The Breton, the humblest of classics, has cruised back into fashion.
It’s never been out of fashion for me as I’ve always had a soft spot for stripes. It’s as close as I get to a pattern in my wardrobe. I’ll happily snap up pieces in St Tropez or the Musée Picasso in Antibes, it seems to be a recurring staple I pick up wherever I am.
Fashion doesn’t get more egalitarian than a classic stripy top. It’s the true uniform of everyman, from prisoner to navvy, to beatnik artiste; from rough to royal via Jackie Onassis and Jean Seberg.
Breton, literally means ‘of Brittany’ and was the uniform of the French Navy in Brittany. Traditionally it should have 21 stripes – each said to represent one of Napoleon's victories at the time. Rumour has it the stripes made seamen easier to spot if they went overboard. How weirdly fantastic that something so functional can be the beginning of such a ubiquitous fashion item!
Who suits stripes?
For me, its longevity is in its simplicity, ease and effortless style. It doesn't try to look stylish, which means it invariably does. A classic Breton looks right on everyone, regardless of who you are, your age, colour or gender. I can't think of anyone I know that doesn't have one in their wardrobe; boyfriends, female friends, parents and kids – everyone has one somewhere.
A little Chanel
Chanel borrowed the style from seafaring Deauville locals (where she opened one of her first boutiques) Her famed 1917 ‘Nautical Collection’ included wide collars found on traditional sailor jackets, alongside the now-classic mariniére stripes.
Stripes have remained a mainstay of fashion, appealing to both the bourgeoisie and the punk rebel – from YSL nautical collections in the ’60s through to Jean-Paul Gautier’s full-throttle camp embrace.
Stripes to the French are what animal prints are to the Brits – a standard neutral that goes with everything. It’s not fly by night disposable trend, there’s nothing fast or faddy about it. It’s pared-back and refined.
Whether or not you plan on boating, this maritime staple lends any Riviera get-up some understated nautical charm. However, to avoid looking like you’ve set sail for a fancy dress party, steer clear of pairing it with items like, you know, a sailor hat and bell bottoms. Instead, keep the rest of the look simple, with crisp, bright white hues on your lower deck.
You don't have to go to France
Master the art of St Tropez dressing in our Life by the Blonde Martinique T-shirt in black and white stripes. All of our tees are made from soft Pima cotton and feel like a massage on the skin. They have been designed to accompany you on all of life’s great journeys – retaining their softness, colour and breathability. This versatile T-shirt alone is enough to be the centrepiece of any outfit or perfect for layering. The black and white stripes add a stylish Riviera verve and have you ready for a lazy Mediterranean interlude on a sun drunk day.
The Life by the Blonde black and white Martinique T-shirt can be found stylishly lounging in the Voyage Capsule.
Breton style notes
A Breton top can create a Riviera-inspired look even if you’re staying home for the summer. It’s an easy piece to throw a blazer or linen bomber jacket over in the cooler evenings or even a linen shirt during the day; there’s not much you can do to get this design classic wrong.
Our Style Notes.
Its charm is in its simplicity. Team our Martinique tee with our Rio white linen shorts and a pair of espadrilles for head-to-toe breezy suavity. This outfit will enable you to keep your cool on a hot beach day or for a summer walk in town. Add our Havana blazer and Casablanca chino et voila – a smarter combination, and you are ready for a night out drinking Negroni’s on the deck, under the stars.
Unlock your inner St Tropez.