Sea-ing Stripes

By Emily Grantnautical2

The classic Breton striped shirt, a wardrobe staple across the style spectrum.  It started in Brittany, a province found on the peninsula between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, which produced many a French sailor (Who What Wear, 2009).  The navy blue and white striped shirt was designed to make sailors stand out from the waves if they were to fall overboard (Gout Taste, 2013).  The original boat-neck shirt had three-quarter length sleeves with 21 navy blue stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories (Gout Taste, 2013). 

Soon, the knit top caught on with the locals of Brittany, and soon after that, Coco Chanel (Gout Taste, 2013).  In a 1917 nautical inspired line, it was featured with flared trousers, which stood in stark contrast to the corseted dresses of the era (Gout Taste, 2013).  In the 1950s, the look graced the silver screen several times over, seen on starlets nautical3such as Audrey Hepburn, Jean Seberg, and even heartthrob James Dean (Gout Taste, 2013).  Since then, the Breton striped shirt has remained an iconic piece that is always in style.  It’s been reimagined time after time, from glittering sequins at Balmain to Prada’s primary colored version, and of course, John Paul Gaultier (In The Seams, 2011). 

The possibilities for the Breton tee are endless, as it can be dressed up or down, and is appropriate in any season.  Olivia Palermo paired hers with an a-line skirt and statement necklace, while Alexa Chung has been spotted in a Breton stripe shirt layered under overalls, for an ultra-casual look (Who What Wear, 2009).  Whether your style is preppy or bohemian, a Breton shirt is an absolute must have, and there’s really no excuse, as they can be found at virtually any price-point.   nautical1 Alexander Wang has one for the low, low price of $270 while for just $11 you can score one at Forever 21.  This fall, pair yours with a toothpick jean topped with a motorcycle jacket for an on-trend look that can’t be denied.  For our more conservative readers, a toggle coat can be substituted, a la J.Crew.  No matter how you wear it, you’re guaranteed to have that certain je ne sais quoi that French sailors have been rocking for generations (Tishgart, 2010).

Work Cited

Gout Taste (2013).  How the French got their stripes.  Retrieved from http://goutaste.com/how-the-french-got-their-stripes/

 In The Seams (2011, July 1).  The classic Breton stripe, a must for summer.  Retrieved from http://intheseams.com/2011/07/the-classic-breton-stripe-a-must-for-summer/

 P Burns. (2012, February 6). Winehouse couture. Retrieved from http://stylewhisperer.wordpress.com/tag/breton-top/

 Tishgart, S. (2010). Gotta have it: Breton striped shirts. Teen Vogue. Retrieved from http://www.teenvogue.com/fashion/summer-trends/2010-07/breton-striped-shirts/?slide=1

 Who What Wear (2009).  Breton stripes.  Retrieved from http://www.whowhatwear.com/look-we-love-breton-stripes/

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