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© WWD / REX / Shutterstock
© WWD / REX / Shutterstock
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Love Letter to a London Trend: The Beret

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 21 September 2017
In the next of the Love Letters to a London Trend series, Culture Trip’s fashion editor India Doyle unpicks the French fantasy that has London enthralled.

They say that London is the sixth largest French city, which might go some way to accounting for the sudden resurgence of the beret on the streets of England’s capitals; it might, were it not for the fact that most French people think berets are naff.

Yet the embrace of this clichéd headwear is undeniable, so what’s going on?

Blame it on those wet London leftys already in mourning for their European counterparts across the Chanel, or the failure of umbrellas to do their job when confronted by even light breeze, but the beret is peppering heads across London this season.

Unlike so many street style looks, the resurgence of the beret has no obvious roots in trends dictated from the catwalk and thus must have sprung from some strange whirlpool of cultural context. Granted, the trend fittingly seemed to make a comeback first at Paris, where the likes of Rihanna and Winnie Harlow sported this new look to major AW17 shows.

Red Anarchy Beret, £75
Red Anarchy Beret, £75 | © Itchy Scratchy Patchy

However the resurgence in London was quick to follow, and one can’t help but look to Edie Campbell’s Itchy Scratchy Patchy berets as culprits. Made in France and stocked at Dover Street Market, these designs pay homage to the anarchist spirit of the hat with slogans such as ‘Solidarity’ and ‘Anarchy’. Whether or not selling berets for £75 is in-keeping with a truly anarchist spirit is a conversation we’ll leave for another time, but the point is that they sell – they sell out, actually.

Indeed, the anti-establishment connotations of the beret are worth considering. Beyoncé wore one during her Black Panther tribute at the Superbowl, referencing an essential piece of the movement’s uniform. In fact, the revolutionary connotations of the beret can – according to Mic – be traced back to the 1800s, when a leader of the Spanish Carlists, Tomas Zumalacarregui, wore one to drive troops forward during the Second Carlist war.

So how does this translate to modern London life? Is it blithe enough to say that a morning commute is the contemporary battlefield – probably, yes. Nonetheless, one might conclude that donning a beret enables a London woman to combat the daily hurdles life is want to throw at us.

Fashion is also in the throes of acute meta-irony, where fake t-shirts by major brands, socks and sandals and $1,000 Ikea bags are ruling the sartorial scene. As such, taking a cliché and rendering it en vogue follows on from a well-established new movement. Londoners are particularly famed for their sardonic sense of humour and copious cynicism, of which the beret seems to be as good a physical manifestation as any.

Practically speaking, berets are the perfect transitional headpiece: they offer a smarter finish than a beanie without the look-at-me demands of the ‘blogger’ hat (you know the type, wide-brimmed and offensive to all commuters) all while ensuring hair stays dry in these mad September showers, and doesn’t melt in sweltering sun.

And if none of the above serve to explain the sudden infatuation with the beret, there’s always Samuel L. Jackson, who has been wearing them for years.