Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chechias (3)

Interesting video on the production of chehcias in Tunisia.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tahar Ouettar (aka Tahir Wattar)

Tahar Ouettar (1936 –2010) was an Algerian writer. Tahar Ouettar was called "one of the North African nation’s most prolific Arabic-language authors".
Ouettar wrote about the post-colonial situation in independent Algeria. He denounced Algeria's French-language writers as "vestiges of colonialism". Luckily, he did not denounce that other stereotypical French item: the beret!
Ouettar published his first novel "Al Laz" in 1974.
In English: The Earthquake, translated by by William Granara, Saqi Books (2000).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chechias (2)

Yesterday I wrote about the chechia being a close cousin of the beret. This may appear obvious from the material and shape of the hat, but there is more to it. The manufacturing process (that hasn't altered much over the centuries) shows more than a few similarities.
The whole process consists of six stages: first there is the knitting. This is followed by the treading (to increase density and solidify/fortify the fibres). The next part is the carding; originally this was done with thistles, but these days it's steel brushes. 
Then the chechia in the making is dyed; principally in vermillion (red), but also in black (for Libya), grey and green (for export to Morocco and Nigeria). After dyeing, the molding of the chechia gets finalized and brushed.
The Persian poet Rumi said: "A man without a chehcia is dissolved". 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chechias (1)

The chechia is the national hat of Tunisia and a close cousin of the beret. In Tunisia, eastern Libya and the region of Benghazi (where it is called "chenna") the chechia is a vermilion (red) skull cap shaped hat, while in the rest of Libya it is black.
Until the 19th  century, the chechia was usually worn as a basis for the turban; the cloth was wound around the cap on the head. Last century it started to become a hat on its own accord, becoming the typical trademark of Tunisian men.

The chechia, which is flexible, is not to be confused with the fez (also called "fez Stambouli" or "fez megidi") which is rigid, conical and more a top hat.

At the synagogue 

The chechia was also adopted by various regiments of French African troops, including the zouaves.

Since Tunisian independence in 1956 and thanks to cheap imports and young people distancing themselves from the old ways, the chechia is in decline, worn only by the old men and on special (religious) occasions. Interestingly, not only as a head covering for Muslims, but typically worn by Tunisian Jews as well. Few sons take over the family business and the old (and complicated) art of making chechias is slowly becoming extinct.

Jews from the island of Djerba

South Pacific Berets now stocks these beautiful hats. All our chechias are completely hand made, according to age old tradition by artisan chechia maker Troudi Belhassen from the  souk Chaouachyya inTunis, Tunisia. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

South Pacific Berets - NEW WEB SITE!

The web site of South Pacific Berets has had a complete overhaul and is live now! 
All berets are now arranged in sub-menus under their country heading; some general information on the country of manufacturing and a choice of sub-menus to go from there. 
The cost of berets is completely transparent as there is no more difference between berets listed with included postage cost and without.
A good number of berets has been reduced in price (and only a small number had to increase a little).
And completely new to the stock are the traditional Tunisian chechias; very proud to have been able to finally source these fantastic hats, so similar to the beret.
These chechias are made by artisan chechia manufacturer Mr Troudi Belhassen, at the Chaouachyya Souk in Tunis. Beautiful, thick felted hats in a variety of colours and sizes (read the posts on The Beret Project over the next few days for more information!). 
If any comments on the new web site -positive or negative-, please let me know!

René Poyen

René Poyen (1908-1968) was a famous child star in silent French cinema, who started at the age of four as the popular character Bout-de-Zan at the Gaumont film company. Most of his burlesque comedies were filmed by Louis Feuillade.
Poyen, born in Paris, started in 1912 at Gaumont as Bout-de-Zan, The younger brother of rascal kid actor Bébé (René Dary), in the film comedy Bébé adopte un petit frère, directed by Feuillade. Quite soon he replaced Dary and his character, becoming the kid actor of Gaumont in the subsequent year. 
Already in 1913 Poyen made 24 onereelers with his popular mischievous alter ego; 16 in 1914; and 18 in 1915, including a role in the famous Feuillades crime serial Les Vampires. In 1917 he also played in the Feuillade serial Judex and the crime parody Le pied qui étreint by Jacques Feyder, next to a handful Bout-de-Zan shorts. By then the era of the short Bout-deZan comedies was over, but Poyen continued to play in the crime serials: La nouvelle mission de Judex (Feuillade 1917), Les deux gamines (Feuillade 1920), and the series films L'orphelin de Paris (1924) but he also performed in the features La proie (Marcel Dumont 1921), La fille bien gardée (Feuillade 1923/1924), Le gamin de Paris (Feuillade 1923), La gosseline (Feuillade 1923), Lucette (Feuillade/Maurice Champreux 1924), Pierrot, Pierrette (Feuillade 1924), Romanetti/Le roi du maquis (Gennaro Dini 1924), and Les murailles du silence (Louis de Carbonnat 1925). 
In the early 1920s he was often paired with girl actress Bouboule, as in Le gamin de Paris, La gosseline, Pierrot, Pierrette, and Lucette. In the sound era Poyen returned only twice more to play in film, once in an unnown role in Clochard (1932) by Robert Péguy and a last time as Bout-de-Zan in Le Bidon (1932) by Christian Jaque. René Poyen died in his hometown Paris in 1968.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Francesco Tabusso

Francis Tabusso (1930 - 2012 ) was an Italian painter.
From 1949 to 1954, after completing high school, he attended the studio of the painter Felice Casorati .
BASCO-ROSSO; matita-e-ghouache,1991
In 1953 he founded the magazine "Ursa Minor, and in 1954, just twenty-four, he participated in the Venice Biennale , where he returned again in the editions of 1956 and 1958 up to the recognition allocated in 1966 with a solo show.
For thirty years Tabusso was an established painter, with invitations to prestigious international festivals, including Brussels, New York, Moscow, Alexandria, Egypt.
In 1975 the Grand Pala Absidale realized "The Canticle of the Creatures" for the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Milan , designed by Gio Ponti , later supplemented by four triptychs devoted to "The Little Flowers of St. Francis."
 Francesco Tabusso (2nd from left), Cervinia 1961 

Tabusso died in 2012 aged 81 Mauritian hospital in Turin, where he always lived.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Emile (2)!

Yes, it's that time of year again, time to wish my Bro (and the man behind the Spy Files) a very happy birthday! 
Bro's pictured here with a Castilla Algodon in navy (top) and with a Tolosa Tupida in brown (bottom) while tending grapes - an unusual sight, as he's generally seen being busy at the other end of the wine making process. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Customer Portrait: Michel from California

I'm not in the habit of posting about my customers, but the story of Michel is too nice to not share. After corresponding a bit about large berets, he told me a little about his history (where berets are concerned):
My father, a French/Russian immigrant told me as a child of the Chasseurs Alpins he saw in Nice as a boy, with their "immense" bérets.  So, when I was a teenager I asked a French professor I knew to bring me back the largest béret he could find, which he did.  It was only a 10.5 inch American (a Beret Hoquey, from Béatex), but I was very proud of it and almost wore it out.  
When in college my rock-climbing my friend and I would put ragg socks in our bérets as a sort of crash helmet.  Years later a student of mine was heading back to France for vacation and I asked her to try to find me a Chasseur béret (her brother was a Chasseur).  She couldn't score an official Chasseur béret, but in a mountaineering store in Lausanne the Madame who ran the shop said "But you mean a TARTE", and dug one out of a dusty drawer.  That was my main béret for climbing and skiing for over 20 years, and I wore it to Europe many times.  I even got to climb an alp with some retired Chasseurs, mostly due to the fact that I was wearing a Tarte.  
I visited Nay and bought a béret or two at the Musée, bought one in Paris, one in the Massif Central, one in the alps, two in the Dordogne, and the collection just kept growing.  I suppose I have bought well over 15, but I have given some away to friends who liked them.  I've got one in my bedroom as a dedicated sleep mask, one next to my easy chair to shield my eyes when reading, one in my car, one in my truck, and one in the tank-bag of my motorcycle.  
When we visited Tolosa I bought 2 bérets there, one at Elósegui and one in town at a mens clothing store, and for the last 4 years and last 3 trips to Europe the 35 cm Txapeldun has been my traveling hat, and also the hat that I wear every day around town in Santa Barbara.  Once I started wearing the really big ones, people took notice and remembered me as the guy in the big béret, and even my wife likes the bigger ones on me.  It has sort of become my brand and trademark.  Women of all ages remark on my béret almost every time I go out, and favorably, which is positively reinforcing.  So, long live the Béret Basque, and the guys who wear them!
I couldn't agree more! Great story, great pictures. 
Many thanks, Michel!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekender: Ron Fuller, 74, Toymaker

Interview by Becky Barnicoat
The Guardian, Saturday 14 May 2011
 I make old-fashioned toys: wooden aeroplanes, dolls' houses, rocking horses and folk toys such as the flipper dinger (a blow pipe game) and the whimmydiddle (a propeller on a stick). In the old days, there were lots of small shops selling handmade toys, but there are only a few left. I sell mine at Craftco in Southwold and at Kristin Baybars' toy shop in Gospel Oak.

When I'm not in the workshop, I'm playing with my toys. There's a model boating pond in Southwold. People bring three-masted schooners, clippers, yachts and racing boats. It's marvellous.

We always make an effort to go to the pub on the weekend. Our local in Laxfield, Suffolk, is the King's Head, an old-fashioned pub with no counter – you have to go to the cellar to order your beer. There's always a big gathering of artists there on Sunday lunchtime.

I like wearing bright colours. My trousers are from Gallyons countrywear shop in Norwich, and my beret is from the UN peacekeeping force. Being a toymaker is quite a romantic notion. I play with cars and trains and boats and planes all day – it's a substitute for real life. I don't want to look drab. I live in a world of make-believe.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beppe Grillo

Giuseppe Piero Grillo, better known as Beppe Grillo (born 21 July 1948 - happy birthday!), is an Italian activist, blogger, comedian and actor. He has been involved in politics since 2009 as leader of the Five Star Movement.
After receiving his degree as an accountant, Grillo became a comedian by chance, improvising a monologue in an audition. Two weeks later he was discovered and launched by Italian TV presenter Pippo Baudo.

Grillo has spearheaded several national and international political campaigns. On Sept. 8, 2007, he organized a "V-Day Celebration" in Italy; the "V" stood for vendetta, vengeance, and vaffanculo ("fuck off"). During the rally, Grillo projected the names of two dozen Italian politicians who had been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption and tax evasion to abetting a murder. More than 2 million Italians participated in this rally. Grillo also used this rally to urge Italians to sign a petition calling for the introduction of a Bill of Popular Initiative to remove members of the Italian Parliament who have criminal convictions of any kind from their office. According to Internet scholars, V–day was the first case in Italian history of a political demonstration developed and promoted via word–of–mouth mobilization on the blogosphere and the social web.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birds - 2

When researching Berets & Birds, the bird that came up most often was a vulture.
I don't take that negatively, despite the poor image (in human's eyes, of course) of this beautiful animal. In fact, I think vultures in berets look absolutely great!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birds - 1

Juma Khan surrenders himself to a boyish grin while a pet bird is perched on his beret in Mehtarlam district, Laghman province on April 24, 2010. "I feed this bird small insects," said Khan, a sergeant in the Afghan National Army. "Watching birds makes me forget about the problems in my country." Khan began raising birds during his childhood in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fire Fighters (2)

I had a short post on berets used by fire brigades in April, 2010. At the time, I wondered how many fire fighters across the world used berets and since then, I collected a few more samples.
Interestingly, mainly from Germany. 
Un-stereotypical, the German fire brigades seem to have no national standard; the berets come in a variety of colours and models, some with firefighter-related badges, others with the badge of the regional council.
There are a number of manufacturers/suppliers of uniform berets in Germany, like Kempf, Hoernke and Pfeifer
 If you are a collector of these kind of berets, check out the web sites; some sell directly to the public. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mime (2)

Following yesterday's post, some beret wearing mime artists you may not have been aware of: 
 Bruce Willis
 Ed Norton
 Glen Beck
 Liv Tyler
 Mick Jagger
Samuel L Jackson

Monday, July 16, 2012

Una Basco Roma Particulare

Finally, they're listed on the web site! The special order Basco Roma's in brown (apologies for the colour representation on the picture) and anthracite grey and, forgive me for my pride, I am proud that this small business at the bottom of the world is the very first and only one selling these berets!


A mime artist is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer. Miming is to be distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a seamless character in a film or sketch.
The performance of pantomime originates at its earliest in Ancient Greece; the name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus, although performances were not necessarily silent.
 In Medieval Europe, early forms of mime such as mummer plays and later dumbshows evolved. In early nineteenth century Paris, Jean-Gaspard Deburau solidified the many attributes that we have come to know in modern times—the silent figure in whiteface.
 Jacques Copeau, strongly influenced by Commedia dell'arte and Japanese Noh theatre, used masks in the training of his actors. Étienne Decroux, a pupil of his, was highly influenced by this and started exploring and developing the possibilities of mime and developed corporeal mime into a highly sculptural form, taking it outside of the realms of naturalism. Jacques Lecoq contributed significantly to the development of mime and physical theatre with his training methods.
The striped sailors shirt and black beret are traditionally standard attributes to the mime artist.