From Academic Kids

This article is part of the
hats and headgear series:
Overview of headgear
Hats; Bonnets; Caps
Hoods; Helmets; Wigs
Masks; Veils; Scarves
Tiaras; Papal tiaras
Crowns; Types of crowns
List of hats and headgear

Missing image
Black beret

A beret (UK: , US: ; IPA) is a soft round cap with a flat crown which is worn by both men and women. The cap fits snugly around the head, and the soft crown can be shaped in a variety of ways – it is commonly pushed to one side. Berets were originally worn by Northern Basque peasants and were knitted from wool. Today berets are normally made from wool felt.

Berets are associated with a variety of different people. A beret completes the image of the stereotypical Frenchman (even though berets are fairly rare in France nowadays) or French peasants; artists, painters and intellectuals. It also was the stereotypical headgear of film directors until it was replaced in the public eye with the baseball cap in the 1980s. It also became the standard headgear of the Castilian peasant.

Berets are also worn by some scout groups and are part of the stereotype of Beatniks.


Berets in the military

Berets are a part of certain military uniforms, such as those of the British Armed Forces and the United States Army. Berets are traditionally worn by those in armoured fighting vehicles. Light blue berets are worn by United Nations Peacekeeping forces. Military berets are usually pulled to the right, but the militaries of some European countries (including France) and countries they have influenced pull them to the left.

Berets have a few features that make them very attractive to the military: They are cheap and easy to make in large numbers, they can be rolled up and stuffed into a pocket without damage and they can be worn with headphones (this is one of the reasons why tank crews came to like the beret).


  • Maroon -- jump-qualified personnel in parachute units
  • Black -- armoured units
  • Scarlet -- military police
  • Rifle green -- other army units (except that instead of berets, Scottish and Irish infantry wear balmorals and caubeens respectively)
  • Navy blue (almost black) -- navy
  • Blue -- air force
  • Orange -- search and rescue technicians


Missing image
The French Chasseurs alpins wear a special wide beret.


The German Heer uses berets with cap badges for every branch of service. The Luftwaffe and the Navy issue dark purple berets only to their ground or land combat units (called Luftwaffen- and Marine-Sicherungsstaffeln). Berets are usually worn to special ceremonies and roll calls, although units with a special esprit de corps, especially armoured and mechanized infantry bataillons, take pride in wearing their berets every day.

  • Black -- armoured units
  • Dark red -- specialized units (infantry scouts, paratroopers, Light Aircraft Group and KSK)
  • Light red -- supporting units (Artillery, Engineers, Intelligence, Intelligence and Propaganda (called "operative information") Sappers; Anti Air, supply, NBC-protection, signal, Signal Disturbance, transport and topography units)
  • Dark green -- Light Infantry, Panzergrenadiere (Mechanized Infantry), Anti Tank units, the Ceremonial Guards and military bands. The Mountain Infantry uses unique grey headgear, similar to the kepi.
  • Dark blue -- Medics


Italian Army personnel used to wear a garrison cap alongside the combination cap, until the early 1980s when the garrison cap was replaced by the beret. The beret is used in the various armed forces of Italy. The colours used are:

  • Maroon -- paratroopers
  • Blue -- army aviation
  • Black -- all army units except the above-mentioned ones
  • Green -- navy special forces (Incursori)
  • Teal blue -- air force guards


The Singapore Armed Forces have also adopted the beret as their standard headgear. The different color divisions are as follows:

  • Green -- infantry
  • Black -- armour
  • Khaki -- guards
  • Maroon -- commandos
  • Blue -- support and artillery
  • Air force blue -- Air Force (contrary to its name, the beret is closer to green in color)

The berets are all adorned with the Singapore Armed Forces coat of arms, with the exception of the Air Force beret, which is decorated with the Air Force badge instead. Regimental police serving in the navy use the same color as the Air Force; however, it has the Navy's badge instead.

Spain and the Basque Country

The beret, boina in Spanish or txapela in Basque, was introduced into Spain during the First Carlist War. Carlists wore red berets (txapelgorri in Basque, which later also came to mean "Carlist soldier") and Isabellines white ones. The red beret became a Falange symbol when Carlism was merged into it after the Spanish Civil War.

Today the Basque police force, Ertzaintza, wears red berets.


The beret is used in the various armed forces of Sweden. The colours used are:

  • Black (formerly dark blue) -- Armoured units
  • Maroon -- Paratroopers
  • Bright red -- Musicians
  • Green -- Rangers
  • Green (formerly dark blue) -- Amphibious troops
  • Blue -- Army aviation
  • Sand -- foreign
  • Brown -- Home Guard
  • Dark blue -- All other units


The beret is used in the various armed forces of Thailand. The colours used are:

  • Maroon -- Paratroops, Special Forces
  • Khaki green -- Army Reserve Force Students
  • Black -- all other Army units, Air Force, Thahan Phran, Paratroop Police, Border Patrol Police
  • Camouflage -- Royal Thai Marine Corps

The black beret is also worn by ordinary police in certain situations.

United Kingdom

The British Army were the first to adopt modern-style berets as part of their uniform. In 1918, the French 70th Chasseurs Alpins were training with the British Tank Corps. The Chasseurs Alpins wore a distinctive large beret and Major-General Sir Hugh Elles, the TC's Colonel, realised that the beret would be practical headwear for his tank crews, forced to move in a reduced space. He thought, however, that the Chasseur beret was "too sloppy" and the Basque style beret of the French tank crews was "too skimpy", so a compromise based on the Scottish tam o'shanter was designed and submitted for the approval of George V in November 1923. It was adopted in March 1924.

Today, every British military unit wears a beret, with the exception of Scottish and Irish line infantry regiments, who wear the tam o'shanter and the caubeen respectively (the Scots Guards and Irish Guards, however, wear berets). Many of these berets are in distinctive colours and all are worn with the cap badge of the service, regiment or corps.

The colours are as follows:

Members of the Royal Tank Regiment, Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment and SAS never wear any other form of uniform headgear except the beret (i.e. they do not wear peaked caps). Troops from other services, regiments or corps on attachment to units with distinctive coloured berets often wear those berets (with their own cap badge). Colonels, brigadiers and generals usually continue to wear the beret of the regiment or corps to which they used to belong with the cap badge distinctive to their rank. The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and Royal Welch Fusiliers wear a coloured feather hackle on the beret.

United States

The United States Army Special Forces are generally known as "green berets" for the color of their headgear. Other United States Army units can also be distinguished by the color of their headgear, as follows:

  • Green -- Special Forces
  • Brown -- Rangers
  • Maroon -- paratroopers
  • Black -- all other US Army units

Berets were originally worn only by elite units of the U.S. Army. Hence, there was controversy when in 2001 the United States Army adopted the black beret, previously reserved for the Rangers, as standard headgear for all army units. The Rangers are now distinguished by brown berets.

The wear of berets in the United States Air Force is somewhat less popularized, but several career fields are authorized to wear berets of differing colors, as specified in the following list:

Other resources

See also

es:boina sl:Baretka sv:Basker


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