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Monday, January 09, 2012

I'll Take the Beret

I was in Gizzi's when a friend whispered to me that a short distance away was a classic throwback image: a woman wearing a bright red beret, sitting in a cafe. A bit pressured to catch her on camera, I learned only minutes later that she was one of the musical performers, affording me the opportunity for a more composed shot, appropriately with a framed photo of James Dean behind her.

One of the iconic elements of the Beat generation's dress was the beret. New York City was deeply entwined with the Beats, for a time the home of the man who invented the phrase itself: Jack Kerouac. The origins of the the Beats can be traced to Columbia University with the meeting of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Hal Chase, and others.

The beret is derived from the Greek pilos and is most associated with France, where it was first mass-produced in the 19th century. It has been popular with the nobility of Europe, the military, and artists, non-conformists, poets, hipsters, beatniks, bohemians, military activists (the Black Panthers and Che Guevara), and even New York City's vigilante group, the Guardian Angels.

I did buy a beret once, but it never seem to sit right, feeling rather awkward and needing to be perched askew to be worn properly. At various points in my life, I have indulged in the wearing of one hat or another. Typically these forays were tied into some new kick for very short periods of time, as I was always concerned about any coolness or identity being too wrapped up in the wearing of a particular hat. It's a lot of image to live up to, and my biggest fear was taking my hat off and revealing the real, unadorned me.

I always wondered what it would be like to wake up to someone who sports an outrageous, spiked Mohawk. Much like the Wicked Witch of the West, I imagine the coolness factor is severely damped by the harsh effects of water and shampoo. Berets were before my time, but as an obligatory uniform element of the rebel, between the convenience of the beret of the Beats over long hair of the sixties, I guess I'll take the beret :)

Note: The performer was Rosie Yadid of the duo Ghengisonogram. View their Youtube channel here

Related Posts: Birds of a Feather Tied Together, Hair, The Women, Yippies, Twelve Tribes Arrive


Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought about berets for over 20+ years probably closer to 30 actually, your post brought back fond memories of my time in my early twenties with Australian Army Reserve. I was proud of my jungle green beret and glowed with the praise I oft received on the consistent correct angle I achieved. Ah thanks Brian - great post.

An Honest Man said...

Takes me back to my Boy Scout days when we wore berets rather than broad brimmed hats. (We also wore kilts).

Boye By Red said...

And would oyu believe it, berets were and still are very popular with older, Muslim men in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rick Rakow said...

How neat is that. I remember the Berets and you are so correct only certain people can pull off the look. Your performer here seems to have done so well.

Bard said...

The school beret in the 60s UK was the ultimate school uniform rule, worn on going to or from school. If caught without one there was a detention.

smudgeon said...

I do like a cute girl in a beret.
Never managed to pull the look off myself, but I guess my lack of facial hair (usually a pointed goatee, right?) probably doesn't help!