In this article, I would like to talk about a classic pattern that is known as the Breton stripe.
I’ll explain where it came from and how it evolved over time, as well as how you might wear it in a modern style.
The Breton stripe is named after the region of Brittany in northwest France, where it first appeared.
When it comes to the Breton stripe’s introduction to traditional menswear, we must look back to 1858, when it was included in the France’s official naval uniform.
It was done on a cotton shirt with a blue and white pattern. 21 white stripes were present, each twice as wide as the navy stripes that separated them.
The 21 stripes were intended to represent Napoleon Bonaparte’s 21 victories.
In addition to its symbolic significance, the garment had a practical application in that it was and still is highly visible.
A sailor who fell overboard might be quickly located and saved by their fellow crew members.
Types of Breton Stripes
The Breton stripe is now worn and offered in a variety of combinations beyond the basic cotton shirting. In the winter, you can find it in the shape of turtlenecks, wool, cashmere, and even chunky knitwear.
You’ll see it in short-sleeved polo shirts and t-shirts during the summer. You might see it most frequently in long-sleeve crew necks.
Although they are made in the customary blue and white pattern, you may also find them in the reverse pattern, which largely consists of cream with navy striping. B ut truly in any combination of color patterns.
You might also find that the stripes stop at the armpits, leaving you with a continuous base color as you move toward the neckline. This is another common design element.
However, there are some with stripes that extend all the way to the neckline, and there are others with stripes of varying widths that start out large and gradually get narrower and thinner as they get closer to your neckline.
There are currently many different variations of Breton stripes.
How Would You Wear Breton Stripes
You will draw a lot of attention because it is a highly noticeable pattern. Depending on where you live, you don’t necessarily see this on the street every day. However, since you probably won’t see it every day, you should be ready to draw some attention when wearing it.
Wide stripes are frequently worn informally, but narrower stripes are typically worn more formally. This garment is undoubtedly casual.
Think about wearing a dress shirt to work. Office wear should have a pencil stripe or even a bengal stripe.
However, entering the territory of awning stripes or broader butcher stripes is considered casual. These are typically worn casually, as seen by the fact that they are available as sweaters, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and polos, all of which are considered casual clothing.
Wear them consequently in a laid-back manner. You might wish to cover up the pattern with a layer of outerwear if you find it is too bold for you.
On the other hand, that kind of defeats the purpose, and I personally wouldn’t wear the usual width stripe with any kind of tailoring. You can choose to wear it up with a casual jacket instead.
However, if I were to wear it, I would not cover it up and just keep it exposed.
You can definitely pull off these narrower striped variations, like the polo shirts or t-shirts, with little tailoring. You can wear that as a smart casual look because narrower stripes are more formal and easier to tailor.
On the other hand, if you wear the t-shirts and polo shirts in that fashion, you might not feel as self-conscious and as much the focus of attention. This is because the stripes are narrower on those items.
Once more, you could probably get away with wearing them alone.
Because they are horizontal, Breton stripes are unique. If you stop to consider it, the majority of your shirt’s stripes are vertical. These are horizontal, which gives it a distinctive quality and has the added benefit of making your chest appear larger.
If you have a smaller chest and you want to give the impression that your chest is wider than it actually is, the Breton stripe will help you accomplish that goal.
On the other hand, you might not find that the Breton stripe is the greatest option for you if you already have a barrel chest or if your upper torso is broad. Or you may choose the variants with narrower stripes, which don’t have that impact as much.
The Breton stripe does have a French connection in terms of the perceptions it evokes. Famous people from the same era as James Dean and Pablo Picasso both wore it. A nd then by the French mime Marcel Marceau a little later.
Thus, it does have a strong French feel from the middle of the 20th century.
Someone might make fun of you if they find the connection to mime. Wear what you want to wear and disregard them. Maybe people don’t even make that association in the 2020s.
People might also strongly identify it with the navy or with apparel worn by sailors, much like they would with a double-breasted navy jacket with gold buttons. It has connections with yachting, with boating.
If you don’t mind that appearance, then feel free to wear it anytime you want.
Unless they are aware of the history, people might not make that association. However, because the pattern is blue and white, there is a possibility that some people will recognize the association with the sea. That’s also a positive thing.
For me, sunny days are when I’d wear this. Considering that it has an association to the ocean, I would wear it in the summer.
The Breton stripe can be worn in additional color combinations at any time. But when it comes to the actual blue and white, I strongly link them with the maritime world and, consequently, with the times of year when you would go boating and be by the water.
These are my thoughts on the Breton stripe as a traditional menswear pattern.