Breton Stripes rule the waves

Breton stripes are a perennial favourite and this season they’re taking centre stage on the catwalks once more.

The Breton is a wardrobe staple, I personally have a fair few lurking around and admittedly my striped t-shirts are my go to pieces when I haven’t got time to think what to wear.

Breton style top

A welcome reminder of summer in midwinter, a great transitional item that knows no bounds. Living by the sea they are almost compulsory wearing and when I’m in cities and pass by a matelot attired stranger I feel transported back home.

Coco Chanel in a breton top

Synonymous with Coco Chanel who paired hers with flared trousers, long pearl necklaces and red lipstick. The Grande Dame introduced the design to the fashion world by incorporating it into her 1917 nautical collection. The introduction of this garment from the traditional working class to female fashion, was a breakaway from the heavily corseted fashion of the time.

Breton shirts worn by french sailors

Originally introduced in 1858 as the uniform for the French Navy based in Brittany, the navy and white striped knitted shirt was known as ‘marinière’ or ‘matelot’. It featured twenty one stripes, one for each of Napolean’s victories. Popular with the breton sailors, the ease of wearing the garment for working spread across the region and into Normandy.

Audrey Hepburn

During the pre-war Riviera years, Breton stripes became a symbol of haute-bourgeois casual wear. Later made popular by the style icons such as  Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso all adding to the glamour of the French seaside resorts of St Tropez where the famous drew the attention of the Hollywood reporters.

Recent years have seen many of the Parisian fashion houses such as Balmain, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent include the striped top in their collections and it has become the essence of Parisian chic. Jean Paul Gaultier even featured it on his famous perfume bottle ‘Le Male’ launched in the early nineties.

Even though the Breton top is now as popular as ever, there is still a slight frison of rebelliousness about it, the subculture of the Beat Generation of the sixties or the sultry looks of James Dean. Maybe that’s why it remains a wardrobe staple and long may it continue to do so.

J Crew top Breton stripes

J.CREW Striped cotton ­jersey top £46

Michael Kors sweater Breton stripes

MICHAEL KORS STRIPED MERINO WOOL SWEATER The flattering boat­neck cut creates the illusion of a narrower waist and hips £230













chinti and parker Breton stripes

CHINTI AND PARKER, SWEATER This loose­fitting style has a curved dipped back hem that layers beautifully over pants £275

ME+EM Striped top Breton stripes

ME+EM Kate Middleton’s favourite Breton top, scoop neckline, 3/4 length sleeves and ruched detailing to the bottom hem are flattering design features £48
















What’s your favourite go to piece in the wardrobe? Leave a comment below and share your style tips.

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  • Reply
    Sue Nixon
    February 12, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    I agree timeless fashion. Great links by the way.

  • Reply
    Nick Hayman
    February 13, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Great post

  • Reply
    February 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Thanks Sue!

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