When it refers to a beret, a cool image of French women may pops into your head, such as the cool-looking Brigitte Bardot. Maybe she is smoking a cigarette or eating a baguette. If it rains, she may wear a black beret to keep her blond locks from raindrops. Or an image of guerilla leader Che Guevara, who wear a beret hat with a silver star, comes into one’s mind suddenly; or an image of a Black Panther member, his fist high in the air; or a similar image of Beyoncé during her Super Bowl show.
Certainly, the beret has been around for centuries and has transformed along the history and time. During long history, it has been taken as symbols of a plethora of different types of people, states and identities. The present-day styling of berets — a disk of pressed wool that snuggle hugs the wearer’s head — have been around for centuries. According to a famous archaeologist, traces of hats similar to berets have been found in Bronze Age tombs in Italy and Denmark, as well as those carved in sculptures and paintings across Western Europe. It’s said that two kinds of hats were often worn in ancient Greece and Rome — petasos and pileos. Over evolution through thousands of years, two above hats have transformed into flat and floppy hats.
When such hats surged in other regions of Europe from 400 B.C. to 13th century, those hats were varied in shapes and sizes. In spite of diverse shapes and materials, all of them were made of felt. It was easy to make felt in ancient times, and now it is still a kind of economic and easy-making material. During manufacturing process, all needed materials are wool, water and pressure. Over hundreds of years, poor farmers and pastors always stuff melded wool and craft tufts into their shoes, so that they could stay in warm and comfortable on long walks. After full-understanding of optimal performances in weather proof, it was regarded as an assortment of superior textiles, which were stuffed in shoes, jackets, scarves, hats, etc.
Signature Accessories of the Poorest Class in 1500 and 1600s
Although they were easy to access or to manufacture, such hats permeated all poor classes in Europe. What we have seen most, in diverse shapes and styling, is work of arts in this era. Artists like Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer had worn them and such images had been recorded in paintings and other works. For persons working outside, berets were utilitarian items to shield coldness.
The Birth of the Name in the 1700s and 1800s
When the 1800s rolled in, the beret was taken as a symbol of political campaign in Spain during the Second Carlist War, because a leader of Carlists wore a red beret at the start of long-term revolutionaries. Then all armed persons put on the flat hats.
In following stages, berets have gradually turned to accessories in fashion circles. More and more people also accepted them as parts of their lives. More detailed information will be released next time.