June 19, 2011:
After a decade of complaints and poor morale, the U.S. Army is getting rid of the beret. Back in 2000, the army ordered 3.7 million berets, some of them from China, because American manufacturers could not produce them fast enough. A year later, most soldiers were wearing their new black berets, and they were all burned up about it. Mainly because black absorbs heat, and the beret does not have a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes. So the damn things were hot in warm weather and often insufferable when it got really hot. To make matters worse, most troops felt that their berets had too much material. The excess falls every which way and was annoying to get all sorted out. Unlike earlier headgear, you cannot walk out the door and put it on with one hand. Berets required two hands, something you become painfully aware of when you walk out the door with something in one hand. Much to the dismay of some officers, the unit crest that is worn on the beret looks like some rank symbols, meaning that passing troops sometimes don't salute. The beret got off to a shaky start, and it was downhill from there.
By 2004, the army, despite all the complaints, decided to keep the much despised beret, although there was one change the generals grudgingly permitted. Troops were allowed to use other types of soft caps (like the old baseball cap style headgear), when doing chores that would leave the beret dirty with oil, grease or worse. One of these alternatives, the patrol cap, will apparently replace the beret. The elite troops (Rangers, Special Forces and Airborne) who had worn the beret before everyone was ordered to, will keep their berets. The change takes effect immediately, and it will save money, as the patrol cap costs about half as much as the $12 beret.