Friday, February 28, 2014

Beatniks from Wellington

This cartoon shows several bearded beret-wearing beatniks leaning against a lamp post outside a coffee bar on Lambton Quay, Wellington. The caricature reflected the fact that, following the example of beats in the United States and Britain, a few young people in Wellington and Auckland did adopt the beat lifestyle, which involved experimenting with marijuana.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Francis Jammes

Francis Jammes (1868 - 1938) was a French poet. Coming from an ancient family, he spent most of his life in his native region of Béarn and the Basque Country and his poems are known for their lyricism and for singing the pleasures of a humble country life (donkeys, maidens).
The young author's first poems began to be read in Parisian literary circles around 1895, and they were appreciated for their fresh tone which broke considerably from symbolist tendencies of the period. Jammes fraternised with other writers, including André Gide (with whom he travelled to Algeria in 1896), Stéphane Mallarmé and Henri de Régnier.
In 1905 Francis Jammes, influenced by the poet Paul Claudel with whom he became close, "converted" to Catholicism (in actuality a return to being a practising Catholic) and his poetry became more austere and occasionally more dogmatic.
In the eyes of Parisian literary circles, Francis Jammes was generally considered a solitary provincial who chose to live a life of retreat in his mountainous Pyrenees, and his poems never became entirely fashionable. The author sought nomination to the Académie française several times, but was never elected.
Jammes was known to have an ardent passion for field sports, especially game hunting. He was known to have also been a believer in the conservation of endangered species.

"Francis Jammes" - Spraypaint on canvas

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Paul-Pierre Roux, called Saint-Pol-Roux (1861 - 1940) was a French Symbolist poet. He left the south of France of his childhood  to install himself in Paris. He particularly frequented the salon of Stéphane Mallarmé, for whom Saint-Pol-Roux had the greatest admiration. He won a certain notoriety, trying out several pseudonyms before finally becoming "Saint-Pol-Roux le magnifique". He even got one of his plays, La Dame à la faux, put on by Sarah Bernhardt, and was interviewed by Jules Huret as a member of the Symbolist movement. He perhaps participated in the Rosicrucian aesthetic of Péladan. Nevertheless, he wrote nothing on the movement or on its founder. Saint-Pol-Roux was doubtless interested in this audacious literary attempt, and had to leave it quickly.
 After his father's death, he moved to Camaret and made Britanny the center for his work. Living off the revenue he earned from his libretto for the opera Louise, he bought a house overlooking the ocean, above the Pen Had beach, on the road to pointe de Pen Hir, and transformed it into a manor in the Baroque style.

During the night of 22 to 23 June 1940, a drunken German soldier invaded the manor, killed the family's faithful governess, raped Saint-Pol-Roux's daughter Divine, and seriously injured her in the leg with a revolver bullet. Saint-Pol-Roux miraculously escaped death in the incident, but was later taken to hospital in Brest on October 14, where he died of a broken heart when he heard that the manor had burned down with his unpublished manuscripts inside.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Musician in the Rain

 "Musician in the Rain", one of the great photographs by Robert Doisneau
Not only that, it made a great inspiration for other musicians/photographers too.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dean Martin - French Style

French Style is Dean Martin's first LP for Reprise Records. Recorded during February 1962, it features French-themed popular songs and Chansons arranged by Neal Hefti. Among them "C'est si bon", which frequently appears on Dean Martin compilation albums, a rendition of Edith Piaf's classic La Vie En Rose, the title song from the MGM classic Gigi (1958 film) and two classic Cole Porter tunes. Originally released as Reprise LP R(S)-6021 ('S' distinguishing the stereo pressing), the album's tracks made their CD debut as part of the chronologically sequenced Bear Family box set "Everybody Loves Somebody" (BCD 16343). A subsequent two-on-one CD (together with Martin's succeeding album Dino Latino) by Collectors' Choice restored the original running order.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


In my wooden red ship I sailed, among the ocean blue.
I sang sailor songs as the day went along, and into the nighttime too.
Then Poseidon roared, causing ruckus and a storm,
The violent breeze captured my hat. I was thrust off the ship,
And took a rather frightful trip, meeting the ocean with a smack.
Then I opened my eyes, and looked all around,
My ship nowhere in sight. A voice I heard, near and clear,

“Haley that's enough playing in the bathtub for tonight!”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jacobite Highlanders with Blue Berets (Bonnets)

These pictures come from the Heroes and Villains Miniatures web site, portraying Jacobite Highlanders donning a blue beret (or bonnet).

These beautiful little sculptures in resin are made by Raúl García Latorre.

In 1746, at Culloden Moor, was fought the last battle of the "forty-five", the third and last jacobite uprising that ended up with the total defeat of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's cause.

The Jacobite army, mainly formed by Scottish Highlands clans, faced a British task force that was almost double in number and included artillery, cavalry and much modern weaponry. Tired and hungry after a long night march, the Jacobites entered scattered in the battlefield and, in spite of their courage, their disorganized charges and the superiority of the enemy caused a total defeat. After the battle, the Duke of Cumberland ordered the execution of all the Jacobite prisoners and wounded. Most of those who managed to escape emigrated to the colonies to avoid the repression, that included details such as the banning of wearing Kilt and tartan except for those in British Army Scottish regiments or the use of the pipes, regarded as "weapon of war". Culloden Moor is, until today, the last battle fought in British soil.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Evolution of a Beret Wearer

Birthdays - time for reflection. When you hit 51 and you've been a beret wearer for most of these years, there must be a bit of visual material to give evidence of it.
No pictures of my father's berets that I used to wear as a child, but the beret pictured above is, I believe, the first beret I owned. An ex Marine Corps affair, a bit smelly still of the Army Navy Store where it came from, but I loved wearing that beret. The picture is taken near Haarlem, where I used to live on a house-boat.
The grainy picture above is from 1991. Farewell of my ex, but still good friend Miriam, before moving to the south of France, driving  the old Citroen HY (some 1300 km's with a max speed of 80km/hr).
Some 8 years ago (above), in a rented bach at the Akaroa Peninsula on NZ's South Island. A good sized tarte and a not too happy looking daughter Emira.
Yes, it's only some 4 years ago that I looked like this, long grey hair back and front - wearing a sun-washed boina Tolosa Tupida. Picture taken at the Kapiti Coast, with in the far distance Australia just visible.
Christmas 2012 - short hair at the back, long at the front and donning a cotton Plato Grande while enjoying the sun at Wellinton's Worser Bay.
The last picture at age 50, with the new Boina Super Lujo in brown
Now please, make my (birth-)day and buy a beret!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Blancq-Olibet, beret manufacturer since 1819, has been struggling for survival for a long time and even had to hire assistance from Spanish competitor Boinas Elósegui for part of their production process over the last years.  On 12 February it was announced that Cargo Promodis, the mother company of competitor Laulhère, bought Blancq-Olibet in a bid to guarantee the manufacturing of 100% French made berets and the continuation of Blancq-Olibet’s iconic labels, such as Fandango, Bakarra, NIEBLA, PéBéO and Berrueta.
What does this mean? I am very sorry to see the second last independent, and oldest, French maison d'bérets go. In other times, I would say that a healthy competition between manufacturers would only be beneficial for the quality and diversity of berets, but in the light of the present economic circumstances, the general decline of wearing headgear and the fact that we are talking about the last two manufacturers of the 40+ of several decades ago, I can only say I am happy to see that there is a future for the Blancq-Olibet labels.
The positive side is that Laulhère is extremely dedicated to the French beret and works in overdrive to bring the beret back in various ways: commissioning designers who work with the largest maisons of French haute couture, a presence at all important fashion shows and expo’s world-wide, refurbishment of its machine park  and an uncompromising quality control. Laulhère’s efforts were recognized last year by two prestigious awards: “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” or “EPV” and “OrigineFrance Garantie”, a status held by only 350 companies.
While the traditional labels of Blancq-Olibet do continue under Laulhere, there will be slight changes in the design and lettering. All berets stocked at South Pacific Berets under the Blancq-Olibet label at present are still the original Blancq-Olibet labels.
Meanwhile, I am awaiting a shipment of loden-green Berrueta berets; the very last berets made by Blancq-Olibet! They should come available within the next 2 weeks, but are listed on the web site already for pre-orders. This is likely your last chance to ever own one of these classic berets. 

Street Life with Txapelas in Bilbao

Sure, berets may not be as omni-present as they once were, but there are still places where one definitely doesn't stand out when wearing a beret (or txapela, really).
Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the estuary of Bilbao is formed. Its main urban core is surrounded by two small mountain ranges with an average elevation of 400 metres (1,300 ft).
Since its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub that enjoyed significant importance in the Green Spain, mainly thanks to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and beginnings of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialisation which made it the centre of the second-most industrialised region of Spain, behind Barcelona.
This was joined by an extraordinary population explosion that prompted the annexation of several adjacent municipalities. 
Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalisation process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, and continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system, the tram line, the Alhóndiga, and the currently under development Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fur Berets

"Fur is for ugly people and beautiful animals!" I always liked that slogan, I believe from some Dutch animal rights group.
Marie-Thérèse in suit with leopard fur trim, muff and beret by Pierre Balmain, 1954
Luckily, no one-needs to wear a true fur beret these days.
Leopard, panther and cheetah berets are readily available at South Pacific Berets without a single animal killed in the process!
Kelly Brook

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Brand New Custom Made Super Lujo's in Khaki and Brown!

With all the excitement about the 'Boneteria Auloronesa' berets, it's easy to forget there are more top quality berets, like my first love: Boinas Elósegui's Exposición Super Lujo
At the end of last year, I received my very first shipment of custom made Super Lujo's, in grey and "granate". Fantastic berets, absolute top quality and you'll find it hard to find these anywhere else.
Now these berets are also available in the custom made colours BROWN and KHAKI!
Available here:

Walter Matthau with Beret

Walter Matthau (1920 – 2000) was an American actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent collaborations with Odd Couple star Jack Lemmon, as well as his role as Coach Buttermaker in the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the 1966 Billy Wilder film The Fortune Cookie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Leather Berets

What is a Basque beret? I would say a reasonable definition would be something along these lines: a beret is a hat made of one piece of knitted wool in a circular shape which is felted and shrunk after the initial manufacturing (knitting and closing) is completed, with the remainder of the closing thread (the 'txortena', or 'wick') kept in place.
Following this definition, a leather cap in the shape of a beret is obviously not a Basque beret.
But then again, one doesn't always have to be a purist. Interesting berets (or caps, if you insist), in cow leather and deerskin.