The French beret is coming back in a major way. Part sophisticated, part sweet, and part studious, this versatile accessory is set to become your new go-to fashion item. There is something about a French beret that makes you look like a sartorial insider – confident and fearless with the ability to turn the basic into the memorable. Today, we will explain the origin of the French beret and teach you how to wear a beret in an effortless, beautiful way!
French berets are understated and accessible enough to incorporate into everyday wear but unexpected enough that friends and strangers alike will be envious of your trendy aesthetic. A beret can take you from wallflower to center stage without being too overt.
Berets have the rare quality of being both a storied traditional and historical accessory while also being extremely adaptable and flexible. We love the beret because it has a past, but is not restricted by that past. The tumultuous and rebellious history of the French beret is relevant to our current fractured political climate and informs its of-the-moment, shapeshifting appeal.
French Berets Style Guide: Contents
• What Is a Beret? French Beret History and Facts
• Types of French Berets and Which One Is Right for You?
• How to Choose a Beret
• How to Wear a Beret Right
• The 7 Coolest French Berets to Try In 2017
A beret is a round-shaped, flat felt or wool hat coming in a myriad of colors and styles, and worn by both women and men. Archaeology indicates that beret-shaped hats have been worn throughout history in Medieval and Renaissance Europe and as far back as Ancient Greece!
Basque style berets have been a stylistic staple of the Pyrenees region of Southern France and Northern Spain since the 17th century. During the early twentieth century berets were associated with working class Frenchmen and Spaniards and were being produced by various urban factories.
The French beret entered the world of fashion by way of politics. The French beret was worn in its modern context by French resistance fighters and the elite French Chasseurs Alpins infantry during World War I & II.
The French beret proliferated as a symbol of revolution and opposition when it was appropriated by Che Guevara in his fight against the Batista regime in Cuba. It was the key accessory of Guevara’s public and political renegade persona. The French beret was then utilized as a foundational accessory by the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights Era.
Culturally, the beret has been the domain of hipsters, beatniks and counter culture icons like Picasso, Edith Piaf and Hemingway since the mid twentieth century. Berets are an easy way to reference these artistic and intellectual giants without lugging around an armful of books.
The French beret later gained credence as an edgy and de rigueur accessory with the Nouvelle Vague movement in music, art and culture in France during the 1960s. Actresses like Jean Seberg, Jane Birkin, and Anna Karina made the beret both rebellious and sexy. The French beret became an intriguing and daring statement of both modern femininity and second wave feminism.
Berets made a big comeback during Paris Fashion Week with leather style berets at Dior being a show stealing highlight of the season. Since then celebrities like Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Clemence Poesy, the queen of French laid-back cool, have been seen incorporating this riveting trend into original, dynamic street chic looks.
French berets come in a diversity of fabrics and styles, allowing them to be incorporated into a variety of aesthetic looks. Because of their versatility they are appropriate for all four seasons and for both casual and formal occasions.
The traditional beret can be worn in an endless array of contexts. It has an appeal that cuts across generations for a timeless essence that few accessories possess. Traditional berets are made from felt or wool and come in monochromatic, neutral shades like black, grey, cream or navy blue. White or cream colored berets are perfect for an ethereal, feminine look.
Pair the traditional beret with a scarf and gloves for an understatedly elegant, film-noir look for chilly fall and winter nights. The quintessential beret looks best when combined with a gorgeous trench coat and ankle boots for a European chic aesthetic.
For winter, a thick felt beret makes a stellar option. Is there anything more romantic than donning a beret as the snow falls silently on a moonless night?
An edgy French beret is the best way to inject an unexpected rebelliousness into your fashion sensibility. Bejewelled and sequined berets allow you to incorporate your originality into any look.
Edgy berets encompass hats with studs, eyelets, sequins, and abstract patterns. Bold, edgy berets can be worn with a sleek, all black look or can round out a rock n’ roll get up of leather and denim.
Today’s generation of French berets is not limited to the palette of the past! A colorful beret not only stands out but can add an unexpected playfulness to your look. Some of this season’s most covetable berets come in colors like mustard yellow, cherry red, and sky blue.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different color combinations to create a look that packs the most punch. Keep in mind that a colorful beret does not need to be over the top. For instance, by pairing a red beret with a luxe red lipstick and a babydoll knit sweater you can create a romantic, Parisian look that is just as classy as wearing a more neutral beret.
The timelessness and glamour of a French beret can be made evening ready with the right selection of hat. Small pill style berets will be smaller in width than the traditional beret and will be designed to sit on one side of the head.
Such berets often come decorated with jewels, lace or small veil details. While they differ from the appearance of the traditional beret, the small pill style hat does belong to the beret family and can be an alluring addition to a formal evening look.
Feminine Season-Appropriate Berets
French berets come in a variety of softer and daintier fabrics that play up their feminine charm. Try a smooth, luxurious cashmere or an elegant lace beret for a pretty look. These fabrics are especially desirable during the early fall, spring and summer months when you want a beret that is breathable and airy.
Cashmere berets will be your best choice in the fall, while silk and lace will carry you through the summer months comfortably.
City Girl Street Ready Berets
The French beret meets the street with unexpected and modern leather and corduroy berets. The corduroy beret is textured and androgynous and can be paired to best effect with baggy boyfriend jeans and a military jacket.
A leather beret is an avant-garde way to approach the trend. At Dior’s Paris Fashion Week show leather berets were paired with a range of styles proving that you can wear a leather beret with a silky, feminine dress or with a punky rock tee – anything goes. Leather and corduroy berets are sleek and industrial for a city ready style.
Cozy and Knitted Berets
Knitted French berets are a pared down way of introducing the trend to a more casual, low-key wardrobe. Knitted berets look girlishly cozy with an off-the-shoulder jersey top and winter parkas.
A knitted beret placed toward the nape of the neck looks eclectic with a sweet dress. Thicker knits can be incorporated into a snuggly winter look, while lighter knits can be a feminine addition to spring and early fall styles.
Because of the variety of shapes, colors and designs that exist, choosing a French beret will come down to personal preference and aesthetic. There is no incorrect way of introducing a beret into your wardrobe, but keeping the below tips in mind will ensure that your new beret fits in seamlessly with your style.
Consider Your Aesthetic
How can you incorporate the French beret into your style without being too obvious or inauthentic? That may be one of the main hesitations many women have. They want to buy a beret and make it work with their individual style and aesthetic but they want it to look natural and alluring; not quaint or desperate.
Because French berets are a versatile accessory that can be worn with a wide variety of styles they will work with nearly any woman’s style preferences.
• You can go Parisian chic with a traditional French beret, red lipstick, and a dark peacoat.
• Go arthouse beatnik cool by combining your beret with Ray-Bans, and a turtleneck.
• The beret goes bohemian with a maxi skirt, and chunky jewelry.
• Your beret can be given a punk rock edge with pins and badges. Pin on the insignias of your favorite bands and hit an underground show!
• For a more feminine, ornate look you can pin on an antique brooch.
• If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could pair your beret with baggy jeans and a gold chain for a glam take on streetwear.
• While you may not believe it, a beret can be incorporated into a conservative, business look as well. Try a black beret with a suit jacket and pinstriped pants for an office ready style. The beret truly is that dynamic.
Do you Want to Stand out or Blend in?
As we outlined in the section above, there are a variety of beret options for both showstopping looks and pared-down styles. Bright colors and studded designs retain the sophistication of the beret while offering an eye-catching appeal.
For women who prefer a more understated style sensibility, black and grey shades are the subtlest way of adopting the trend. You can wear a neutral colored beret with a black jacket and dark jeans for a look that is both tasteful and trendy.
Keep the Seasons in Mind
Different fabrics suit different seasons. While you can certainly experiment with the textures that suit you best, this is a good starting point for reference.
• Spring Berets: Lace, denim, light wool, corduroy cashmere
• Summer Berets: Lace, light crochet
• Fall Berets: Felt, light knit, corduroy, leather, cashmere
• Winter Berets: Fur, felt, thick wool, thick cashmere
Now that you’re on your way to choosing the most suitable style and texture of beret for yourself, it is time to style the beret to create a seamless, beautiful look. The tips below will enable you to flatter your face shape and hair color and pair your beret with any outfit effortlessly.
Hair Styling Tips for When You Are Wearing a Beret
A beret can be combined with a wide number of hairstyles, and these are the options you can go for:
• For an androgynous, Mia Farrow look, you can tuck your hair into a tight chignon and cover it with the beret, leaving a few loose strands to fall and frame your face.
• You can pair the beret with a low ponytail or plaits for a sweet, sexy look or pair it with sleek, straightened hair for a Euro-chic approach.
• Your beret’s shade should not only pair well with the tones of your wardrobe, but should also be chosen to best suit your hair color.
• Blondes look beautiful with green, light blue, grey and pink berets.
• Brunettes look beautiful with brown, forest green, burgundy and plum berets.
• Black hair looks stunning with purple, red, cream and navy blue berets.
• Redheads look best with deep greens, navy blues and light pink berets.
• The beret can cover up a bad hair day. We recommend braiding your hair and placing a beret on top to hide greasy roots and unwashed ends. We all have those days!
• Berets work with bangs for a sweet, feminine look but you can also pin your fringe back and place the beret atop your head for a fresh look.
Considering Your Face Shape and Skin Tone
• Navy blue, deep green and black berets are universally flattering shades.
• Be aware that brightly colored berets should be chosen in a color family that suits your face. Warm skin tones will look better with oranges and deep greens, while cooler skin tones look beautiful with light pink and ice blue.
• What kind of features do you have? More striking features will suit bold patterns and geometric shapes.
• Softer features pair best with florals and more intricate detailing.
• For women with round faces, the French beret looks best when placed further back on the head, resting on the nape of the head. With loose waves or a straighter hairstyle this placement will be the most flattering.
• For women with more defined cheekbones or an angular, square shaped face, a beret that sits on the side of the head will soften your features while drawing attention to your strong cheekbones. Leaving a few strands along the temple and curling your hair will produce a more delicate look for women who want to soften their features.
• If you have a longer face, you can wear the French beret slightly over your forehead to create the appearance of a more rounded face. An inch or two on the forehead should be sufficient for this purpose.
How to Style a Beret Appropriately
• French berets can be edged up with a choker or metallic studs running up the ears.
• Your beret can be given a turn of the century appeal with pearl earrings and costume jewelry.
• Pair your beret with your lip color for a cohesive, glamorous look. Red berets and red lipstick, and purple berets with deep plum lipstick are especially intriguing.
• Decorate your French beret with brooches, pins and badges for an eclectic, sassy style.
• Buy different textures and fabrics so you can wear a new beret each season. Like we mentioned above, colder weather is perfect for fur, velvet, felt and wool berets, shoulder seasons are perfect for cashmere and leather berets, and warmer weather is perfect for light jersey or silk berets.
Placing the Beret Atop the Head
• French berets traditionally sit lopsided on the head. This is what lends them their irreverent, laissez faire appeal. You can eschew tradition, however, and place your beret neatly atop your head or place it further back, beanie style, to show more of the hairline near your crown.
• You can cover your ears with your beret for colder days.
• Place the beret to the far right or left to show off a dramatic fishtail braid.
• Avoid showing off one ear when wearing the beret on the side as this can look messy and unsophisticated.
• You can let the beret sit naturally on your head or pin it at the back or sides with bobby pins to secure it.
• If you have a beret that is on the larger size, or more voluminous in design, it will look better when placed slightly back on your hairline, resting closer to the nape of the neck than on the forehead. Pair it with wide curls for a glamorous and intriguing edge.
• Be cognizant of choosing a well-fitting French beret. A beret that is too tight will be uncomfortable and sit in an unflattering way on the forehead. If the beret is too big it will look lopsided. You should be able to comfortably place a finger between the beret and your forehead.
• Placing your beret to the side provides a sweet, French coquette appearance that is both alluring and playful.
Ready to plunge into the beret trend? Find the coolest French berets below for the current season, and embrace your French girl side every time you wear your favorite one!
1. The Iconic Red Leather Beret
Take a bite out of Dior’s Paris Fashion Week line-up with this lipstick red leather beret. Place it on the side with a sleek straightened hairstyle and a red or nude lipstick for maximum effect. An added bonus? The sweet black tie adds just the right amount of feminine allure. This look can be purchased on Orchard Mile.
2. ASOS I Am Woman Beret
How can we take the beret and style it to maximum socio-political effect? With ASOS’ I Am Woman beret you can capitalize on the sartorial significance of the beret while incorporating your political sensibilities into your look. Modern feminism embraces style as a tool for provoking change.
If you’re a fearless woman with a strong sense of self and an eye for center stage, this beret will be the perfect addition to your fall wardrobe. Not so politically inclined? This beret can be tongue in cheek and playful, as well. How you decide to style it will speak volumes about the message you want to send. Pick up this topper at ASOS!
3. The Cozy Cable-Knit Beret
This cozy knitted beret is the perfect introduction to the trend. You can wear it symmetrically atop your head to ease into the trend and tilt it as you become more experimental. The black and grey options are flattering with all hair colors and can be easily introduced into your existing style, be it feminine or grunge and anything in between.
You can dress it up with pearl earrings and a bold lip or down with boyfriend jeans and a choker. Pick it up on fashion retailer Shopbop’s website!
4. ASOS Bow Beret
Perfect for women with an eye for the sweet and the playful, this is one of the best French berets for 2017! This adaptable beret is traditional in style and shape but whimsical in design, with a sassy bow peeking out at the back. This beret is perfect for women who are comfortable with the style but want to rev it up without being too showy.
The bow can be carefree with a bohemian outfit or unexpected with a leather jacket and dark eye makeup. The versatility of this beret exemplifies the dynamism of the trend itself. Pick it up on fashion giant ASOS’ website.
5. Edgy Black Leather Beret
This beret is classic in material and design. It is petite enough to be worn over the head and slouchy enough to be worn to the side for true Parisian appeal. The stunning black color melds beautifully with brunette locks and pops against blonde hair, and looks utterly timeless with pearls and a red lip. Find it at Forward!
6. Glamorous Beret with Silver Eyelets
Proof that berets can be rock and roll! This daring design features silver eyelets to create a look that is sexy, tough and confident. Pair it with a leather jacket and tight jeans to create a dramatic aesthetic or pare it down with a slouchy sweater and nude lips. This beret looks stunning with wavy, loose locks contrasting against the starkness of the silver eyelets. Pick one up at ASOS!
7. Classic Wool Blend Beret
This gorgeous, spacious beret comes in a delightful offering of colors. While we love the standard black for a classy, pared-down look, the mustard yellow is beautiful for an unexpected ray of light, and the burgundy is the ultimate in intellectual arthouse cool.
One of the best fall 2017 berets, this one looks best when worn in the traditional, off-kilter way. Style it with loose locks or a curly low ponytail for a girlish, pretty aesthetic. You can find it at Shopbop.
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