As Uniform Headgear

Russian Paratroopers at the celebration of the Great Patriotic War in 2005.

The beret’s practicality has long made it an item of military, police and other uniform clothing.

Among a few well known historic examples are the Scottish soldiers, who wore the blue bonnet in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Volontaires Cantabres, a French force raised in the Basque country in the 1740s to the 1760s, who also wore a blue beret, and the Carlist rebels, with their red berets, in 1830s Spain. In World War Two, British officer Bernard Montgomery (“Monty”) took to wearing a black beret given to him by a corporal, and it became his trademark. In the 1950s the U.S. Army’s newly conceived Special Forces units began to wear a green beret as headgear, following the custom of the British Royal Marines, which was officially adopted in 1961 with such units becoming known as the “Green Berets”, and additional specialised forces in the Army, U.S. Air Force and other services also adopted berets as distinctive headgear.

In Fashion and Culture

Richard Wagner posing.

The beret is part of the long-standing stereotype of the intellectual, film director, artist, “hipster”, poet, bohemian and beatnik. The painter Rembrandt and the composer Richard Wagner, among others, wore berets.IBruyn, J., van de Wetering, Ernst & Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings IV In the United States and Britain, the middle of the 20th century saw an explosion of berets in women’s fashion. In the latter part of the 20th century, the beret was adopted by the Chinese both as a fashion statement and for its political undertones. Berets were also worn by bebop and jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Wardell Gray and Thelonious Monk.

As a Revolutionary Symbol

The Guerrillero Heroico portrait of Che Guevara.

Guerrillero Heroico, one of the most famous photographs of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, shows him wearing a black beret with a brass star.

In the 1960s several activist groups adopted the black beret. These include the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), the ETA guerrillas (who wore black berets over hoods in public appearances), the Black Panther Party of the United States, formed in 1966,IIOgbar, Jeffrey Ogbanna Green Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity 2004 JHU Press and the “Black Beret Cadre” (a similar Black Power organisation in Bermuda).IIIBlack Barets In addition, the Brown Berets were a Chicano organisation formed in 1967. The Young Lords Party, a Latino revolutionary organisation in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, also wore berets, as did the Guardian Angels unarmed anti-crime citizen patrol units originated by Curtis Sliwa in New York City in the 1970s to patrol the streets and subways to discourage crime (red berets and matching shirts).

Rastafarians

Rasta Man – Barbados 2004 – Photo Klaus-J KahleIVImage shared from Wikipedia – Beret according to CC BY 3.0

Adherents of the Rastafari movement often wear a very large knitted or crocheted black beret with red, gold and green circles atop their dreadlocks. The style is often erroneously called a kufi, after the skullcap known as kufune. They consider the beret and dreadlocks to be symbols of the biblical covenant of God with his chosen people, the “black Israelites”
VChico, Beverly (2005). “Beret”. In Steele, Valerie. Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion.. VIContent shared from Wikipedia – Beret according to CC BY 2.5

Notes:

Notes:
I Bruyn, J., van de Wetering, Ernst & Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings IV
II Ogbar, Jeffrey Ogbanna Green Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity 2004 JHU Press
III Black Barets
IV Image shared from Wikipedia – Beret according to CC BY 3.0
V Chico, Beverly (2005). “Beret”. In Steele, Valerie. Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion.
VI Content shared from Wikipedia – Beret according to CC BY 2.5