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 Home > product Knowledge > Berets in the military
Berets in the military
 

Berets have been a component of the uniforms of many armed forces throughout the world since the mid-20th century. A light blue beret is the international symbol of the United Nations Peacekeeping forces. Military berets are usually pulled to the right, but the armies of some European countries (including France) have influenced the pull to the left.

The use of berets as a military headdress dates back to the creation of the French Chasseurs alpins in the early 1880s. These mountain troops were issued with a new style of uniform which included several features which were very practical and advanced by the standards of the time, notably the large and floppy blue beret which they still retain (see below). This was so unfamiliar a fashion outside France that it had to be described in an British encyclopedia in 1911 as "a sort of tam o'shanter hat".

Berets have features that make them very attractive to the military: They are cheap and easy to make in large numbers, they can be manufactured in a wide range of colours to enhance branch or regimental esprit de corps, 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 adopt the beret). However, they are not so useful in field conditions for an infantryman, as they do not offer the protection for the face against sun and rain that a peaked or wide brimmed hat does.

The beret was found particularly useful as a uniform for armoured vehicle crewmen, and the British Tank Corps (later Royal Tank Corps) adopted the headdress as early as 1918. German AFV crews in the late 1930s also adopted a beret with the addition of a padded crash helmet inside. The colour black became popular as a tank crew headdress since it did not show oil stains picked up inside the interior of a vehicle. Black berets continue to be worn by armoured regiments throughout the Commonwealth.

Berets have become the default military headdress of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, just as the tricorne, shako, kepi and peaked cap were in various early eras. The beret is now worn by elements of the military personnel of the majority of nations across the world. The three major hold-outs were the United States, Russia, and China (PRC) - all have now followed the example of the other armies in adopting berets.


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