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The History of the Breton Stripe

Admit it you have at least one striped top… if not a whole drawer of them like myself. But what is it about the stripethat keeps us coming back for more? It has been a long love affair spanning almost a hundred years, but how has something that started out as a uniform become a mass market obsession?

The clue is in the name, the stripe originates from Brittanywhere the French Navy were then based, It was worn as part of their uniform, it is said that traditionally the top has twenty one stripeson it and each stripe signifies a big battle that Napoleon won. The stripe also helped to spot anyone that fell overboard when at sea. Although we now see lots of colour variants, the navy and white stripe was the original and is still worn by the cadets during their training today.

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It it well documented that Coco Chanel played a large part in bringing the stripe into mainstream fashion, with her love of mens tailoring, she would often take garments and rework them to fit a women’s figure. Here Chanel is photographed wearing a Breton top in 1917 and it was this year that she included the top in her collection, which proved to be a roaring success. There were other social factors that helped the stripe become a classic during the 1920s and 1930s too. It was hugely popular to keep fit and play sports like tennis and the lightweight breathable jersey was perfect to wear for this. The other craze was heading to the beach as swimming and sunbathing had become fashionable and we all know what you wear when going to the beach, stripes!

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Stripes had started appearing in some France’s chic but also arty crowd, Picasso was rarely seen out of one! This fed into the film industry and James Dean was seen wearing one in in the film ‘rebel without a cause.’ After this it snowballed and the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot were seen in films wearing stripes too. They fast became a house classic and have been seen on the likes of well… everyone since.

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Dress them up or throw them on when lounging around they just look good with everything. I own seven of them, one for everyday of the week and yet could still do with a couple more… Kate.

Photo credit from: Style caster, Hardy Aimes, The Pool

 

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