What’s in Juju’s beret?

2013-07-13 09:37

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There is a statement not to be ignored in political firebrand Julius Malema’s wardrobe.

The beret he’s been photographed wearing as he rallies support for his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) movement is as much part of his artillery as his usual war talk and ebullient speeches.

It’s part of his arsenal going into the general elections next year.

The beret is what guerillas wear, it is part of political warfare. The iconic images of Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, wearing a black beret with a red star on it are forever etched in our memory and have made their way into high-end fashion and other cultural spaces.

Fighters, guerillas, revolutionary and combatant organisations have a long history with the beret.

In the 60s, the Black Panther Party in the US wore berets as did the Black Beret Cadre in Bermuda and the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

ETA guerrillas wore black berets over hoods in public appearances – their mission was to liberate Basque Country along the border of Spain and France on the Atlantic coast.

The Brown Berets of the Mexican-Americans also took up the modest headgear along with The Young Lords Party, a Latino revolutionary organisation in the US.

Hipsters, the intelligentsia and bohemians have been the poster boys and girls of the great beret movement for a while.

Now the humble 19th century headwear of the French, Spanish and Italians takes a prominent place in our political landscape as the Economic Freedom Fighters take shape.

To some, the beret is what our grandmothers and church women wore, and just like their wardrobes were raided by their fashionable grandchildren when Seshweshwe became “in vogue”, watch as precious berets grow legs out of wardrobes onto fashion ramps and fashionable hipsters’ must-have lists.

Every revolution has its own legacy and Malema surely imagines himself immortalised in the Che Guevera-sque picture as an economic guerilla.

Julia Malema and his ‘commander in chief’ beret. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo/City Press

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