Thursday, March 7, 2013

(Dis)abusing the beret

I have a beret emblazoned on its wide, flat side with “Roman Magnus,” one of those abominations of taste among well-meaning gift-givers that I forgive in good faith, like the clothing messiah I am. I’ve occasionally used it to prove the point that berets are good, clean fun any way they are worn, but they don’t actually invest anyone with artistry nor Communist inclinations.

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As an American, I have less use for berets than a Mexican sombrero. In my days as a traveling youth in Europe I purloined one off the streets of Paris. Someone had left it on the edge of the fountain at the Jardin des Tuileries. I flipped it over my head in jest, and my tour guide later remarked I looked like a real European then. Another myth, by the way. A beret does not a European make, even though for a time it had been worn by peasants, warrior classes, aristocracies, and artisans in many places in Europe, particularly France and Spain. I don’t remember speaking better French then.

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A beret these days is no more of a status marker than a fashion statement among men and women. David Beckham wears the slouchy, knit types and the acrylic fiber Parisians. Hugh Jackman and his theatre credentials tee off the look perfectly. Pedestrian New Yorkers are owning the look in equal measure. It stands for something and yet not --- it’s just old-hat, but it’s well-loved.

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Berets are good for keeping from cold drafts, going incognito, and hiding bald spots. I make them as adjuncts to certain types of suits. A dapper friend of mine, Guillaume, palpated the look in horror and remarked that I was giving Europe back to the all-too-well-dressed elite. Mad hat assumption.

My berets hang out as genuine American citizens in my Roman Magnus Palatine, IL atelier. I see quite a number of people going around with them in San Francisco. To order from me, reach me through this Twitter page.