Stars in stripes… why the classic Breton top is back in fashion | Fashion
Once sought after by stars ranging from Pablo Picasso to Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando to Madonna, Breton tops – with their bold stripes and easy shape – are about to experience a new fashion moment.
Presented by stylish insiders as one of the transitional elements to take us from working at home to emerging in the world, the familiar stripes were recently spotted on the Duchess of Cambridge, Anna Wintour and actress Jennifer Garner.
Affordable brands like Boden and Seasalt are at the top of their bestsellers, while haute couture brands Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Celine have also featured Bretons in their latest collections.
At the same time, a Jean-Paul Gaultier collection on the marine theme has just been launched. Gaultier, once a enfant terrible of the fashion industry, is indelibly linked to the striped top he wore, often with a kilt, when presenting the late-night ’90s TV show. Eurotrash. He was also photographed at the top by French masters of kitsch Pierre and Gilles.
Although Gaultier retired last year, his brand is still going strong. The brand’s new 75-piece collection – created by young talents such as Paloma Spain, Ottolinger, and Marvin M’Toumo – is likely to appeal to Gen Z audiences, with cropped, mesh-side paneled versions of the classic.
As its name suggests, Breton, sometimes also called the striped, is typically French.
In 1858, the striped shirt became the official uniform of the French navy. The design featured 21 stripes, which would make it easier to spot sailors who had fallen overboard.
The first shirts were made by the Saint James brand – named after the village in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, on the border between Normandy and Brittany – which has supplied dyed and woven wool to hosiery for centuries. Coco Chanel is recognized for having elevated the Breton from a uniform to a fashion item.
However, Amber Butchart, author of Nautical Chic, a history of maritime fashion, says Chanel’s role “tends to be hugely overrated in this story”. The author traces her fashion status to Sara and Gerald Murphy, bohemian friends of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who lived on the French Riviera in the 1920s.
“Gerald Murphy, an American artist, made a shopping spree in Marseille to get supplies by boat,” says Butchart. “He came back with stripes striped tops for himself and his guests, relaunching a trend that continues to this day. Butchart says the Breton is distinct because he “has become a marker of classic French chic but can still garner counter-cultural associations.
“It remains one of the few fashion staples that can look both bourgeois and bohemian, depending on how it’s worn – or who wears it.
In the mid-2000s, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung incorporated them into their wardrobes, with Saint James being the brand of choice.
The announcement earlier this month of the closure of the Arthur Beale sailing store in Covent Garden in London after 500 years sparked mourning on Instagram.
A leading outlet for Saint James Breton tops and accessories, it has made a name for itself by supplying merchandise to sailors and adventurers. Famous, he supplied ropes to Tenzing Norgay and Eric Shipton for their first Everest expedition in 1935; a letter signed by the latter is part of the Beale archives.
Purists, however, will be happy to know that they will soon be able to purchase the top from the French Navy itself, which will sell its clothing as a brand for the first time through its own line, Marine National 1626 – in reference to the year Cardinal Richelieu. , Chief Minister of King Louis XIII, established the French Navy.
In addition to the classic Breton tops, the collection will offer a “young, chic and dynamic” range of bags made from recycled sails, according to Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy. The profits will be used to improve the working conditions of seafarers.