Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Big in Japan

Berets are big in Japan, but interestingly, most popular are the locally made berets versus the traditional Basques from Spain, France and South America.
Unable to try any myself, I can only judge on the pictures I found on some Japanese web sites, like this one, or this one.
Many Japanese berets seem to come with print, badges or embroideries on it, suggesting potential customers to be from a generation or what after me. 
Personally, I quite like these cotton berets, complete with anchor.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ornithologist Hermann Heinzel

Hermann Heinzel has been enthralled by birds nearly all of his life. After World War II, Heinzel's family moved from his native Poland to West Germany, leaving almost everything behind. For the eight-year-old boy, the only thing available in abundance was the nature that filled and surrounded his village. He was fascinated, and spent hours watching the wildlife all around him, especially the kind with wings and feathers.
 "In the village, there was a boy who had a bird book, and I wanted one as well," Heinzel recalls by phone from his home in the Gers,  France. He didn't have a lot of resources, but he was resourceful. "I cut the ends off a newspaper and glued them together. I had no colored pens, but in one way or another I made it look like a bird book."
Heinzel's still drawing birds, only now he's a world-renowned illustrator who has followed his avian interests throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Galapagos and North America. His most recent work, Birds of Napa County

Saturday, May 28, 2011


"In Gérard Bidault's book Les Fabriques Françaises de Tire-Bouchons 1820-1970, Gérard traces the history of two great factories of 'tournerie' (wood-turning) situated in the Jura: Vaillat Emile 1945 - 2000 and Verpillat C. et André 1889- 1972.

The corkscrews in these photographs show the heads of Basques, easily recognizable by the Basque béret. 
These corkscrews were sold as tourist souvenirs after the second World War."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ratko Mladić

I heard it in bed, this morning, listening to the news: Ratko Mladić was arrested on May 26, 2011 in Lazarevo, Serbia.
I have met the general numerous times, while working in Bosnia during the war and yes, to me all the villain stereotypes are true: hard, cold, paranoid, obsessed with the injustice done to the Serb people, the defeat of the Serbs at Kosovo Polje in 1389 and his disgust for the Bosnian Muslims.
And then, today, I see an old man limping into a cell block, after being on the run for 16 years... 
It may be a relief for himself, in the end - I don't know how things work in his head, but hopefully, it can bring some form of closure nearer for the thousands of relatives of his victims. I can't deny it does something to me, although I don't really know what it is.
Back to the beret. These pictures are taken in Srebrenica, 1995. The general handing out supplies to Bosnian men who would soon be murdered by Mladić's own soldiers. The other photograph was taken at the same time, a Dutch UN Peace Keeper who was meant to protect the 'safe haven' of Srebrenica form what happened in the end. 

More on the Hmong People

Travel writer Naomi Lindt visiting a remote local market in the northernmost region of Vietnam, near the town of Ha Giang (above). The men wearing berets are Hmong; the berets are a carry-over from the French (the Hmong fought with the colonists against the Vietnamese). "I guess it's pretty obvious my presence there didn't go unnoticed", Naomi remarked with a slight touch of understatement.
A rich narrative history of the worldwide community of Hmong people, exploring their cultural practices, war and refugee camp experiences, and struggles and triumphs as citizens of new countries can be found in Paul Hillmers book A People's History of the Hmong.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Hmong of Vietnam

There have been a few posts relating to Vietnam; about the French heritage (and therefore the beret), Dong Ho painting and of course a few that mention American Green Berets. I am more interested in the 'civil side of the beret in Vietnam'.
I came upon this photograph through this web site.  A man who tells the story of how "his" Hmong people came through China from Mongolia and how they adopted the Basque beret.
Hard to get the full story with my French, but I appreciate the picture. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It is always interesting where my quest for beret-related pictures takes me...
Botanists and gardeners, for example, like this photograph of Mrs. H. Young, of Ashton Under Hill, Worcestershire, England in October 1946, who harvests seeds from her sunflowers. The seeds are distributed throughout the country to be sold as bird feed. 
Or this Russian lotus grower of Kuba in the Stavropolskii Krai
Or this botanist-gentleman, going for a walk on the footpath he has carved out himself. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aimé and Francois Emile Barraud

Aimé Barraud and his older brother of Francois Emile Barraud were two of seven siblings (six brothers and a sister). Both brothers grew up in an artistic environment, being sons and grandsons of clock engravers; a family tradition of designing and engraving the metal housing of pocket watches. Like several of their siblings, they studied art locally in Switzerland.
Selfportrait with beret, Aimé Barraud
Aimé visited Paris regularly where he enjoyed minor success as a painter. Aimé died in 1954 in Neuenburg, Switzerland.
 "Le Philateliste" Oil on canvas, 1929, F.E. Barraud
Francois Emile's work is stylistically close to contemporaries such as Balthus and Moise Kisling, and he was as talented as either of those artists with a paintbrush in his hand. His eye, however, is far sharper and his composition and subject matter are far more compelling than either of the aforementioned painters.

It is a shame information on his life and work is so thin on the ground. A small retrospective of the Barraud brother's work took place in Switzerland in 2005 but other than that there is very little available.

Monday, May 23, 2011

AKA Jorge Cervantes

What the man known as Jorge Cervantes shares with nearly every pot-smoking American is this: a life somewhat divided, out of necessity, between reality and protective myth.
This much is true.  For nearly 30 years, Cervantes has been public about his love of cannabis and has been responsible for spreading the secrets of successful marijuana cultivation to thousands of growers around the globe.  In 1983, he penned Indoor Marijuana Horticulture:  The Marijuana Grower’s Bible, which has since spawned a cottage industry of books and instructional DVDs.  For this, he became infamous to law enforcement and a hero to pot enthusiasts.  But the admiration isn't something he wears easily.
“It’s kind of weird.  I look at myself as a pretty normal guy,” he says.  “When people look at me as a leader, I take that part pretty seriously.  People rely on information and I do my best to give good information.”
With Cervantes, it’s difficult to separate the man from the image he has created.  Readers of his books and columns have been treated to stories of his Mexican upbringing and world travel.  Viewers of his prolific cannabis-growing videos see a dreadlocked, beret-wearing character, hidden behind sunglasses, talking about his “home country,” Spain.
“I’m a U.S. citizen,” Cervantes states for the record.  “It was kind of a joke I played to throw people off.  A little game I played for a long time.  But I don’t have to play any more.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vintage Photographs from France

 Old man behind spinning wheel, Les Landes (date unknown)
 Castres (date unknown)
 1887 - The new uniform of the Chasseurs Alpins
accordeon player (date unknown)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

One of my favourite poets is Lawrence Ferlinghetti and not because of his beret.
Better than anything I could write, in tribute to Ferlinghetti, is this article in Guernica. The introduction is pasted below, but click on this link for the full article.

"Aside from being one of the most famous living poets in the United States, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an erudite publisher, a recognized painter, and lately, he’s a little ticked off at the world. Who can blame him? Fifty years ago he wrote: “I am waiting/ for the American Eagle/ to really spread its wings/ and straighten up and fly right.” Decades later he’s still waiting; it seems no one has heeded his calls for change. With a massive ecological disaster, two costly wars, and an economic depression, he might rightly say I told you so. But who would listen? Poetry hardly draws the audiences that it once did, much less the national poetry tours that Ferlinghetti speaks of.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti with Cuban poet Pablo Armando Fernandez
The ninety-one-year-old began writing poetry and painting sixty years ago, and hasn’t stopped since. He founded one of the oldest and most prestigious independent publishing houses in the United States, City Lights Books, that famously published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. A friend to Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso, he is often considered the father of the Beats. But he is more than a bookworm. Ferlinghetti was in Nagasaki shortly after it had been obliterated; he was arrested for publishing Howl; he was an American advocate for the Sandinistas and later the Zapatistas. From surrealism, to abstract expressionism, to fluxus, to eco-poetry, Ferlinghetti was there. He was the man, and he suffered, somewhat. Perhaps that’s why he has never been afraid to shake things up, and—as evidenced in this interview—he still isn’t. In fact he made me promise that the political content of our conversation wouldn’t be edited out, something that apparently has happened to him before."

Or click on this link, for a video-wander with Ferlinghetti.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Radiovka's from the Czech Republic!

More news from South Pacific Berets: Czech made 'Radiovka's':
the 28cm 'UltraBasque', a beautiful beret in 100% wool, one size fits all in a variety of grey and brown shades. These berets are unlined and make excellent berets for warmer weather.
The 'Service Star' is a completely different beret; fitted with a military style rim and three air-vents, without the txortena(the "fuse" in the center of the beret) and with a tartan checked lining. This beret has a 28.5cm diameter and is presently only available in size 60.
And last, the typical 'Radiovka' as made famous by Pat & Mat: a 23cm diameter light wool beret with headband and tartan checked lining. Also, presently only available in size 60.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973) was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Neruda wrote in a variety of styles such as erotically charged love poems as in his collectionTwenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, surrealist poems, historical epics, and overtly political manifestos. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for LiteratureColombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Neruda always wrote in green ink as it was the colour of hope.
On July 15, 1945, at Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil, he read to 100,000 people in honor of Communist revolutionary leader Luís Carlos Prestes. During his lifetime, Neruda occupied many diplomatic posts and served a stint as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When a Conservative Chilean President González Videla outlawed communism in Chile in 1948, a warrant was issued for Neruda's arrest. Friends hid him for months in a house basement in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Later, Neruda escaped into exile through a mountain pass near Maihue Lakeinto Argentina. 
Years later, Neruda was a close collaborator to socialist President Salvador Allende. When Neruda returned to Chile after his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Allende invited him to read at the Estadio Nacional before 70,000 people.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roma - The Italian Popular Worker's Beret

Up to the 1970's, the Italian Popular Workers Beret was the standard headgear for workers in the Italian industrial heartland - small diameter berets of light wool, fitted with a headband and a checked satin lining.
These berets were and are made by Baschificio A. Setti; the heritage of a product that goes back to the year 1925, the year that Alberto Setti set up business in a workshop at number 24 of the Via Fanti in Carpi, Italy. 
Alberto combined his commercial intuition with great technical know-how, reflected by the number of patents taken out and registered by his company. The concepts of quality control and the ongoing research to improve his products were the foundation stones of Alberto Setti's entrepreneurial philosophy - leaving a company that to this day produces some of the finest quality berets one can find.
Here, at South Pacific Berets, we stock the most famous of Italian berets: the Roma. A traditional worker's beret in a small (24cm) diameter. One of the best known adepts of this beret is, of course, Federico Fellini. The Roma is made of 100% wool and has a checked satin lining and is fitted with a headband; available in both black and navy in sizes 57, 58, 59 and 60.   

Marinières and Berets

The proverbial Frenchman wears a striped shirt, or marinière, a beret, has a bottle of wine in one hand, baguette in his armpit and a roll-up dangling from the corner of his mouth. 
These days, that picture, or caricature, is pretty much extinct, although it can be seen occasionally, staged for American tourists and holiday brochures.
The combination of the beret and marinière is more than a caricature though. The beret has been popular with sailors for centuries; for it's protective qualities, the absence of peaks and rims that could be caught in ropes or machinery, it's ease to stuff away in a pocket when not in use, etc. 
A fantastic book about French sailors wear is "Les marins font la mode", in French, but very worthwhile for non-French speakers thanks to the wealth of photographic material. 
Highly recommended and only available through Amazon.fr