The beret has two iconic moments in American history. Both times it is associated with war and freedom. The first was made famous by The Green Beret battalion formally known as The Army Special Forces and the second was by The Black Panther Party. Both groups became household names in the 1960s and both groups were easily recognizable due to their distinctive service headgear, the beret.
In the early 1960s the green beret became a fashion statement so extraordinary President John F. Kennedy remarked on it in a White House memorandum to the United States Army, “The green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom”. The film, titled The Green Berets, produced by John Wayne in 1968 no doubt helped make the headgear iconic as well. As criticism began to grow of US involvement in Vietnam, the Pentagon allowed Wayne lavish use of clothes and props and access to military bases for filming. Half a decade later the film, while heavily criticized for its government propaganda, is still one of the most talked about movies in Hollywood.
The Black Panther Party, created by a revolutionary socialist organization founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in October 1966, was also known for wearing the beret. From it’s inception The Black Panther Party’s core practice was to educate and arm citizens to patrol and monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in Oakland, California. Black Panther patrolmen would walk the neighborhoods in neat, polished uniform–black slacks, ironed powder-blue shirts, black tie or turtlenecks and the black beret.
From the outset, The Black Panther Party was vilified by the mainstream press, public support for the party waned by the early 70s, key members were incarcerated by the government and the group became more isolated. But the beret became a revolutionary symbol.
Last year London’s Tate Modern museum premiered an exhibition titled Soul of a Nation. In the exhibition art works about The Black Panther Party shined a bright light on the vital contribution of The Black Panther movement in the black liberation struggle. One of the most iconic images featured Black Panther men and women sporting the black beret- head down, arm raised and a closed fist in the air.
The beret as a revolutionary symbol.
The Dyne Fall/ Winter 2018-19 collection recalled the military influence and the call to resist from the 1960s. The beret was the recognizable symbol worn through-out the show. As for what they maybe fighting for; DREAMERS, ending racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and violence against women would be my guess.
Young men and women in combat boots, all-weather anoraks and tapered trousers walked in stoicism. The clothes and accessories all contributed to the military mood. Many of the jackets came in a marbled camouflage or were decorated with military inspired patches. The glasses were more like protective goggles. Models also wore handkerchiefs tied around their necks like face coverings.
I’m glad designer Christopher Bevans lightened the mood with pops of color in brick red, bright orange and soft blue. The cozy coat in a soft brown fur was really nice.
The Dyne Fall/ Winter 2018-19 collection: