The beret – there’s nothing quite like it to define French-ness. The beret is an icon, a fashion accessory and a statement – it’s instantly recognisable as a symbol of France all over the world. You only have to see someone wearing one and you can’t help thinking of France and French flair. Of course good style travels well and the beret has been loved by many from Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso to Ché Guevara and Madonna. Brigitte Bardot and Marlene Dietrich smouldered on and off screen in their berets, Prince even sang “Raspberry beret, I think I love her…” It never goes out of fashion.
Where to buy a real French beret
Owner and beret expert Daan Kolthoff who is based in New Zealand is absolutely passionate about berets. He’s researched them for almost ten years and has even written a book “Basque Berets” on the subject and anyone who wants to know more about berets will find this is possibly the world’s most comprehensive beret book.
Daan gets his stock only from the last remaining traditional artisan beret makers in the world and when it comes to France there are only three producers left. The top of the range foulard quality berets by Boneteria Auloronesa “these are the absolute best berets available in the world and made in a (slow, labour intense) production process that puts them way above any other French beret” says Daan. Laulhère, who have been making them since 1840. Le Béret Français, a relative new kid on the block who couldn’t bear to see the tradition die out in France and revived it with the skills of a few passionate artisans. All three manufacturers are carrying on the tradition of beret making largely by hand, just as they’ve been made for hundreds of years.
Hats off to the beret
The French beret is part of the heritage of France. Nine out of ten of us when asked to picture a French man will get an image of a beret wearing, baguette wielding, bike riding monsieur. Of course it’s a cliché but it’s also not. In many parts of France, wearing a beret is still a way of life, a cultural icon, an easy to fold hat that keeps off the rain and the sun, warms the head and looks good too.
South Pacific Berets sell berets from around the world but if you’re after an authentic French beret, this is the place to go and it doesn’t matter where you live, you’ll be able to order the real deal through their online shop.