I had to break down and buy a new beret as my old one was getting paper thin and looking more gray than black. Now I am possibly the only member of the U.S. Army who actually likes the beret (if you thought DADT was controversial you’ve obviously never heard soldiers talk about the beret) and as I was in the process of preparing it for wear ( a process which involves shaving it -!-, wetting it down, shaping it on your head and then wearing it around the house until it dries) I thought of why I like the thing. I came up with two reasons:
- The army cap is fine and practical for keeping sun and rain our of your eyes but it really isn’t very impressive to look at. Think of the impressive headgear of militaries in the 20th century and glorified ball caps aren’t going to be at the top of anyone’s list. The beret looks smart and I find that people who argue otherwise are generally among the first to fawn over the berets worn by special forces, rangers, airborne, etc…Besides, we’ve had the beret for almost 10 years now. People really need to get over their issues about it already and deal with it.
- There’s a saying in vogue among those practicing COIN to highlight the principle of encouraging a sense of ownership among indigenous forces…”If they sweat for it, they’ll defend it.” The new Army uniform is almost entirely designed to require little work from soldiers. The ACU is wash and wear, the combat boots are canvas and suede requiring no polishing, medals can now be bought pre-shined and coated with a finish that guarantees nothing more than dusting. The beret is one of the few pieces of the uniform that require some sort of effort from the soldier and can demonstrate (to some degree) the amount of pride a soldier has about his/her uniform.
As a side note…my first beret was made in China and my new one is a product of New Zealand. Those Kiwi sheep must produce some tough wool since this beret is much thicker than my original, seems to be almost completely waterproof and was much easier to shape.
I guess prison labor isn’t always the best choice…