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Jansveld 49

3512 BE Utrecht

The Netherlands

Jansveld 49

3512 BE Utrecht

The Netherlands

Tue | appointment only

Wed-Fri | 11:00-18:00

Sat | 11:00-17:00

ICONIC GARMENT | the Breton shirt
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ICONIC GARMENT | the Breton shirt

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Perhaps the only style that a two-year-old girl and a 35-year-old man can both wear, the Breton striped top is an ultra classic—and one of the easiest patterns to wear. Breton tops have become something of a French stereotype. Here's a short history of the iconic striped top. 

In the middle ages striped clothing was considered 'demeaning, pejorative, or clearly diabolic' and was worn by social outcasts, such as prostitutes, jugglers, clowns and cripples. 

prisoners in Utah c 1885 wearing horizontally striped prison uniforms

Bold stripes went on to become inmates’ prison uniform in the US in the 1800s. Horizontal stripes in black and white were adopted to signify the enclosure of the prison cell, and made its wearer easily identifiable should he  succeed in escaping (women prisoners were not given striped clothing). 

French Navy breton stripe 1958

The Breton stripe shirt was first introduced in 1858 as the uniform for all French navy seaman in Northern France. The distinctive stripes made it easier to spot wayward sailors who had fallen overboard and the original design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories.

Chanel and Gigot striped breton top 1928

Fashion designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel came across the breton striped shirt when she was on a visit to the coast. It inspired her to create a nautical-themed collection in 1917. Chanel favoured masculine silhouettes to empower her female clientele, and was pictured sporting one of her lose-fitting Breton tops tucked into a pair of wide-leg trousers. 

Pablo Picasso wearing stripes

Audrey Hepburn breton striped top

Brigitte Bardot striped t-shirt mariniere

James Dean mariniere breton striped top

Andy Warhol striped tee on balcony

Soon this style was adopted by members of the upper class who wore these stripy tops under their blazers. By the mid-century, the Breton top became the uniform of the hipster, a sort of signifier of countercultural cool.

Madonna Breton stripe top

The rest of the 20th century and early 2000s saw the democratization of the striped top; it was adopted by intellectuals and artists, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Wayne, and, famously, designer Jean Paul Gaultier, who elevated the stripes to evening wear.

Jean Paul Gaultier breton striped interior hotel

Shop the Breton striped top