Sunday, March 31, 2013

Melina Mercouri

Melina Mercouri (born as Maria Amalia Mercouri, 18 October 1920 – 6 March 1994) was a Greek actress, singer and politician.
As an actress she made her film debut in Stella (1955) and met international success with her performances in Never on Sunday, Phaedra, Topkapi and Promise at Dawn. She won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, and she was also nominated for an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and two BAFTA Awards.
A political activist during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, she became a member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1977 and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece in 1981. Mercouri was the person who, in 1983, conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture, which has been established by the European Union since 1985.
She was a strong advocate for the return to Athens of the Parthenon Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon, and are now displayed in the British Museum.
 Photographs of MM during her arrival in Amsterdam, May 1968

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pelote, 1930

From the archives: vintage photographs of pelote.
Two French Basque boys, playing pelote, 1930
Basque pelota (or pelote, in French) is the name for a variety of court sports played with a ball using one's hand, a racket, a wooden bat or a basket, against a wall (frontis) or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net. Their roots can be traced to the Greek and other ancient cultures.
 French Basque boys playing pelote against a wall, 1930

Pelote score-keeper in the French Basque Country, 1930, in traditional clothing

Friday, March 29, 2013

La Chanson du Béret

La Chanson du Béret - 1931

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beret Throwing, or 'Lancer du beret'

Remember my post on traditional beret games (8 March, 2013)? Well, beret-throwing is more than just a kid's game at the school yard.
In South West France (and typically the Bearn), they get pretty serious about it. They even have big sponsors for their 'Lancer du beret". 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community with Santander as its capital city. 
It is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community (province of Biscay), on the south by Castile and León (provinces of León, Palencia and Burgos), on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea (Bay of Biscay).
Drying boina on the clothesline in San Roque de Riomiera, Cantabria
Cantabrians are dedicated beret wearers, but interesting (despite the rainfall, you won't find many plato grandes in Cantabria; typically Cantabrians wear the small diameter berets, or boinas, like the Basica and Super Lujo 242.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Willem van de Poll - Dutch Photographer

Liberation of Amsterdam, 1945 - girlfriends of German soldiers
Willem van de Poll (April 13, 1895 - Dec. 10, 1970) was a Dutch photographer who and one of the most important photographers of his generation. 
Van de Polls stepdaughters, drinking hot chocolate while ice skating, 1931
He followed a course in Vienna in 1919 and worked as a freelance press photographer traveling in Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia and the Caribbean. 
Nell Langlais, Van de Polls 2nd wife, ice skating 1931
After the war he became a house photographer for the royal family. Willem van de Poll worked as a press and court photographer, travel, advertising and fashion photographer. 
But not a 'committed photographer', he made few pictures of demonstrations or poverty.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cipriano Mera - an Anarchist Battler

Cipriano Mera Sanz (November 4, 1897, Madrid – October 24, 1975) was a Spanish military and political figure during the Second Spanish Republic.
A bricklayer, he joined the anarchist movement and presided over the construction union of Madrid of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). During the congress celebrated in Zaragoza three months before the beginning of the Spanish Revolution, he was in favor of the most radical, collaborating sectors of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Mera led a strike of construction workers, electricians, and elevator operators in Madrid in June 1936. As a result, he was imprisoned in early July.
When the Spanish Civil War exploded he was released, and led a column that put down the uprising in Guadalajara, Alcalá de Henares and Cuenca. Next, he defended the dams of Lozoya, which supplied Madrid, and fought in the mountain ranges of Ávila and the valley of the Tiétar. He was given command of the 14ª Division and it acted in the defense of Madrid, the Battle of Guadalajara (March 1937) and in the battle of Brunete (July 1937).
By 1939 Mera was convinced that the Republicans would be defeated. When Juan Negrín refused to surrender to Francisco Franco, Mera decided to support Segismundo Casado, commander of the Republican Army of the Center, and Julián Besteiro of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party to stage a coup d'etat and establish an anti-Negrin, anti-Communist Consejo Nacional de Defensa. In March 1939 he joined the rising of Casado to accelerate the end of the war and to restrain Communist Party of Spain control of the Republican zone. His forces were fundamental in the victory of Casado in Madrid against the 1st Corps of the Army of the Center sent to defeat the rising.

He marched to Valencia at the end of the war and soon by plane went to Oran and Casablanca, but he was extradited to Spain in February 1942. In 1943 he was condemned to death, a sentence that was exchanged for 30 years in prison, but he was set free in 1946. In 1947, he emigrated to Paris, where he worked as a bricklayer until his death in St. Cloud, France in 1975.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Driver Dirk de Baat

I posted on 'train-drivers and railway workers' before on The Beret Project; all over Europe the beret was the typical head gear for train drivers (no peak that gets in the way and no stains that show on the black wool). 
The picture below I found in a Dutch news archive.
A railway accident in Neustadt (Germany) caused injuries to 6 or 7 people. Director of the "Landgericht" (District Court), Dr A Kind (left with glasses) and Dutch train driver Dirk de Baat (with Basque beret) are at the wreck of the freight engine during a location session in the trial of the Dutch operator. 24 March, 1954.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jean-Claude Pertuzé

Jean-Claude Pertuzé is a French illustrator, comics and advertising artist. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Toulouse
Pertuzé began his career at an advertising agency and a printing firm, before he turned to freelance illustrating for advertisements and the press. As a comics artist, he is mainly the author of stories about tales and legends from the South-West of France and the Pyrenees
Pertuzé started out with 'Contes de Gascogne', which he self-published in 1977. He then made a series of albums with publisher Loubatières, such as 'Galipettes' (three volumes), 'L'Apôtre Zéro' and 'Chants de Pyrène'. He cooperates with Frédéric Lizak for the magazine Tournesol.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two Old Photographs

The photo on the left is from 1930 and is signed Rolan Stoutain and reads ROULTABILLE LE FORMIDABLE ARTISTS DE CINÉMA. And "TOUJOURS CHIC AVEC LE BERET FRANCY MILTON". 

The photo on the right is mounted on board. It is from 1930, is signed Georges Milton and reads GEORGES MILTON: J'AI MA COMBINE: JE PORTE UN BÉRET BASQUE.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vrai Basque Marine/Navy

The new stock from France has just arrived; all 'Tartes', 'Berrueta's' and 'Vrai Basques' are fully available again in all sizes, but also, there are the brand new 'Vrai Basques' in marine/navy. 

Classic French berets, carrying one of the oldest beret labels still in production and available in two diameters: 256 and 291mm. Have a look here.


It all started with a novel, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; a book that sketches an intriguing picture of the last bit of Belgian colonial rule, the Congo's new independence and the usual meddling of the CIA to uproot the democratically elected government and replace it with the dictatorship of Mobutu.
What shocked me most, was the fact that I had no idea about this history and I dare to think, most people have very little idea of the incredible (and awful) history of the Congo.
Belgian Red Berets, around Independence, 1960
Obviously, being Dutch, I know a fair bit of the atrocities committed by my countrymen in the former Dutch Indies and a good deal about French colonial oppression in Algeria and West Africa, likewise with the British, the Germans, the Portuguese and Spanish in their respective colonies.
But, after further reading (Basque writer) Bernardo Atxaga's Seven Houses in France, folowed by King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild, one can only conclude they were all taught by the Belgians. 
Mercenary, undermining the legitimate government of Congo
The book places King Leopold among the great tyrants of history. The death toll in the Congo under his regime is hard to pin down, both because accurate records were not kept and because many of the existing records were deliberately destroyed by Leopold shortly before the government of Belgium took the Congo out of his hands, but estimates linger around 10.000.000. 
Listening to a Zenith Trans-Oceanic shortwave receiver are Rogelio Oliva, José María Martínez Tamayo  and Guevara. Standing behind them is Roberto Sánchez
The Congo started off as a "private garden" for Leopold; he was the colonizer alone, not Belgium  until the country took over from the sole ruler under immense international pressure. 
37-year-old Che Guevara, holding a Congolese baby, 
standing with a fellow Afro-Cuban soldier during the Congo Crisis, 1965
Hochschild devotes a chapter to Joseph Conrad, the famous Anglo-Polish writer, who captained a steamer on the Congo River in the first years of Belgian colonization. Hochschild observes that Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, despite its unspecific setting, gives a realistic picture of the Congo Free State. Its main character, Kurtz, was inspired by real state functionaries in the Congo, notably Leon Rom. While Heart of Darkness is probably the most reprinted and studied short novel of the 20th century, its psychological and moral truths have largely overshadowed the literal truth behind the story.
UN Sqn Ldr PM Wilson at the wheel of his jeep, in Leopoldville/Elizabethville
Not many berets, in the Congo, apart on the heads of foreigners; mercenaries, Belgian military, Che Guevara (exporting the Cuban Revolution)... I found one on a local, in this article of the Guardian.
Theo (with black beret), Coco (at the wheel of his bike) and Ricky (on crutches) 
of Staff Benda Bilili, Ndjili, Kinshasa, Congo (DRC), 14 september 2009. Photograph Andy Hall
Anyway, how much of this immense history can I relate here in a few lines? Fascinating reading though, highly recommended!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

White Berets

White berets... Not counting myself, wearing a white boina Tolosa Tupida on a good summer day, white berets are, or have been worn, and associated with some of the most interesting groups of beret wearers.
In my slightly subjective opinion, I'll start with the worst: Carlists (above), the ultra-conservative, ultra-Catholic monarchists from Spain. Best known for their red berets with tassel, they also wore the boina blanca - closely associated of course with the RC Church. 
The Pilgrims of St. Michael were founded in Canada in 1939 by Louis Even (left) and Gilberte Côté-Mercier (right) 

with a slightly different mission from the Carlists: to promote the development of a better world, a more Christian society, through the diffusion and the implementation of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, in every sector of society, especially the economic field.
A very different group were the White Berets of the Argentinean Radical Party 
and, quite different again, the French Chasseurs Alpins (in winter white) and the legionnaires of the French Foreign Legion. 
Then, of course, there are the fashion savvy women who wear the white berets by American Apparel (made by Parkhurst in Canada). 
And these, in turn, are very different again for those of the members of the merchant navy's Arctic Convoys, during WWII.
Still, I have a good number in store (here) and one on special with Moroccan leather headband in size 60 in the One-Off section!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spanish Civil War Veteran George Sossenko

I just learned about the death of George Sossenko.
Sossenko (1918 - 14 March, 2013) was a Russian-born American lecturer and activist. At age 17, he left his parent's home in Paris, France, to join those fighting against Francisco Franco's nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War.
He initially went to the offices of the French Communist Party, but was turned away, and then denied by the Socialists as well. They suggested he contact the anarchists, who sent him across the Spanish border in a caravan. He was sent to Barcelona, then received one week's worth of military training before being sent to the front.
During the Civil War, Sossenko changed his name to Georges Jorat to avoid being found by his parents, and fought as part of the Sébastien Faure Century, the French-speaking contingent of the Durruti Column. After the Civil War, Sossenko later fought in World War II with the Free French.
You can hear Sossenko speak here and buy his book 'The Idealistic Adventurer' here