Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Beret (Boina) in Spain

The main Spanish regions where the use of the beret took hold are the Basque Country, Navarra, Asturias and Castilla. The ultra orthodox and conservative catholic Carlists were interestingly the ones who popularized the use of the beret; they could not have envisioned that it was specifically the workers who later made it their headgear of choice.
After the ending of the Carlist Wars, and especially from 1900, the beret gained popularity in Spain among artists, writers and bohemians, becoming an icon of the arts and a symbol of good taste and an "alternative" against the political and social stagnation of Spain at the time. During the Second
The advent of the Franco regime in 1939 put a big stop to much of Spanish culture; the “bohemian beret” disappeared as there were simply no bohemians left to wear it. It’s use was massive though throughout the Basque Country, Leon, Navarre, Castilia, Extremadura and by much of the Andalusian peasantry. In the years following, the beret became a symbol of rural, agricultural Spain. With the big urbanization in the 1960’s, berets increased in city life, but was still very much seen as a peasant symbol.
The agrarian revolution of the 1980s (with manual work being replaced by machinery) only speeded up the progressive abandonment of the beret. Berets became rare in the country and farmers had to travel to the city to buy a one; this resulted in the advance of the nylon American baseball cap, often given for free by the distributors of chemical fertilizers and machinery dealers.
And so, these days it is mainly the elderly who still hang on to their traditional beret; younger generations being hat-less or wearing the universal ball cap. 


  1. Dear Mr. Kolthoff,

    I want to thank you for the above article and the hard work you have done in promoting the beret to all on a Global Scale. As a proud Spaniard, and founder of the Casa de España en Manitoba, i would like to extend to you an honorary membership in our organization (

    With your permission, i would also like to add a link to your website on our webpage. After all, a Spaniard would be naked without a boina on his head.

    Thank you for promoting both the boina and Spanish culture on your website.

    Don. Martinez

  2. Dear Mr. Kolthoff,

    Again, thank you kindly for your hard work in bringing back the boina to those lost souls wandering the planet without the proper headgear! Please feel free to revisit my website as i have added your delightful South Pacific Berets url.

    God bless you and may good things come to both you and your family.

    Don Martinez

  3. I come from Aragón and I'm disappointed to notice that the region is not included in your list of areas where the "boina" is popular. I've not lived in Spain for half of my life but it is certain that the many elders, particularly in rural areas of Aragón still wear it. At least those are the memories of my early years.

    1. Dear Ricardo,
      You are absolutely right; the beret, or boina, was omnipresent in Aragón, but with depopulation, the installment of large reservoirs in previously inhabited areas, the decline of the beret set in.
      I aim to visit Aragón every 2 years (it's a long way from New Zealand!) and although I love the country and it's people, I see very few berets these days.