Originally created by shepherds from the Béarn region (hence its name) to protect themselves from the damp, the béret is now a deeply ingrained part of French DNA alongside baguettes and Gauloises cigarettes.
Located in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Laulhère was founded in 1840 by Mr. Lucien Laulhère and is now the last standing historic béret maker after the company acquired its almost 200 years old competitor, Blancq-Olibet, in 2013. Let the irony sink in. A quintessentially French headgear is on the verge of disappearing from the French manufacturing landscape when, up until the late 80's, the country churned out millions of bérets a year. Since 2011, the factory was awarded a NATO military contract which helped get the company back to a healthy financial situation (military contracts represent half of the company's turnover).
I've owned a Laulhère béret for a few months now and I've worn it almost every day (I live in Paris, it's cold and wet out here). I love it and I'm happy to contribute, within the scope of my modest means, to the revival of French manufacturing. I paid 20€ for my 100% virgin wool béret which is probably cheaper than a lot of Asian made copies from big brand names.
Lovely video of the manufacturing process below:
And this pretty cool one from Monocle.