Berets: Country Trends


Figure 1.--French boys still commonly wore berets in the early 1940s. This photograph was taken in May 1940 as the German Army was over running France.

French boys were of course the most commonly associated with berets. The beret was also been worn in Belgium where French styles are so important. The beret was also commonly worn in Spain, especially in the Basque country. Berets in these countries were a male garment, worn by both men and boys. The beret appeare in many other countries in the 20th century. It was primarily considere a French garment. First as a younger boys' cap and then as a popular style for girls. After it was worn by military units in World War II era, it was adopted by many Scout groups.

Austria

Berets were not commonly worn in Austria. We have no information on the early 20th century and the era before the Anchluss in 1938. Berets would of course not have been encouraged during the NAZI era. A French reader who lived for a time in Austria writes, "I do not ever recall seeing an Austrian boy wearing a beret. In Vienna during the 1950s, boys did not commonly wear caps. During the winter many wore wool stocking caps, but I never noticed them wearing berets."

Belgium

I have little information on Belgium, but believe that Belgian boys generally followed French styles and conventions. Thus the beret was comminly worn by Belgian boys at about the same time it was worn in France. The Belgian boys commonly wore black berets as in France. Presumably it was more popular in the French speaking areas of Walonia than Dutch speaking Flanders.

Bulgaria

Bulagarian boys also wore Western European fashions by the late 19th century. We notice some French influence here. We note images of boys waring berets. Here we have little information. We do not think that Bugarian boys commonly wore berets. As far as we know, berets were commonly used by mothers to dress boys in stylish outfits to look fashionable. We note American boys dressed this way as well in the 1930s.

Canada

We have noted some younger Canadian boys wearing berets. We are not sure how common it was. Nor are we sure what the chronology of this were. We have noted Canadian boys wearing boys during the 1930s-50s. Our archieve, however, is rather limited and berets may have been wirn earlier. Unlike France, we do not see older boys wearing beret. Rather like America, the beret seems to have been a style for girls and younger boys. One example here is that after World war II, we note some Canadian Scouts wearing berets. Most of the boys wearing berets seem to have been French Canadian boys. Here we see two French Candian boys wearing berets in 1942. We are not sure if Canandian girls wore berets as was common in America. We belieeve that English Canadian boys did not commonly were berets because the French had a lowe-class status in Canada. In America French styles were considered fashionable and stylish wuithout any of the lower-class association in Canada..

England

The beret was commonly perceived as a French fashion and thus not widely worn by English boys. While the beret was not widely popular in England, some wealthy families thought it fashionable to adopt stylish French fashions. These families were likely to adopt French childrens clothing, including berets and smocks. One such family was the Llewllyn-Davies family of Peter Pan fame. Few English boys, however, would wear berets after leaving for boarding school, usually at age 8 years. The English appear to have begun the military fashion of wearing berets. The beret gained considerable fame during World War II, especially after Monty adopted it. The English Boy Scouts adopted it as part of their uniform in 1969.

France

I am not sure when French boys began to commonly wear berets. It does not seem to have been common in the early 19th Century. I think that it was probably about the 1870s when the Government began requiring that chldren wear smocks to school. Perhaps they also required berets. While boys may have begun wearing berets to school, I do not believe it was considered appropriate for dress up occasions. Boys in smocks, however, commonly wore berets. Perhaps because the beret was commonly worn by workers. French Boy Scouts began wearing berets from an early period in the development of Scouting, peobably the 1910s. You begin to see more boys wearing berets with dressy clothes after World War I (1914-18). I'm not sure when French girls began wearing berets, but it was probably during the inter-war period. It was commonly worn through the early 1940s. Boys of all ages wore them. Boys stopped wearing berets, however, after World War II and by the 1950s was becoming increasingly rare.

Germany

Berets are generally associated with French boys. W have, however, noted some German boys wearing berets. We have realtively limited information here. The association with French boys was so string that when the NAZIs seized control of Alscae-Loraine in 1940, they prohibited the wearing of berets. That was just in Alsace-Loraine. The beret was not prohibited in the rest of the Reich. There were few boys there, however, that wanted to wear berets. Even so we have occasionally seen German boys wearing berets as well. While not common, they were worn. We have little chronological information, but have begun to collect some information. In particular we have noted them in the immediate post-War era. We note photographs of German boys wearing berets in the 1940s. A factor here may be the adoption of the beret as part of the Scout movement which was reestablished in Germany in the 1940s. We note, for example, a German boy in a rural village wearing a beret in 1955. Berets are no longer worn by German boys, except perhaps some Scout groups.

Italy

Although the beret was spread across Europe by the Romans, it does not seem to have been a major style worn by modern Italian boys. Although not as common as in France, I believe the beret was also worn to some extent in Italy, especially northern Italy. I think they may have been discouraged by Italy's Fascist Government, but I have not yet confirmed this.

Japan

Berets were not widely worn by Japanese boys. Many schools adopted them as part of the school uniform. Some kindergardens have both boy and girls wear them. Several choirs in Japan adopted them as part of the uniform. This was most common for mixed choirs, but some boys' choirs also adopted them. Berets are also used for scouts.

(The) Netherlands

Berets were worn in the Netherlands, but not often. They always were black. The Dutch name is: alpinomuts or alpinopet. Some boy scout groups also wore berets instead of the traditional broad-brimmed hat and they sometimes had a different color than black.

Portugal

We do note some boys wearing berets. We are not sure how common this was or the chronological trends. As in Spain, the Portuguese term is boina. We also see Borla being used. It does not seem to be a child's garment as we see men, but not women wearing them. The ones we have noted are black. This seems to be a Basque fashion influence. We do not know if Portuguesr berets were thus worn regionally, more in the north near the Basque country. Some Portuguese military units wore berets as part of their uniforms.

Russia

We note younger Russian boys wearing berets, usually with suits and other dress-up outfits. Most of the imaes we have seem are from the 1950s and 60s. We are not sure how common this was, but it seems to have been popular among moderately aflluent city families. An example is an unidentified Russian boy in the early 1960s. We note two other Russian boys wearing berets at the same time.

Spain

I believe that berets were also commonly worn by Spanish boys, but have few details. They became associated with Republican forces in the Civl War (1937-39) and thus were probably discouraged after Franco's victory. The beret is most commonly worn by the Basques in the north of Spain. The Spanish have worn berets since Roman days.

Switzerland

Berets in Switzerland were primarily worn in Romandie, the French speaking area of Switzerland. They were last popular during the 1950s-1960s, The so-called "Bérets basques" were quite popular, especially with mothers. Many boys age 6-14 did wear them during the autumn and spring. During winter bérets were replaced by woolen knitted headbands covering ears called in French "serre-tête" (Head-embracer?) also currently used for skiing. There was as well for younger boys a similar garment yet covering top-sides-back of head, hood type. With the arrival around 1950 of the duffel-coat and it's hood that reached quickly an enormous popularity, usage of bérets basque declined rapidly.

United States

Some American boys during the late 19th century wore tams withs dressy outfits. The classic beret was worn by small boys in America during the 1920s-40s as part of a dressy outtfit. Berets were never worn by American boys as casual clothing. Berets were occassionaly worn during the 1950s, but not commonly. Almost always American boys wore white or cream colored berets with dressy clothes. Stlightly oldervboys might wear a paeked cap with dressy outfits. I am not sure why the light-colored bertets were preferred, but this convention was very common. The beret was generally considered in America, however, as a girls cap. And the girls wore a much wider range of colors. Girls wore them extensively in the 1920s-30s, calling them "tams". The beret was little seen in the United States after the 40s as boys wears, until some Scout groups adopted red berets during the 1960s.







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Created: March 17, 2001
Last edited: 3:56 AM 4/28/2011