It may have been Coco Chanel’s effortless style that turned the nautical striped top, known as the Breton, into a fashion staple, but the first known nautical striped top was actually a high-neck woolly jumper worn by fishermen to protect them from severe winds out at sea. The jersey evolved into a shirt and was named in 1858 as part French Navy’s uniform; it consisted of 21 official stripes representing each one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories … and it was said to make it easier to spot an overboard sailor.
On one of her trips along the French coastline, Coco Chanel was so inspired by the striped sailor shirt that she featured it – with flared trousers – in her 1917 nautical womenswear collection. Since then, the Breton has epitomised seaside holiday chic and iconic French style.
Crew-neck knit, R227 from www.supebalist.com
Wear one, and you’ll be in great company. Picasso wore Bretons, so did Audrey Hepburn. Bridget Bardot styled hers with Capri pants and ballet pumps and James Dean famously wore one in “Rebel Without a Cause”. The late Kurt Cobain preferred his with grungy Converse trainers while fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier featured them so often, he became known as the Breton ambassador. Favoured by royals on more casual or sporty outings, the Duchess of Cambridge has often been spotted in her stripes.
Back home, it’s a brilliant look for any season. And you don’t have to live near the sea! Here’s how to update the classic nautical top this season?
* Wear a Breton under a jumpsuit or spaghetti-strap black dress; this is an easy way to move a summer look into autumn.
* Tuck it into high waisted pants or a skirt.
* Men look great in nautical stripes too.
* Wear your stripes with denims and a blazer, or under a suit.
* Stick to navy or black and white for the more classic look.
OMG … look, we found slippers too. And they’re just R60 from www.mrp.com.
Striped cotton rich sweat shirt, R399 from www.woolworths.co.za
* Fashion advice from: Kim Berell, The Fashion Office.