breton stripe top

The enduring appeal of the Breton stripe shirt (and how to wear it well)

Earn your stripes with our curation of the best Breton shirts on the market right now...

The Breton stripe top might be considered a fairly standard-issue design – straightforward white interspersed with blue stripes – but its history and associations are long and varied. First introduced in 1858 as the uniform for all navy seamen in Northern France, the original featured 21 stripes — one for each of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories. The design also served a practical function, since the distinctive stripes made it easier to spot wayward sailors who had fallen overboard.

From those functional beginnings, it’s become a summer mainstay, most deftly demonstrated by Picasso, James Dean (who, despite his all-American charm, wore a Breton top in Rebel Without A Cause with undeniably European appeal), and Coco Chanel.

So, wherever you’re planning to jet off to this summer, we don’t recommend that you board a flight without a humble Breton top in tow. Read on for our curation of the best to buy now. 

Sunspel Classic Cotton Breton Stripe T-Shirt

sunspel breton top

We’re serious fans of Sunspel over here at Gentleman’s Journal. Founded in 1860 — this remarkable independent brand is still running its own factory in Nuneaton, working with some of the softest materials in our wardrobes.

Its Breton stripe offering is an appropriately classic piece designed to stand the test of time. Refined to perfection since the early 1900s, this iconic T-shirt is made using Pima cotton for softness and comfort, and cut in a classic fit with no fussy details.

sunspel breton top

Sunspel Classic Cotton Breton Stripe T-Shirt

£70

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Maison Labiche ‘Live Victoriously’ Sailor Shirt

Maison Labiche ‘Live Victoriously’ Sailor Shirt

You might have read in our recent editor’s picks that the perennial favourite vodka brand Grey Goose has recently teamed up with Parisian fashion label Maison Labiche on a limited-edition Riviera bottle (why shouldn’t your drinks cabinet get in on the fashionable fun?). The bottle is also accompanied by a capsule collection of fashion and travel items designed as an invitation for people to ‘Live Victoriously’ this summer. 

Each item is embroidered with Maison Labiche‘s signature handwriting style, depicting phrases that remind us to live in the moment, including ‘Vivre le moment’, ‘Live like summer never ends’ and ‘Live Victoriously’.

Maison Labiche ‘Live Victoriously’ Sailor Shirt

Maison Labiche ‘Live Victoriously’ Sailor Shirt

£65

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Sir Plus Navy Stripe T–Shirt

Sir Plus Navy Stripe T–Shirt

Another firm favourite among the GJ team, Sir Plus was founded by Henry Hales and has grown out of a stall on Portobello Market to become one of the UK’s most exciting fashion companies. The brand creates stylish clothes from the fabric offcuts of large fashion houses and shirtmakers — offering everything from gilets and waistcoats to shirts and underwear.

Among its timeless collection is this navy stripe T-shirt. Crafted from organic medium weight cotton with a washed blue and white Breton stripe, wear this underneath Sir Plus’s Workman Jacket or tucked into chino trousers.

Sir Plus Navy Stripe T–Shirt

Sir Plus Navy Stripe T-Shirt

£50

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Officine Generale Striped Wool Sweater

Officine Generale Striped Wool Sweater

Perfect for when this (outrageously unpredictable) weather turns cooler, Officine Generale’s striped sweater is knitted from Scottish wool, and resembles something fishermen might have once worn along the French docks. The yarn is thick and woven on traditional circular looms for a flexible, seamless finish.

Officine Generale Striped Wool Sweater

Officine Generale Striped Wool Sweater

£295

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Amor Lux Molene Striped Wool Sweater

Amor Lux Molene Striped Wool Sweater

Based in Brittany since 1938, Armor Lux has been around for almost as long as the Breton top itself. Using nautical designs from its archive, the brand makes authentic marinières famed for their robust quality.

Its ‘Molene’ sweater is the perfect investment as we hurtle headlong into autumn. Designed with buttons along the shoulder, this slim-fit style is knitted from soft, mid-weight wool in classic cream and midnight-blue shades.

Amor Lux Molene Striped Wool Sweater

Amor Lux Molene Slim-Fit Button-Embellished Striped Wool Sweater

£120

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Further Reading