Thanks to countless memes satirising Emily in Paris, last October’s so-bad-it’s-good-or-is-it-just-bad Netflix hit, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re cosplaying a French person every time you wear a beret. Lyst reported a 100% increase in search for red berets following Lily Collins’ turn in the well-trodden story of an American in Paris but look beyond the caricature and there is a host of ways to wear the beret without feeling like you’re wearing a fancy dress costume.
Anyone who considers themselves ‘not a hat person’ will understand the power of a beret. While caps, beanies and bucket hats take a certain amount of confidence to wear proudly, berets are universally flattering, no matter your hairstyle or head shape. Like a proverbial cherry on top, they accompany any kind of outfit – just ask Adwoa Aboah, who has worn her Itchy Scratchy Patchy beret with a rainbow checkered puffer, teal satin suit, camo top and tinted shades, and Hunter rain jacket.
The beret’s last fashion moment came courtesy of Rihanna’s leather Dior number which she wore at Haute Couture AW17, inspiring a host of copycats, but the offbeat accessory has a long and varied history, with a particularly political accent. Worn as far back as ancient Greece, it’s been the hat of choice for French fighters in WWII, Che Guevara and the Black Panthers (a look Beyoncé paid homage to in her incredible 2016 Super Bowl half-time show), often worn as a symbol of resistance. Long before Emily in Paris, though, the beret was the centrepiece of many a fantastic onscreen look: Jean Seberg and Anna Karina in any of the Nouvelle Vague classics, Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Eva Green in The Dreamers, Rooney Mara in Carol. And lest we forget, Joni Mitchell, who, as any beret loyalist will know, is the accessory’s ultimate pin-up.
Now, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be wearing one at home (low-effort chic on a Zoom meeting, keeps the central heating cost down) and on your daily walk (Uniqlo Heattech aside, it’s making those freezing park strolls more bearable). Whether you wear yours with oversized jackets and lug boots à la Lucy Williams, with checked blazers for professional WFH energy, like LA-based Anissa Marin, or with longline dresses and wool coats per Alexa Chung, who last year tapped into our eternal love for The Railway Children aesthetic, the beret is the perennial accessory serving us well this season.