Not so long ago now, I fell in love with the Breton stripe. Not only is it comfortable but it goes with a number of my different spring outfits. I can wear it with my floral, vintage skirt or as a layer over my denim dress and it still looks simple and somewhat classy. Annoyingly, my top has got a little old now and is starting to show its grand age, so I embarked on finding its replacement. On this little journey, I wondered ‘why is the Breton stripe so popular?’ and ‘where does its heritage lay?’. So, here is a short history to the Breton stripe… are you ready to get your history geek on?
As with most patterns, Breton stripes have their roots in military and working culture, dating back to 1858 when it was introduced as the standard uniform for sailors in the French Navy, stationed in Brittany. Each uniform had 21 stripes, representing the 21 victories of Napoleon Bonaparte’s French fleet against the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Here’s hoping I haven’t bored you yet…
The earliest maker of the Breton stripe was Saint James, a traditional clothing manufacturer, who had only made fisherman’s sweaters up until then, which protected them from the elements at sea. He soon became the official manufacturer of Breton stripes for the French Navy and to this day, is still the most recommended source.
During the 20th century, Breton stripes made it into the fashion industry, largely thanks to Coco Chanel who was inspired by visits to the French coast as a child. They grew quickly in popularity, tied up in different movements and among certain individuals, including Beatniks in the 1950s. Among those who adopted the pattern were Audrey Hepburn, Picasso and James Dean, either as a fisherman’s sweater or something as simple as a hat or a scarf. Since then, they’ve become mainstream culture, among men and women’s fashion, all thanks to the Breton coast and the French Navy.
As a pattern, the Breton stripe has an undoubtable legacy among the fashion community and is one of the most recognisable patterns on the high street today. If you’re still reading, then here’s my top 3 Breton Stripe recommendations for your wardrobe this Spring/Summer:
1. MiH Jeans The Breton T-Shirt In Vintage Stripe £62
1970s inspired brand Made in Heaven have made a simple and effortless Breton T-shirt that goes with just about anything, this will be my replacement to wear with my growing collection of vintage skirts.
2. Boutique by Jaeger Breton Dress with Broderie Collar £140
If I was ever in need of a Breton Dress this would be it. Jaeger have made a collar which is both feminine and pretty – exactly what I’d be looking for to compliment the stripes. With this smart tailoring, I could even wear it to work.
3. Chinti & Parker Slouchy Breton Stripe T-Shirt With Contrast Pocket £38
A little bit off the wall but still looks ‘cool’, this slouchy Breton T-Shirt would be perfect for Sunday afternoons spent in a Brighton cafe, reading a book or equally, curled up watching Harry Potter for the millionth time back at home.
Are you a fan of the Breton Stripe? Or are you tempted to try this long-standing trend?