Berets have been seen on the heads of countless cultural icons throughout history, from notable political figures (such as the Black Panthers and Che Guevara) to famous artists (such as Picasso and Rembrandt) to fashion trailblazers (like Coco Chanel). The beret is still a dynamic fashion accessory today.
Many ways of wearing a beret are frequently overlooked, which is unfortunate. This hat can truly transform a wardrobe, and when paired with certain styles, it makes a beautiful and bold statement. So, don’t dismiss it.
Learning what a beret is and how to wear it correctly (not like a pastry chef or French painter) will elevate your style to a new level.
The Beret and Its History
A beret, pronounced “Beray” and French for “cap,” is a flat, circular hat made of soft material that usually has a tab in the middle and no visor. It originated in the 17th century in France and along the Spanish border and has been worn by both women and men for generations.
Berets have long been a part of French culture, dating back to the seventeenth-century Basque berets. It’s the traditional headgear of the Pyrenees Mountains crest shepherds. In the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie in France, southern French milliner Laulhère started commercially producing berets in 1840.
The French Chasseurs Alpins (mountain infantry) adopted military berets in 1889. The US Army Special Forces adopted the green beret as part of their military uniforms after WWII. The beret remained popular throughout the 20th century, and it is still a retro yet trendy accessory today.
Types of Berets
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If you’re looking for a beret, here’s a rundown of the various styles to find the one that gives you that “je ne sais quoi.”
The Classic French Beret
When thinking of a beret, you probably think of the classic French beret. The beret’s popularity began when it was first commercially manufactured in the French town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie.
Because it is typically made of wool or a wool-like fabric, the French beret is better worn in cool weather. The round shape and small tail on top are easily identified, and you should be able to find a French beret that suits your style easily.
Tilt your beret so that one of your ears is partly obscured for a French chic look. You can dress up or down your French beret for a night out.
The Reversible Beret
Who doesn’t enjoy a two-for-one deal? A reversible beret adds even more versatility to your wardrobe. You can easily flip the beret inside out for a completely different look.
If you enjoy changing your look, the reversible beret may be just what you need to incorporate into your wardrobe. The reversible beret is typically made of the same material on both sides, but there is some variation in color and pattern.
Because of their utility, berets became popular in the military during World War I. During WWII, these hats became popular because they are inexpensive to make, warm due to the wool, easy to store without dropping their shape, and can be styled so that the fabric tilts away from the arm used to carry the rifle. During World War II, military units began to distinguish themselves by the color and tilt of their berets.
Although these are the most common beret styles, berets come in various materials. Leather, cashmere, mohair, and even straw berets can be an excellent addition to your wardrobe. Each material has its set of advantages.
Before purchasing a beret, consider the weather you intend to wear it in and what you already own that will match this classic hat.
How to Wear a Beret
Wearing a beret hat can help you channel your inner Frenchman. Here are three different ways to wear a French beret:
The classic French look is to wear a beret on top of the head with a slight tilt. Place the hat halfway up your forehead, with the headband an inch behind the ears. Tuck the brim under, then pull the hat fabric to the side to achieve a flattering tilt.
Alternatively, angle the tilt to the back of your head or the front of your face depending on your preference.
Back of the Head
This look involves wearing your beret at the back of the head, with the bottom brim resting on the base of the neck. Position the beret on your head, so the band is directly on your hairline, then slowly extend the back until it settles at the back of your head.
You can use clear clips or bobby pins to keep the beret in place. You should note that this style will not tightly secure the cap so it may fall off.
Position the beret on top of the head, with the headband around an inch above your brow line. Fold the brim under for a flattering, flush look against your head. Untuck the brim, position it over your ears and gently pull it up from the top for a puffed-up look.
Styling Your Beret
This French accessory is among the most versatile styling tools in fashion. In the winter, heavier berets can keep your head warm, while lighter berets can incorporate whimsy into a spring outfit. To put together a fabulous outfit, follow these styling tips:
Experiment With Fabrics
Try on various types and styles of berets. A felt beret, wool beret, or leather beret will each add a unique twist to your ensemble.
Incorporate Contemporary Fashion Trends
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For a more modern, street-style-inspired look, pair the classic beret with edgy pieces like combat boots or a leather jacket. Wearing a beret with casual workwear items such as sneakers, jeans, or boiler suits will also result in a more modern and eclectic look.
Match With Complementary Colors
Wear a colorful beret hat that complements the other colors in your outfit. Combine a mustard yellow jacket with a maroon or navy blue beret, for example.
Combine with a Trenchcoat
Pair a red beret with a tan trench coat to add a classic style to your look.
Consider a Blazer
A sophisticated and professional look is achieved by wearing a black beret with a black turtleneck and a plaid blazer. Wear short heels and high-waisted slacks to complete the look.
Use Neutral Makeup
Heavy makeup combined with designer clothing and a beret can create an intense appearance. Wear natural makeup in muted tones when wearing a beret (particularly if the hat is patterned, bold, or colorful) for a balanced look.
Put Your Hair Down
When wearing a beret, choose less fussy and natural hairstyles. Wear the beret with your hair down to keep it on your head. Too much hair beneath the hat can loosen its grip, causing it to fall off.