How to wear... the beret
The weather's getting colder and your hair's having a bad day. This French staple is the answer, says Meadhbh McGrath
As temperatures drop, the woolly beanies come out in force. The beanie is the trend that refuses to die, but it rarely looks chic. Most of us turn to hats for purely functional reasons: a warm knitted hat for the cold or a wide-brimmed sun hat for the beach. But it's time to reconsider the hat as a stylish accessory to punctuate an outfit, rather than for concealing a bad hair day.
On the autumn-winter catwalks, designers used hats to make a serious statement, from the furry baker-boy cap at Miu Miu to the toast-printed sou'wester at Loewe to the revamped cloche at Marc Jacobs. But the hat of season is undoubtedly the beret. It was oversized at Jacquemus (very cool, but not exactly wearable), while at Dior, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri put a punk twist on the French staple in black leather, crafted by famed milliner Stephen Jones.
Every single one of Maria Grazia Chiuri's 68 catwalk looks was topped with the iconic chapeau, from workwear-inspired boiler suits to navy blue midi dresses.
"A beret suits everybody," Jones said. "Young, old, rich, poor, male, female, child, baby." Is that true? Don't you have to be a soignee French girl to pull it off?
Many Irish women feel self-conscious in a beret, but it's surprisingly easy to wear, whatever your age. Rihanna was the first to step out in Dior's black leather version, and everyone from models-of-the-moment Bella Hadid and Adwoa Aboah to 64-year-old screen star Isabelle Huppert has followed suit. Thanks to Dior, you'll likely be seeing these hats everywhere for the next six months. Some have interpreted the accessory as politically-charged - historically beloved by counter-culture 60s beatniks and revolutionaries like Che Guevara and the Black Panthers, critics described Chiuri as giving the prim-felt classic a militant edge. In 2016, Beyonce sparked controversy at the Super Bowl half-time show by styling her back-up dancers in black berets as a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement.
But political symbolism or no, there's no denying this is a timelessly chic look - think 60s-era Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde, Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.
Berets have become a signature at Gucci under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, and perfectly fit his retro eclectic aesthetic. He also favours variations on the classic black, offering patterned and brightly coloured versions.
Karl Lagerfeld covered berets in sequins and sparkly brooches for his Chanel Resort collection and paired them with tulle gowns and sheer lacy confections, giving us some early ideas for party season dressing.
It's also fabulously versatile. A beret will bring a touch of whimsy to jeans, trainers and a fine knit jumper, or take your cue from Rihanna and Huppert and pair yours with a wool coat, black skirt and slouch boots for a more dramatic look.
For evening, follow Clemence Poesy's lead and save yourself a fussy updo by offsetting a patterned gown with a beret, or use it to add an edge to a romantic date-night look like Jaime King.
The beret can sit low on the back of the crown like a beanie, but looks better tilted at an angle further forward on the head. A chic braid will give you extra Parisian cool points, but don't tuck your hair into the beret, it can be ageing. Instead, wear over loose, textured hair.