Why Beret Is A Hat for Our Times

In March 2013, Jack Nicholson was photographed in Paris wearing a navy-blue beret embroidered with the New York Yankees logo. The official MLB merchandise store does not sell a Yankees beret, which suggests that Nicholson either created or commissioned the piece himself,perhaps specially for his trip to France (on US soil, he favors a more traditional Yankees baseball cap).                                                                                                                                                                          

Nicholson is a fan of both the Yankees and berets. In 1975, he wore a black beret to the Oscars. He was nominated for Best Actor for his role in Chinatown and brought Anjelica Huston as his date. The ceremony took place 22 days before the end of the Vietnam War, in which berets were prominently worn by the US Special Forces team, also known as the Green Berets.

In other words, the beret is a felted mass of contradictions. It can symbolize French simplicity or an auteur’s complexity, military authority, or revolutionary ideology. And recently, it has become unavoidable. In January, Katy Perry hugged Gloria Steinem at the Women’s March in Washington while wearing a plush yellow Moschino version topped with a smiley face. Two days later, Korean rap sensation G-Dragon arrived at Chanel’s haute couture show in a sequined Karl Lagerfeld number that recalled Bianca Jagger’s memorable red paillette beret from her Studio 54 days. Though it is perhaps the simplest hat possible—brimless and traditionally made from hand-matted wool—the beret has strangely diverse connotations.

A little history: The earliest recorded berets were worn by ancient Greeks on the island of Crete around 1500 BC, and the hat has remained a wardrobe staple in parts of Europe ever since, particularly in the Pyrenees, where shepherds have worn Basque-style berets for centuries. The beret’s military associations go back to the Chasseurs Alpins, a French mountain corps that conscripted the hat as part of its uniform in 1889. Since then, military units across the world have adopted it, usually with detailed color codes. With no brim to block a soldier’s sight line, the beret has become standard-issue military headwear across the world.

Ironically, though, the beret’s most famous wearers have almost all been revolutionaries. In 1960, photographer Alberto Korda captured Che Guevara in Guerrillero Heroico, his most iconic portrait, wearing a black beret embroidered with a commander’s star. The image, which continues to decorate college dorm rooms to this day, cemented the beret as a symbol of resistance. The Black Panther Party also harnessed the hat’s power in the 1960s, claiming it as part of their much-photographed de facto uniform: black beret, black pants, black leather jacket. The Young Lords Party in New York wore purple berets, and the radical Chicano Brown Berets took their name from their signature caps.

And when Beyoncé played the Super Bowl halftime show in 2016, her backing dancers wore black berets in homage to the Panthers, their arms raised in a black power salute. Rudy Giuliani called the performance an “attack” on the police during an appearance on FOX News, and departments throughout the country discussed protesting; other viewers praised the icon’s show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

With all of this history in mind, it makes sense that the beret is back in style — on the runways (see Gucci’s recent shows), on city streets, on Instagram. Faced with continuing police violence in the US and the rise of a new right wing, we’re developing a new aesthetic for a new revolution, cobbling together references from our past like only our young, digital generation could.

How to Shape a Beret II

Learning the Basics for Beret Shaping

Fit the beret to your head. If the beret is adjustable, place it on your head and adjust to the right size. Be sure to complete this step before getting the beret wet, since a wet beret can stretch or shrink. If you are unable to adjust your beret to fit snugly on your head, you may need one of a different size.






Remove the lining. Cut out the black inner lining of the beret, but be careful not to damage the fuzzy outer layer.Removing this lining will help you more easily shape the beret. Keep in mind that not all berets will have this component  .

Remove any fuzz. This is typically done after you’ve finished shaping your beret. However, if your beret is already visible pilled before being shaped, shave it before wetting in addition to after it’s dry. In the case of casual berets, this may be the only step you need to take. There are many ways to remove fuzz from your beret:

Use a disposable razor. This is the easiest and most common method. Gently run the razor in a single direction over your beret. Make sure not to go over the same spot multiple times, as you risk wearing down the material too much.

Carefully clip with scissors. This method is best if there are only a handful of obvious pills. Clip them off at the base, placing the scissors flush with the beret. Use cuticle scissors for the most precise control possible.

Burn off the fuzz with a lighter. Hold the lighter in place and carefully run your beret just over the flame without touching it. Instead of “shaving” the entire cap, go over just the areas with visible fuzz. Although this method can damage your beret if done improperly, it is sometimes considered to be the traditional way to wear a military beret. Exercise caution when using a lighter.

Shaping a Military Uniform Beret

Wet the beret. Soak the beret in warm water. If your beret has a flash, keep it away from the water as much as possible.

Note: Using hot water on the black rim will shrink the beret. If your beret is slightly too large, using hot water is a good idea. If your beret already fits your head snugly, be sure to avoid hot water.

Wring out the excess water. Get rid of all the extra water you can by gently wringing out the beret. It will still be damp, but make sure there is no more dripping water.

Shape the beret. Place the damp beret on your head. Pull the beret up to make it stand. If your organization uses the standard beret shape discussed in Method 1, pull all excess fabric down on the right side of your head by folding it with your hands. Repeat this action several times, making sure the fabric on top is completely smooth.

Allow the beret to dry on your head. Doing this will keep the beret from shrinking too much and will form the beret more closely to the exact shape of your head. If necessary, you may need to hold the fold down with one hand until it becomes secure. You may take the beret off if it’s still slightly damp after a few hours.

How to Shape a Beret I

Berets are a type of hat typically made of felt that have a flat appearance on top. Berets were popularized in France and Spain in the 19th century and are still widely associated with those cultures.

They are also worn by various military and law enforcement personnel as part of their uniform in a folded style significantly different from their civilian counterparts. Although some organizations have begun issuing pre-shaped berets, many uniform berets still require special shaping by the wearer to produce a sharp look.

Knowing How to Wear Your Beret Properly


Learn your organization’s dress code.

Although the following can be used as a general guide for uniform berets, you will need to know any unique rules you may be required to follow.

If you’re wearing a beret for fashion, there is really no limit to how it may be worn (as long as it’s sitting on top of your head). The most popular casual method of wearing a beret is to wear it without a fold and tilted so that the brim sits diagonally across your forehead. Usually casual berets need no shaping other than fuzz removal.

Align your beret properly.

This typically means to wear your beret with the brim straight across your forehead. The United States Army requires the edge to sit one inch above the eyebrows. If your organization requires a “flash” insignia, it should be aligned over your left eye.

Excess material will be folded and draped towards the right side of your head. This is typically why a beret must be shaped, as it will most likely resist holding this shape when brand new.

Keep an appropriate hairstyle.

Do not wear hairstyles that may distort the shape of the beret, such as high buns or ponytails. Your bangs should not extend below the front brim of the beret. Some organizations, such as the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, require that those with long hair keep it in a hairnet most closely matching their hair color.