There’s been an outbreak of revolutionary activity in South London, not quite up to the level of Citizen Smith’s anarchic, Tooting gang – but on my way to the post office this morning, I spotted two separate women wearing berets. These were the classic black, felted variety, one worn with big sunglasses, Gucci-style, the other with a brightly patterned scarf. Back home, a quick look online revealed a bevvy of decorative, embellished and crochet berets in playful colours.
Milliner, Gil Fox first started noticing she was selling more berets during the pandemic ‘when people weren’t going anywhere’ but wanted to treat themselves or have something to look forward to in the post. ‘ I only started designing berets about five years ago but the style has become a best-seller, it’s such a universal shape.’ Some of her customers have built a small collection with several in their wardrobes because, ‘Berets never date. I find it really interesting that they have been around for such a long time and suit everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Kate Moss. There’s a hundred ways to wear them, I wear one with a leather biker jacket or a trench coat. They can be personalised and finish off any outfit,’ she says.
According to Vogue, ‘berets have been around since the Bronze Age’. Over the years the felted flat cap has been worn by artists, actors and activists; appearing on the catwalks of Chanel, Dior and Gucci. Though it was Kangol in the 1980s who took the beret onto the street. Easy to embellish with brooches, kilt pins and silver chains, the beret became a statement piece, a glossy magazine cover star – and I’m quite tempted to bling-it-up, this autumn:
Today on the high street, John Lewis has its own name brand classic wool-rich beret, £18, in a range of colours including bright red, bubblegum pink and bottle green, Free People has taken inspiration from the 1980s and decorated its chapeaus. See also Oliver Bonas’ bumble bee beret. While Mango is keeping things neutral (available HERE). I’ve noticed that quite a few berets are a wool blend and contain acrylic, which could end up a bit bobbly. Gil Fox’s are 100% wool, as are Lock & Co Hatters of St James, whose classic French style is available in a selection of lovely colours for £55. And there are numerous multi-coloured wool hats available on Etsy.
The beret is back. Could it be something to do with our fighting spirit, now we all feel like we’re going into battle everyday? Power to the people!
Four beret-wearing tips from milliner Gil Fox:
Always make sure your beret is big enough. There really is nothing more likely to put you off wearing one than it being too tight. The best way to measure is to put the tape just above your eyebrows and measure all the way round.
There are no right and wrong ways to wear a beret but I always think you should show a little hair (perhaps on one side) and the proportions of your face, so that it feels like ‘you’. Once you know you have a hat that feels right, you can experiment and wear it in different ways.
I’d recommend wearing it slightly off-centre, and make sure it doesn’t look too flat. Don’t go too symmetrical. Tilt it slightly to one side, particularly if there’s a decoration, a brooch or a ribbon.
When it’s time to give your beret a revamp, roll a strip of Sellotape around your hand (sticky side up) and rub it over the hat to de-fluff it. This will sharpen everything up.
Gil Fox is on Instagram HERE and sells her hats on Etsy HERE.
Bring on the beret:
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