The history of the Breton

There are very few pieces in fashion that sail through the test of time and continue to remain current. 

But the Breton originally known as the ‘Marinière’ has proved its might – a combination of design with function, purpose, style and a certain joie de vivre that transcends generations.

You can’t go wrong with a good stripe and it all started back in 1858 with The Act of France – when the French Navy introduced the “French Navy Standard Duty Blue Jersey”  as part of their uniforms. Due to the design, sailors used to say that the contrasting stripes made it easier to spot men who fell in the sea. 

Traditionally, the body has 21 white stripes, each twice as wide as the 21 navy stripes, to represent each of Napoleon’s 21 victories. Nowadays, a striped cotton shirt regardless of thickness or stripe can be referred to as a Breton (all within reason of course).

However, it has become so much more than naval uniform. In 1917, Coco Chanel revolutionised the Breton with the release of her ‘nautical collection’. Chanel took the functional military garment into a global fashion statement, with her ‘Marinière’s’ becoming a go-to luxury garment. It’s said that she was inspired during the First World War by the local sailor’s uniforms when visiting the seaside.

Ever since, the Breton stripe has become a contemporary fashion staple continually making appearances in film, particularly during the golden age of Hollywood. Cary Grant wore a Breton with a red bandana underneath in To Catch a Thief (1955), as did James Dean while filming a Rebel Without A Cause (1955). Audrey Hepburn also famously wore a Breton whilst filming Funny Face (1966).

Artists, musicians such as Picasso, Kurt Cobain and Andy Warhol were all frequent Breton wearers. Along with fashion icon Brigitte Bardot and of course Audrey Hepburn continued to wear them throughout her career.

Many years later, Jean Paul Gaultier famously elevated the Breton stripes to evening wear, further emphasising the style’s timelessness. The Breton continues to be a staple in the fashion world, with many ready-to-wear luxury brands including the nautical stripes into their collections. 

An iconic stripe with the allure of versatility and glamour. A chic wardrobe essential, that will never go out of style.

After two years, we have finally perfected our BRETON JERSEY. 

Crafted with a classic straight fit, not too fitted nor relaxed for everyday ease. With a subtle dropped shoulder, that keeps it's structure and a length that falls to the hips. Tuck in or wear gently draped, chic and flattering for everyday.

While it was demanded that a 'true' French navy uniform Breton have 21 stripes in 1858 to mark each of Napoleon's victories, we've adjusted that to 20. To ensure the spacing between the stripes delivers a flattering, effortlessly-finished look.

The thickness of the organic cotton creates a gentle structure that adds a luxury, cool feel. An iconic top, quintessentially French, yet something so inherently British too. 

We celebrate the launch of this iconic new piece, with a bespoke label featuring the specially commissioned artwork 'Salt' by the British artist Sally Newton.

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The BRETON JERSEY

A navy icon. Two years in the making.

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