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About the beret

About the beret
Throughout the history of fashion and style, many items of clothing have had more or less widespread stereotypes and associations that have influenced the perception of the garment in question - but none can boast as many as a certain inconspicuous piece of headgear - namely the beret.

We have dispelled myths many times on Everyday Classic, so why not do a couple in one go. The first, and probably the easiest (?) to dispel, is that the beret is a typically female headwear. Originating in the Pyrenees region, the soft cap, known since ancient times, was originally more common among men; its association with the fairer sex is more an after-effect of the men's stylistic restraint that has prevailed, not only in our country, for at least several decades.

Another stereotype is represented by the innocent-sounding adjective 'French'. Although berets were undoubtedly popular in contry of wine and baguettes, the Pyrenees also belong to Spain - and it is the Basque country that is often cited as the cradle of the hat in question. The term French is also misleading in another respect - although it is so commonly associated with a striped shirt and a beret, when I asked French friends, they replied with amusement that they had not actually seen too many of their compatriots dressed like this; fortunately, fashion is global nowadays and, funnily enough, Instagram shows us that it's the Japanese who are leading the way in berets...

Another association, reproduced en masse in the media, is the depiction of an artist - usually a painter - with an easel, a palette, a brush, a scarf and a beret; it even seems to be an intrinsic attribute. Here again, the association is partly true - many eminent artists, such as Pablo Picasso, did in fact use this item of clothing; I wonder, however, whether is it not the case that this image has become fixed in our minds precisely because of some specific characters, and not necessarily through the attribution of the beret to the profession of artist?

Such controversial connotations can be multiplied - it suffices it to mention slogans such as 'mohair' or 'red berets'. In the meantime, the Dear Reader may be asking himself or herself - why talk so much about a soft hat? I rush to answer - the elimination of all these myths was needed in order to dispel the biggest and most dangerous myth of all - namely that the beret is unlikable.

The low popularity of this headgear is in no way due to rationale or tradition, but merely to discrimination and ignorance. In our society, a well-dressed man usually hears (or sees in the eyes of passers-by) a lot of unsophisticated remarks about "how he's decked out"; a well-tailored double-breasted suit is enough for that, God forbid in a pinstripe - what does the statistical commentator think when he sees a beret on a man's head! Yes, it takes a lot of courage to wear a beret, at least in our country - but don't we hear similar comments about the classiest of hats, the fedora?

Doesn't the sartorialist face incomprehension and loneliness when it comes to expressive (yet not necessarily flamboyant) style? I dare say the beret is a step further in self-confidence, but the style-conscious (or encouraged by this article...?) man, having discarded myths, stereotypes and other obstacles (often deeply rooted even in staunch dandies), can discover great reserves of stylistic creativity with the help of his new acquisition.

For if we consider the use of the beret, it is extremely versatile. It certainly can't be considered formal headwear, but given its association with artists - why shouldn't a copy in black/brown find its way into the company of an evening suit and black oxfords when going to the theatre/philharmonic? Taking it a step further, the wide range of colours available makes it an interesting addition to elegant casual ensembles that remain at a high level of elegance - with turtlenecks, blazers and coats (in my own experience, the beret pairs particularly well with a spring/autumn safari jacket!). The soft and carefree nature of this headgear fits perfectly into the sprezzatura - a nonchalance based on casualness and self-confidence. A casual beret with a flirtatious twist can give life to a seemingly dull and polite ensemble.

There is another aspect worth discussing - a practical one. Berets are accused of being mostly made of wool (it is interesting to note that there are also corduroy, denim, linen and even raffia), but they do not keep the wearer's ears warm enough - but this argument applies to berets as well as hats, and no one is trying to erase these from the canon of classic masculine elegance. On the other hand, the rest of the head, wrapped in a soft material, is very pleasantly warmed without the discomfort of stiff edges pressing down on the wearer (should anyone however fall in love with berets and wish to wear them also in winter, there are also a number of variants that cover the ears). The beret can also be a valuable substitute for the flatcap, which due to its nature and origin aren't keeping with the chic atmosphere of some ensembles.

At the end of this long text, one would like to shout "equal rights for berets!" - but this is unlikely to happen; after all, berets are not for everyone. A paradox, as this may be their greatest advantage - because how can you best distinguish yourself without overstepping the boundaries of good taste and entering the field of flashy, attention-seeking fashion? The answer is simple - by opting for forgotten classics. And the beret certainly deserves to be called such. And although I rarely (never?) see anyone with a beret on their head, wearing one myself, I feel that I am declaring the courage of my own style without looking at others - you could say that, as soft as the hat in question is, my humble manifesto is just as inconspicuous (vive la Classique Quotidien!).

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