Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rabbi Laibl Wolf - an Australian Kabbalist

"There is nothing in the world like this" says Rabbi Laibl Wolf. "We bring together ancient teachings and tradition with contemporary research to improve people's lives."
Rabbi Leibl Wolf belongs to, studies and teaches Kabbalah, a spiritual tradition that is well over 3500 years of age. "I teach a practical Kabbalah, earthed and anchored in the exigencies of everyday life for all faiths and all people."

Laibl's son, Menachem, is the director of 'Spiritgrow', a centre and shul for Jewish people who are detached from their roots and drawn to "The East" for less religion and more spirituality'.
Menachem: "We want them to try their own religion before searching elsewhere. People want peace and meditation without the religious side and we want people to see there is a spiritual side to Judaism as well, including peace and harmony. It's not just what they see in the media: rock-throwing, rules and finger-wagging."

The full interview with both rabbis can be read here.

I think Rabbi Laibl looks fantastic with his beret, although I can think of more interesting ones than his black Basque; some alternative motives like my embroidered Om-berets...?

The NZ Series #3 New Zealand Railways Magazine, August 1930


Icy southerlies demand attention from the office girl who has to sally forth to the “scene of action,” wet or fine; for her the weather becomes not merely a useful topic of conversation, but something to be studied carefully. She nearly always has a snug little beret to pull on-comfortable, warm and “chic”–heavy serviceable shoes (perhaps even gum boots), and woollen stockings. But all too often she spoils the effect of her “rough weather” outfit by wearing a good velour coat with fur collar and cuffs—decidedly unfitted for the rain. It has been said that the English girl (and why not her N.Z. sister) looks most attractive

in tweeds. Certainly nothing is smarter or more useful. So make your self a “sporty” rather masculine coat as quickly as you can. You won't find it hard, and there are still three months when you will be really glad to have it.

The coat in the illustration is made from New Zealand tweed, and the whole thing won't cost you £2. Notice the large, useful collar, and the simple, severe cut, with inverted pleat and belt. Patterns are to be had, similar to this, everywhere.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The NZ Series #2 John Sepie - Wood Artist / Potter

John Sepie

As a creative wood worker and potter, John Sepie is a self-confessed dreamer and inventor. His works are empowered by his free flow lifestyle with his home, kiln and workshops nestled comfortably on Utopia Road, just north of Westport (on the South Island's West Coast of N.Z.).
 John Sepie - Wood Artist / Potter
With a local trade mark image of beret and shoulder-length grey locks, John works as a craftsman of wood, clay and a connoisseur of people; which helps his pottery and wooden products to be perfect for everyday living and use.

When the tides are out John ventures out on to dry-sands, salvaging native driftwoods, forever collecting and hunting for that perfect burl.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The NZ Series #1 - New Zealand Railways Magazine June 1, 1930

Yes, I have made the occasional sneery comment on the beret culture in New Zealand (or better, the absence of such culture), but the more people I speak to (and feedback I receive on this blog and articles in the media), the clearer it becomes that there has definitely been some tradition of berets here.
What's more, there has even been a major manufacturer of berets, right here in Wellington (but that's for a future post...).
Digging into NZ Beret History, I found some beautiful old photographs; immigrants mainly from the Mediterranean countries in the first half of the last century, Italian fishermen and whalers, in a time that it was still seen as acceptable to hunt whales (recently I heard an interview with a retired whaler who turned ecologist on National Radio - things do change).
While digging I found a number of -short- articles relating to the beret in the New Zealand Railways Magazine, dating back to the 1930's:



It is vain to squawk at theSQUAWKIES, air our objections to aeroplanes, or ostracise OXFORDS.

The world has always been modern; Jacob was considered slightly futuristic and a bit over the fence when he wore his coat-of-many-colours, and Henry the Eighth was a little before his time. Personally, it is my secret sorrow that I have never worn a beret. Of course you know what a beret is; it is a sort of bedspread for a deadhead, a counterpane to counter brain —a veritable vacuum-screener; but still, envious reader, who is there, here present, who would not amputate his chin-ware, have his face sifted, and throw in his old age pension, to wear a beret? There are few of we moderns who would not be wee moderns.

Make me a child again,
Just for to-night,
Give me a brain again,
Light as a kite,
Singe off my whiskers,
And give me some hair,
Fill up my skull,
With a pint of hot air.
Give me a motor-bike,
Make me a sheik,
Earning a quid and
A quarter a week,
Give me a pillion,
Give me a “Jane,”
Something that's modern,
And not very sane,
Bag me some Oxfords,
An over-size pair,
Give me—oh give me,

“Wore a beret.”

“Wore a beret.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Covers

And since I have done the Posters, the Albums and CD covers, I may as well continue with magazine and book covers...
And there are a few to be found!
I don't want to go down the endless track of "Green Beret" publications, or the numerous magazines showing off John Wayne under his green beret.
More interesting I find books like 'My last Breath', by Luis Buñuel:

Interestingly, quite a few "man's magazines" feature berets on their cover pages, like these vintage magazines:

Bikers and berets always go well together, also on book covers:

And of course there are countless fashion magazines showing berets:

More serious of course are the books dealing with the beret. I have already dedicated a post to Jouvion's book "Le Beret". Here are two Spanish publications:

My book on berets? I hope to have the manuscript ready some time next year - this blog is taking quite some time away from writing the book, unfortunately... I'll keep you updated here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Irish version of the beret: the Caubeen

A caubeen is an Irish headdress and another variation on the beret (and quite similar to the Scottish balmoral). The name comes from the Irish cáibín, meaning "little hat", or "shabby old hat" and was the headwear of Irish peasants.

The caubeen is first seen in a painting of Eoghan Rua Ó Néill (Owen Roe O'Neill, in English),

leader of the Irish Confederate soldiers in the civil war between Charles I and Parliament in the 1640's.

The caubeen has been adopted by several armies of theBritish Commonwealth (like the British Royal Irish Rangers and the Canadian Irish Regiment of Canada).

The caubeen is very high on one side and generally carries a black rosette (in the army this is where the regimental badge is placed). It has black tapes in its edge, narrow in the Irish version, wide tapes in the Canadian version.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Roger Gobron

Belgian painter Roger Gobron (1899-1985) painted for nearly 70 years almost exclusively with watercolour.Slideshow Roger Gobron
At first, he used watercolour in a classical way, but his art, style and technique changed radically when he came in contact with the Flemish expressionists. Gobron is most probably the only painter in the world who experimented in this way, for his entire life, with the medium. He thus altered the aspect of watercolour, giving it the dimension, durability and value of oil painting.

I personally like his paintings of travelling Romani families.
These have been painted during the war years (1940-45) and I wonder what happened with these people.
And, of course, Roger Gobron, was well known for his black béret Basque. Please explore the beautiful web site, set up by Roger's son Jean-Noël, the director of this film:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Beret Project in the Media

A lot of attention for The Beret Project from the media suddenly.
It started with an article in the local paper The Wellingtonian and from there moved on to National Radio ("Berets are on the way back in, that's if they ever went out, according to beret aficionado and blogger Daan Kolthoff of Wellington.").

And since then, an enormous increase in visitor numbers of this site - thanks very much to you all!

A Scottish variation on the beret: the Balmoral

The Balmoral is a traditional Scottish bonnet, named after Balmoral Castle, a Royal residence in Scotland.

Dating back to at least the 16th century, it takes the form of a soft, knitted wool beret, originally with a voluminous, flat crown, traditionally blue in color, sometimes with a diced band (usually red-and-white check) around the lower edge and with a colored toorie (pompom) set in the middle of the crown.

Today the crown of the bonnet is smaller, made of finer cloth and tends to be blue or lovat green. Tapes in the band originally used to secure the bonnet tightly are sometimes worn hanging from the back of the cap. A clan or regimental badge is worn on the left hand side with the bonnet usually worn tilted to the right to display these emblems.

I have read that the balmoral actually originates from the Basque beret, brought to Scotland by Basque fishermen in the 15th century, sailing the North Sea. Scottish contacts I questioned on this have no time for this sort of nonsens, but to me - it seems quite plausible. The Basques travelled as far as New Foundland in those days...

So far I have found no clear evidence of this claim.

From Scotland, the Balmoral found it's way to the former colonies and dominions of the empire and is these days still used by Canadian and Australian Scottish regiments.

I bought my balmorals (the pictured traditional and the Canadian Army balmoral) from Great Highlandwear (custom made and good quality , but there was a 2 month gap between order and delivery...).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A rather silly article on another come-back of the beret - 16 years ago

The following article comes from the archives of the LA Times.
Not a very interesting article, really, but what strikes me is the similarity to a number of articles I have seen in French, British, US and New Zealand papers this year - and the article below is 16 years old! (Faithful followers will remember mentioning recent articles on this Blog).
We keep hearing that hats are out of fashion, but that the beret is making a return - thanks to its versatility, economics, heritage, whatever...
Still, walking the streets of Wellington, I see very few berets (and secretly, I quite like it that way).

Hats Off to the Berets - They're Chic and Cheap and Showing Up Just About Everywhere

The beret, the hat-hater's hat, is the fashion love of the season.
It has been seen on some of the most famous heads around--Kim Basinger, Christie Brinkley, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Demi Moore and Princess Caroline of Monaco--and was a personal favorite of fashion retailers and editors during Seventh Avenue's recent spring previews.
"Hats have been out since the 1960s. They sort of disappeared," says Valerie Steele, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
"Now that they've come back, they tend to be simpler, stripped-down masculine styles like baseball caps and fedoras, rather than frilly '30s-inspired hats with gewgaws. Berets are a nice, sporty, slightly androgynous look."
And as fashions go, they're cheap. The basic beret can be had for less than $15. They're also versatile.
"A beret is the greatest prop in the world," says Reginald Borgia, president of Kangol Headwear Inc., a British firm based in New York. "You can be rakish, somber, sinister, foolish. It's a way of displaying your personality and how you want to look."
"We're selling several hundred berets per week, from basic to novelty styles," says Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Galeries Lafayette in New York. "We expect this is a trend that will continue, and for spring we'll sell them in cotton and crocheted fabrics."
Bernard Grossman, president of Betmar Hats, a New Yorkwholesaler, estimates total U.S.sales for 1992 at 1 million, including a quarter-million his company has imported and sold.
The soft, pie-shaped cap of ancient Greek or Roman origin is as perfect for today's long, lean fashions as it was in the 1930s, '50s and, most recently, the '70s.
There are men's berets and women's berets and one to suit every face. The traditional women's beret is full enough to pull down over one ear in a mushroom shape or to pull over both ears to ward off the cold.
The men's beret is barely big enough to get a good grip on the head. Although the bigger one is an ideal cover-up on a bad-hair day and comes in a rainbow of colors, the smaller one seems to be the style of choice, preferably in black or navy.
Your beret will serve you well. It requires no special storage and packs flat.
"It's so easy and effortless, as basic and classic as you can get," says David Cohen, president of David Inc., milliners. "You can dress it down with sporty sunglasses for shopping in the supermarket or stick on an ornamental gold pin when heading out to the opera."
Of course, there are variations.Whittall & Shon, New Yorkmilliners, are known for slouchy berets embellished with bows, sequins, beads, feathers, even '70s-style "Love" appliques. There are also patchwork plaids and faux fur animal prints. For spring, expect crocheted berets with rayon cord braids or antique silk flowers; some will be quilted with pearls.
Kangol Headwear, which supplied berets to British armed forces during World War II, most notably Field Marshal Montgomery and his troops, sells about 70,000 berets a year in the United States.
It offers three styles. "Monty," a smaller, spin-off of the military beret, has leather piping around the band and an embroidered emblem. "Modelaine" is the larger women's fashion beret without a band. And there's the traditional Basque beret, often worn with the leather band showing. They are about $10 to $20 in stores as diverse as the Gap, Marshall Fields and Patricia Field, a funky New York boutique where the military style ranks high.
"Both men and women are buying them, and we're already on our second reorder," says Patrick Chaitoo, assistant buyer at Patricia Field. In addition to an assortment by Kangol, there's one by Foravi in forest green wool with bull's-eye emblem, $26.
Magazine editor Elizabeth Saltzman, owner of more than 40 berets, favors Kangol and other leather-banded military berets that she plucks from the Army-Navy store.
"I like pulling it to the side over my eyebrow. It gives me a good arch in one eye, and other eye is hidden. Very mysterious. Very French."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Billboard Berets

Look out your window and chances are you'll see a number of baseball-caps with all sort of logos and embroidered advertising going by. And it's not that they pay people to wear these, often the wearer paid a steep price to acquire the piece of commercial advertising.

The beret is not completely immune to this phenomenon, but it tends to be more with a wink and less commercially motivated.

One can find the more souvenir-type berets, like this grey one from Arieges Pyrénées

or this one with Montmartre outlined in white:

Plenty of boinas with a variety of Basque symbols, flags and crosses:

Then there are the berets that carry all sort of messages; whether it's about being 'with your head in the clouds' or that 'life is beautiful'

Or you can reinforce the myth that the beret really is a painter's attribute

I personally really like these berets, handmade by U.S. company Hoodlums. It is the Sanskrit syllable "Om" or "Aum", a mystical and sacred sound in the Indian/Tibetan religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism and Sikhism).
I wear mine before, during and after meditations and have imported a small number for sale through South Pacific Berets. These are not cheap as these are handmade; cut and sewn out of two berets to create one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Basque berets factory Pierre Laulhère

Researching for my book on berets, I stumble upon some real gems every now and then.
One web site that got me really excited is the '' - urban exploration of abandoned factories, forgotten asylums, military fortresses and hospitals.., evoking lots of memories and passion for exploring forbidden places.
I'll paste a short bio of the author below:

I started very young. As a kid, my father brought me to abandoned factories.

The passion remained. But the motivation has been boosted by the taste for photography and the success of this website (see the Statspage).

So, why such a hobby? We think that abandoned and futureless places are part of our cultural heritage.

So before everything get rotten or disappear, let's explore and photograph them!

This website is like other urban exploration websites. It contains some basic info about the places we explored, so that one can remember and find the keywords to make additional searches on the web if needed.

It allows also the people that cannot or do not want to involve themselves into such visits to get the same adventurous feeling we enjoy when entering into. . . forbidden-places!

The part that did it for me, obviously had to do with berets: an exploration of the abandoned beret factory of Pierre Laulhère in Oloron-Sainte-Marie.

Have a look here.

Touching me most were the comments of one visitor to the site, Werner Joerg from Salt Lake City:

I grew up in the area in the early 60's and vividly remember various beret factories in Oloron. It is sad to see them disappear, one by one and I think that your captivating selection of pictures reflects both fascination and sadness. Fascination because it is/was part of a hidden gem in foothills of the Pyrenees; sadness because the chronic economic difficulties have led to most of my school mates to scatter across the country. I do return to the area about once a year, and every time I make it a point to visit the Friday market and buy some local "stuff", like espadrilles, beret, etc.


There are many posters to be found advertising berets, or berets advertising music and plays. Like this vintage poster of FEZCO, a Czech beret manufacturer:
Or these beauties: Spanish SIREP and the French Bakarra:

And some look more professional than others...
Boinas La Encartada from Spain and BIGA from France:

And numerous posters drawing attention to plays, music and more...