Fashion Synopsis

The groove’s far out daddy-o. Like don’t be such a square, dig?

Not just for tortured artists and Parisians anymore, the beret is the existentialist’s baseball cap. Before the beret joined black turtlenecks and goatees as the quintessential beatnik look parody, it was a fanciful and affordable cap for all.

A soft, circular cap that dates back to ancient Greece, the beret has been a staple headpiece since the beginning of time. Berets are one of the oldest head coverings created with felt, the fabric made of matted animal fur and wool. There are two styles of berets: the basque, which features a stand-up band commonly seen on military berets, and the modelaine, the bandless style more common to civilians. The military berets do not have the ‘tail,’ a characteristic tab at the center of the beret that prevents a center hole. Also called a tam, the beret is a brimless hat.

Berets were a popular choice for little girl’s headgear, and became widely used during the war years of the 40’s when millinery elastic was rationed. But it was the jazzmen who gave the brimless chapeau its hipness. Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie adopted the black beret and black shades as his signature bebop style, influencing a whole new ‘Beat Generation’ to crown themselves in the existential angst of the beret. Faye Dunaway’s 30’s revival style in the 1967 hit Bonnie and Clyde brought the beret back as a European chic cap for the new ethnic inspired looks of the 60’s and 70’s. Berets later became a popular choice for the anything goes 80’s, and even Madonna sported a floppy, bowed beret in her “Borderline” video.

Kangol, a producer of wool berets during WWII, continues to be the name for cool berets and snap caps. The Kangol name was extremely popular in the 50’s as fashionable wear for both men and women, and thanks to celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, the kangaroo came back as the beret mascot for the 90’s. Berets – they’re not just for hipsters anymore.

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