The striped breton shirt as we know it, was born following the 27th March, 1858 Act of France, which introduced the navy and white striped knitted shirt as the uniform for all French navy seaman in the Brittany district. The shirt was originally known as marinière or matelot.The original design consisted of 21 stripes, one for each of Napolean’s victories. Nowadays, the count isn’t taken quite as literally and can consist of an evenly distanced contrast stripe, usually in black, navy or grey.
The striped navy and white shirt became a working garment as it was picked up by men working on the sea; seafarers and sailors across the region of Northern France. The distinctive block pattern of stripes on the French striped shirt made them easier to spot in the waves if they went overboard! The garment usually had a wider neckline known commonly as a boat neck.
Coco Chanel introduced the Breton stripe into her nautical collection in 1917, becoming an instant hit with the increasing popularity with sea destinations such as St. Tropez and Mykonos. The introduction of this stripe by such an iconic figure in fashion cemented it’s staying power.
Today, fashion houses still pursue the stripe as a “must-have” for their Cruise collections, often teaming with chino’s and double breasted blazers for a real authentic nautical look. The ease of the Breton Stripe allows it to be worn both formally and casually – making it a wardrobe essential for everyone.