Wednesday, 25 May 2016
French Navy Classic
Many classic wardrobe staples have a military history, and a British one more often than not — the duffle coat, the trench coat, the British warm, the Wellington boot, the Raglan sleeve, the Balaclava and so on and so forth — though this isn't always the case. I'm thinking of the MacArthur sunglasses by Shuron of the USA, which we've covered, and the French Navy's Breton shirt.
The Breton shirt (or marinière or tricot rayé) is famously French, like frog's legs (delicious) and pastis (refreshing). The long-sleeved Breton shirt in blue and white stripes was once worn by French sailors — many from Brittany, hence Breton, the region of France settled by Britons that has its own strong Celtic traditions like Asturias in Spain. The shirt was adopted by the greater population, expanding out and becoming a classic in its own right. Jean Paul Gaultier — a delight of a man — helped make the Breton shirt a kind of unofficial French uniform. Vive le Breton shirt.
I started gathering a few images to show how influences and interpretations of the horizontal Breton stripe have influenced and been interpreted. The collection became more of a general rumination on striped sweaters and shirts. As The Tweed Pig is free of the tyranny of editorial control, I decided not to drop any of the pics. Published and be damned.
See if you can name all of the people shown below.
Where to Get Your Breton Shirt
You will find pretty good Breton shirts in nautical chandler's shops on the coast, but I'm betting on this trifecta of authentic French labels that manufacture in France and have a close association with the style.
Saint James of Brittany has been producing the Binic II heavy woollen Breton sweater since 1889. You can get this one at Stuarts.
Orcival (1939) of Lyon has been making the French marinière in heavy cotton since 1947.
Arpenteur was formed in 2011, but with a dedication to French classic workman's clothing, including the Breton shirt. The Brehat in cotton is their interpretation of the classic, with 3/4-length sleeves.
All three companies produce Breton-style shirts and sweaters in different colour combinations, but I've assumed you would be going for the classic white and navy.