Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Manuscript...

The most confusing research for The Beret is the history. Depending on what source you follow, the beret originates in France, Basque Country, Spain, Italy, Austria, Denmark or even the hold of Noah's ark. The answer to where the beret comes from originally is most likely as diverse as it's assumed origins, it being such a simple, straightforward piece of shaped wool, it is likely to have been invented many times over the centuries in many places around the world. 
Although popular belief associates the beret with France, it was during the Carlist Wars in Spain (1834-1840) that the beret became widely used and gained the association with the Basque Country. 
Throughout the early part of the 1900s the béret was very widely worn in France by shepherds, farmers, painters, artists and of course French school boys. They would receive their first béret between the ages of 8 and 12 from their parents as a mark of passage into the adult world.

The French military béret originated from the wide and floppy headdress worn by the Chasseurs Alpins (mountain light infantry) in the early 1880s.


A tight-fitting version was subsequently adopted by French armoured troops towards the end of World War I. During the Second World War the béret became a symbol of French Patriotism. 

Working on the history chapter of
The Beret, I found some good information on two web sites: 
Very detailed information on the history and manufacturing process can be found on www.boinaselosegui.com, the web site of the famous Elosegui brand from Tolosa, Spain. Boinas Elosegui started over 150 years ago as a small family business and is now (one of) the leading beret manufacturers in the world. The web site shows detailed pictures of the production process, historic photographs and an enormous selection of berets on offer. Text in English available.
Another web site well worth a visit is http://www.fabricanacionaldesombreros.com.uy/, a traditional Basque beret manufacturer from Uruguay. A beautiful and detailed web site, but text only in Spanish. 

There are two museums solely dedicated to the beret; one in Spain (http://www.laencartadamuseoa.com/eng/fundacion.html) and one in France  (www.museeduberet.com). Both have a variety of berets for sale through their internet shops. 

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