suit or sportcoat would only lead to fisticuffs...

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