n recent times, the beret has occupied two very different spaces in the collective consciousness; one of artful, beatnik hipsterdom, and one of military and political revolution. Both are good and both are valid.During the 14th and 15th centuries, berets had been adopted by the poorest classes in society – farmers and artists – because of the cheap availability of felt at the time. Although they weren’t called berets (they were imaginatively named “felt hats”), the distinctly soft, circular silhouette remained the same. The associations of berets with artists and struggling creatives stretched well into the 19th century; iconic painters such as Picasso would often don a beret or depict his subjects wearing them in his paintings.
Military association with beret has always learnt it a sense of strength and authority and this is probably the reason for it becoming an important element in political fashion.
In South Africa, beret hat, as a symbol of political emancipation and revolution, it should come as no surprise that in 2017, the beret is again being spotted in the forefront of protest marches for socio-economic change. Fashion is always a keen observer of social trends and this year saw Dior, Gucci and others capture the modest beret’s strength of character combined with timeless elegance in their wardrobes for a modern woman.
Marc Jacobs’ modern interpretation of the beret took inspiration from the 90s Kangol soft hat, while French fashion house Jacquemus played with the proportions of the beret, delivering a daring take on the French classic.
As the ultimate unisex accessory, the berets has also been embraced by those fashion labels that have moved into subtle unisex territory. Autumn/Winter 2017/2018 fashion shows for Louis Vuitton, Moschino, Prada and Missoni had male models march down the runways in strikingly cool variations of the headwear.
Street fashion has also noticed the beret and interpretations include every more glamour in materials that include glitter, bold colours, floral, plaid and the classic black. In South Africa, berets are not waiting for winter and both H&M and Top Shop are selling the modest little classic soft woollen hat. Vintage boutiques are also a great place to hunt for retro berets.
So, how to wear the beret in 2018? With Christmas party outfits ready to go, the beret is the perfect festive addition for a touch of contemporary chic. Dress up the classic black beret with knee high boots, trousers and a warm chunky sweater for a chilly night out. For a more dramatic look, swop out the plain beret for one that has metallic embellishments.
Red, cream or teal colored berets complement any outfit and looks great with classics such as the leather jacket and trench coat. Glitter is a huge trend, so the glitter beret is a definite must have.
Finally, the most important tip of all: How to wear the beret is absolutely key to nailing the trend. Here’s how: The beret should be pulled fully over the head, covering half of the ears. Avoid the beret being overly jaunty else you might have to say this season’s coolest accessory.