The beret was once the headgear of choice for any self-respecting Frenchman. It became almost a cartoon cliché.
Now, after years in decline, the beret is making a comeback, with manufacturers reporting a doubling in sales. One, Blancq-Olibet, based in south-west France, faced closure less than a decade ago, but is now making 300,000 berets a year.
And it’s the young who seem to be embracing them as a ‘new’ fashion trend. Bernard Fargues, the chairman of another company, Béatex, said the buyers were mostly those dubbed bobos or the bourgeois-bohème (yuppies). “They’re buying berets as a sign of authenticity and a link to rural France, where their grandparents probably lived and worked,” he said.
French style commentator Patricia Jourdain thought that as well as French pride, it might also be a backlash against an increasingly Americanised world: “The beret is as far removed as the baseball cap and other manifestations of US culture as you can get,” she said.
Ms Jourdain said that rather than being worn solely by country people or intellectuals as in the past, the beret was now an extremely chic fashion item. Many models had worn them at Paris Fashion Week.
by Andy Moreton
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