Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Dear readers, followers and customers,

Here, in the South Pacific, the summer holidays have started and that means a break for The Beret Project as well.
Christmas at Waiheke Island and after, two weeks camping, hiking, kayaking, reading, meditating, watching the whales swim by, enjoying hot mineral pools and contemplating future Beret Blog Posts on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island.
New posts [should] appear again from the 17th of January.
Meanwhile, if you want to order berets from South Pacific Berets, please do, but keep in mind that your purchase may be delayed with a maximum of 2 weeks (orders will be dealt with one time, halfway my holidays).

Have a great summer*/winter* holiday, a merry Christmas and a fantastic start of the New Year (and keep wearing that beret)!
(And: beret related suggestions, ideas, anecdotes, photographs, memories, et cetera, et cetera, are always welcome at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Beret-Baguette Ride

The Rock 'n' Rollin Fixie Riders Club had their Beret-Baguette Ride on the 16th of May this year.
A good number of berets in a fine stereotypical background, but some Fixie Club members obviously haven't read this blog regularly - beanies, newsboy-caps and cheese slicers are omnipresent.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Basque Children of 1937

The Spanish Civil War was a bitter conflict, which divided the nation. Even now, the Spanish people are still learning to come to terms with their past which saw tens of thousands of deaths and millions uprooted and destitute. The plight of the Basque people was particularly tragic following the bombing of the town of Guernica in April 1937 by the planes of the nazi Condor Legion.

The old steamship `Habana` that used to travel back and forth to Cuba, now bringing a cargo of almost 4,000 children to Southampton Docks, 23rd May 1937

The destruction of Guernica, which inspired Pablo Picasso to paint his masterpiece of the same name, also brought nearly 4.000 children to Britain as refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Public opinion was outraged by the bombing of Guernica, the first ever saturation bombing of a civilian population. The Basque government appealed to foreign nations to give temporary asylum to the children, but the British government adhered to its policy of non- intervention.

The Duchess of Atholl, President of the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief, took up the campaign to urge the government to accept the Basque children and finally, permission was reluctantly granted. However, the government refused to be responsible financially for the children, saying that this would violate the non-intervention pact. It demanded that the newly formed Basque Children’s Committee guarantee 10/- per week for the care and education of each child.

The children left for Britain on the steamship the Habana on 21st May 1937. Each child had been given a cardboard hexagonal disk to pin on his clothes with an identification number and the words Expedición a Inglaterra printed on it. The ship, supposed to carry around 800 passengers, carried 3840 children, 80 teachers, 120 helpers, 15 catholic priests and 2 doctors. The children were crammed into the boat. The steamer arrived at Southampton on 23rd May and the children were sent in busloads to a camp at North Stoneham in Eastleigh that had been set up in three fields. The setting up of the camp in less than two weeks was the result of a remarkable effort by the whole community.

Much more information on the Basque Children can be found here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spanish Slave Labourers and French Concentration Camps

This photograph is of Innocent Martin (then 87), the last surviving Spanish slave worker on Jersey, when laying a wrath with his wife Joan at a commemoration in 2006.
It was then that Spanish slave workers were recognized and commemorated for
the first time by the Government of Spain.
After Franco's victory in 1939, many Republicans crossed the Pyrenees into France; most of them ending up in concentration camps (it's painful how little known this fact is; yes, the French had concentration camps and the conditions were unimaginably bad), some made it to freedom and joined the Free French Forces (in French, in English), the resistance or made it to Britain to join the allied forces. Many of them perished in the camps or were sent back to Franco's Spain. More information on these camps (and their victims) can be found here, here and here.
But, back to the picture above. Many prisoners of the Nazi's were put to work in labour camps, in Germany or occupied territories.
Many Spanish (and many more Russians) were put to work on the German occupied Channel Island of Jersey. The living conditions and the labour regime were so bad, that most of the prisoners didn't live to see the end of the war.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Basque-American teenagers need to learn it is cool to be Basque

When teenagers from Chino, from Reno, from San Francisco.., when they come to Boise and they see five hundred other teenagers with 'txapelas' (Basque berets) and see it is cool to wear a txapela dancing to Ene Bada, or dancing to Basque rock music, they would be like... oh, this is not something of my parents or my grandparents," Gloria Totoricagüena, a prominent researcher in the field of the Basque Diaspora explains in an exclusive interview for in Boise.
Gloria talks about the future faced by Basque communities in the United States.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Primary School Graduations, Mortarboards and Biretta's

I can't remember feeling anything but relief, when I left primary school after six long years, many years ago (and somehow, I believe most teachers were quite relieved to see me go...).
Things change though and I really enjoy seeing how much my own children enjoy going to school and the place the school takes up in their lives. They actually like going to school!
For my oldest daughter, Marshida, life is going to change after these Summer holidays. She'll be going to intermediate school, travelling by herself on the train, not needing her dad anymore to walk her to school every day...
Last night she had her official 'Graduation Party'; performances, speeches, lots of cake and also: wearing a mortarboard.

Here we see Linus Pauling, wearing a mortarboard at his 1922 graduation.
This black tasselled academic cap with a flat square top covered with cloth
is generally believed by scholars to have developed from the biretta,
a similar-looking hat worn by Roman catholic clergy. The biretta itself may have been a development of the Roman pileus quadratus, a type of skullcap with superposed square and tump and a reinvention of this type of cap is known as the Bishop Andrewes cap. The mortarboard may also have been influenced by practices in Islamic madrassas; when a student graduated, he wore a scull cap and a Koran placed on top of his head, tightened to the scull cap.
Originally, the mortarboard was reserved for holders of master degrees (the highest qualification in mediæval academia), but was later adopted by bachelors, undergraduates and now by primary school leavers.

More Motorbikes with Beret

Following previous posts on motorbikes, here is a nice sample a very special specimen: one of the few remaining
welbikes, including beret wearing paratroopers.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gerda Taro

Gerda Taro (1910-1937) was a pioneering photojournalist whose brief career consisted almost exclusively of dramatic photographs from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War.
Republican militiawoman training on the beach, outside Barcelona, August 1936
Her photographs were widely reproduced in the French leftist press, and incorporated the dynamic camera angles of New Vision photography as well as a physical and emotional closeness to her subject. Taro worked alongside Robert Capa, who was her photographic as well as romantic partner, and the two collaborated closely. While covering the crucial battle of Brunete in July 1937, she was fatally injured when a Republican tank, reportedly out of control, struck the car in which she had hitched a ride to escape from the battlefront. The details of what happened that afternoon remain obscure, and the accepted version of events has been stitched together from several accounts, some reliable, others less so.

Taro was the first female war photographer. She created some of the most moving studies ever made of people in conflict.
Gerda Taro and Robert Capa, Paris, 1936
An overview of Taro's photographs can be seen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Franco's "victory"

I had a long think before I decided to put this link on the blog; do I really want to give Franco more attention than he already orchestrated for himself over all those decades..?
It is a beautiful piece of historical documentation though, this film, and everyone watching it in their right minds knows what the fascist salud stood for, the Nazi supporters celebrating the victory over the Republic alongside Franco and the 100's, 1000's of people along the road showing, shouting their affection to the "Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios" (Leader of Spain, by the Grace of God).
And yes, many many berets. Interestingly, many of these berets came from Boinas Elosegui, like the many berets that were used by the Army of the Republic, the International Brigaders, the members of the POUM and various Anarchist groups.
And these days, yes, they are sold to both sides of the political spectrum; the leftist intellectuals, old activists and hippies like myself, artists of all colour and background and the old Carlists who still don their red berets proudly.

The beret seems to survive all the turmoil that associates with the beret.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Swasie Turner - an Inspirational Speaker

Since the traumatic loss of both his police career and his right leg due to an act of violence in the line of duty, which has left him confined to a wheelchair, Swasie then suffered the inconsolable loss of his beloved wife and childhood sweetheart Marjorie to the scourge of cancer.

Truly devastated by the death of his wife, Swasie decided to raise money to fight this indiscriminate killer amongst us. He has become a relentless, dedicated and totally obsessive crusader for this cause.

From the very start, against medical advice, he performed unbelievable feats of strength and stamina with his casterd, standard issue NHS Lomax wheelchair to raise funds for Cancer research.

Since his wheelchair confinement of nearly five years, he has successfully completed a vast amount of daring exploits, including jumping from 15,000 ft with members of the ‘Red Devils’, pushing 30 miles across Dartmoor in company with a group of Royal Marines when he completed the Commandos’ Endurance Course (for which he was awarded the coveted ‘Green Beret’). He and his chair have also ascended Ben Nevis with the Royal Marines and Firefighters from Fort Augustus and Merseyside. He has pushed across both of the Falkland Islands, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, competed in the Great North Run, and The London Marathon.For the Love of Marje: A Moving Story of Love, Loss and the Fight Against Cancer

On his latest expedition in April of 2003 Swasie successfully completed the 108 mile push through the infamous and inhospitable Death Valley in Nevada from Bad Water to Town’s Pass and was awarded the Key to the City of Las Vegas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Alvin's Red Berets

Alvin pilot Valentine Wilson sits atop the research submarine, shown in its earliest incarnation in 1966 (the external shape and design have been altered a bit over the years). After Wilson came back from a trip to the Bahamas sporting a red beret, the hats were adopted as a badge of camaraderie among the members of the Alvin group.(Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Archives)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

To be-ret or not to be-ret?

Google something like 'beret' or enter 'beret' on Ebay and you get an incredible amount of pictures of newsboy caps, beanies, cabbie caps, hats in polyester or nylon, all sorts of knitted and crocheted hats that are miles away from the Basque Beret. There is a tendency to call any kind of flat hat a beret, but faithful followers of this blog know better, of course.
But then, sometime you come across a kind of hybrid beret that is actually very nice and sometimes even qualifies for the label Béret Basque.
Excellent examples are the beautifully made Tolosa Tupida's and Espinosa's in cotton, by Bonigor SA in Buenos Aires.These were an invention by the present-day owner, who, with declining sales in 1998 searched for an alternative to the merino wool beret for the Summer season. It's a concept tried by many beret manufacturers (Betmar from New York, Canadian Parkhurst, for example), but they all resulted in a thin and floppy piece of headgear.
Not these Argentine berets that stay 'flat' and keeps their shape when picked up at the txortena. Fantastic headgear and I wear mine all through the NZ Summer (and available again through South Pacific Berets!).

The berets pictured below are another variation on the Basque Beret - I found the pictures on and thought they were actually very original.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Arch at the Elósegui Factory

Two interesting pictures of the Royal visit at the Elósegui Factory in Tolosa in 1887:
"The arch was formed by berets in eleven colours, with the red ones most prominent, symbolising the liberal concept in the Basque provinces, and on the main frontispiece there was an inscription offering a greeting and welcome, written in Basque. The Queen visited the beret factory at length..."
Macebearer at Tolosa Town Hall. He is standing in front off the arch of berets that decorated thre main gate of Antonio Elósegui’s factory, visited by H.M. on the 9th of this month
Both pictures come from the site of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, an enormous library of historical Basque pictures.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The NZ Series # 10 - Hone Harawira

Air New Zealand is promoting its airfares by taking the mickey out of two MPs who are in the headlines for their travel perks, right winger ACT Party Leader Rodney Hide and Maori Party MP Hone Harawira.

Air NZ is promoting "Sprung in Paris specials" with a picture of Maori Party MP Hone Harawira wearing a jaunty French beret.

Mr Harawira is in hot water after he lashed out at white people over criticism that he bunked off a work trip in Brussels to visit Paris with his wife.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yetta Keller and Isaac B. Singer

Following is a fragment of an interview with Yetta Keller, at the time an 80-year old Holocaust survivor.

"Do you know when I learned that G‑d exists?" Yetta asked one day.

Living in Poland amongst anti-Semitic peasants created many difficulties for the Jews. Yetta's sister had purchased a house shortly after her marriage, but was approached one day by a Polish neighbor, demanding that they vacate the home lest he murder the entire family. Yetta's sister refused. He made it clear that he expected the house to be empty upon his return from a nearby market.

Yetta then paused for a moment and said, "And do you know what happened? He came back with his head separated from his body."

Apparently, he had gotten into a drunken brawl and had his head cut off by another Pole.

"Then," Yetta continued, "I realized there is a G‑d in this world."

The only link to berets here, is the fact that Yetta Keller worked in a beret factory (I have to compromise sometimes), but her story is well worth cover of  A Day of Pleasure  by Isaac Bashevis Singer Actually, it reminded me so much of the short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer - beautiful stories in all their sadness of a bygone era.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From the Lexington Chronicle

MacLeod and Jerry Bellune travelled to Spain for the Lexington Chronicle (South Carolina, USA) in 1992. I have never before read this paper and frankly, I don't think I missed too much. I do like the following fragment from their story though:

We visited an ancient beret factory. The building was so old the planking was covered with metal patches to keep you from falling through the floors.

Every ancient machine was powered by the water wheel outside. This water-driven power came to the machine by way of a set of belts that ran throughout the factory.

How they kept this ancient machinery going was a testament to the ingenuity of the factory’s workers.

We bought four berets, donned two of them and were stopped on the street by a native who thought we, too, were Basques.
When this gent with the cigarette saw us wearing berets, he immediately wanted to strike up a conversation in his native Basque language Euskera.
When this gent with the cigarette saw us wearing berets, he immediately wanted to strike up a conversation in his native Basque language Euskera.
It fails to mention what factory it is, but it can hardly be anything else but La Encartada - till a few years ago the main and only competition to Boinas Elosegui in Spain.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Bonnie's Beret Booming"

I found this beautiful little article in the St Petersburg Times, but my underdeveloped computer skills (read my copy & paste skills) don't allow me to paste it in here (so click the link, please).
And indeed, Bonnie and Clyde had a huge impact on the beret; in rising sales (and therefore employment in an already vanishing industry) and in the general street scene - both in the United States, Europe and Oceania.
Bonnie and Clyde in March 1933, in a photo found by police at the Joplin, Missouri hideout.
Author Jeff Guinn, in his 2009 book Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, explains Bonnie & Clyde's huge appeal: "Although Clyde and Bonnie were never criminal masterminds or even particularly competent crooks — their two year crime spree was as much a reign of error as terror — the media made them seem like they were, and that was enough to turn them into icons.... Barrow Gang fans liked the idea of colorful young rebels sticking it to bankers and cops. Clyde and Bonnie were even better than actors like Jimmy Cagney who committed crimes onscreen, because they were doing it for real."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The British Monarchs - Again

No, when thinking of the beret one doesn't instantly picture the British Royal Family. Of course, there are the proletarian origins and associations of the beret that clash, but also there is a bit of history of anti-Republican feelings among the British monarchs and government (causing the downfall of Spain's legitimate Republican Government in 1939). As shown before, attitudes change, even though it may be only for superficial reasons.
Still, it wasn't that long before the rise of fascism that this picture was taken of a young (princess) Elizabeth, peddling away on her tricycle.
Meanwhile, she keeps having her hands filled with the embarrassing behaviour of the Crown Prince, when he gets too close to females in berets:

Friday, December 4, 2009

More New Stock from Tolosa - Plato Grandes!

The new stock from Tolosa arrived today; Fina's in 28 cm - the high quality economic alternative to the Exposicion Tupida and Super Lujo at $ 41.- (including international postage and handling),
but also the larger diameters of the Boinas Elósegui Exposicion Básica in 29 cm and Boinas Elósegui Exposicion Super Lujo, a serious "Plato Grande" in a generous 32 cm.
I have a very small number of 15" (34 cm) and 16" (36.5 cm) Txapelduns (not cheap due to the small number, but beautiful very large berets at resp. $ 47.50 and $ 49.-)- please drop me a line if interested.
Please have a look here.

Unión Española de Explosivos

A great picture of the Unión Española de Explosivos.
Supposedly from 1928, but otherwise I have no idea where it comes from or who the artist might be. Anyone who does, please drop me a line.