If I asked you to think about iconic French clothing and had you narrow it down to casual fashion, what would pop into your head? For me, a Breton striped shirt is at the top of the list. They’re popular with the French and non-French alike and have been for years.
There are a couple of French brands that make high-quality Breton shirts. These French sailor shirts are a style staple for men, women, and kids of all ages. Let me tell you about this popular French shirt and give you my pick for the best Breton stripe shirts brand out there.
French striped Breton shirts
You don’t have to look far to find memes of a French guy on a bike with a baguette tucked under his arm. They usually have a curly mustache and a beret atop their head to really sell the look. Do you know what else the stereotype often entails? A striped shirt! It’s true!
What is a striped Breton top?
The French love their striped shirts and wear them often. The stereotype came from somewhere afterall. In fact, the Breton stripe shirt dates back to 1858 when it was worn as part of the official French navy uniform for seamen in northern France.
The original Breton shirt design was comprised of 21 horizontal stripes, one for each of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories. The iconic blue-and-white striped pattern was a matter of function over fashion, as it helped to spot sailors who had gone overboard.
This French striped top is often called une marinière or a Breton shirt since many of the sailors at that time were from Brittany. Breton is the name given to people who are from the Brittany region.
Years later in 1917, Coco Chanel took note of the uniforms and was so inspired that her nautical chic collection featured the design. Jean-Paul Gaultier did as well in the 1980’s. The rest was history!
Are Breton striped shirts in style?
Heck yeah they are! French striped shirts are super popular with the French both in the past and especially today. In my experience, you see more French Breton shirts in and around Brittany and Normandy than you do, say, in the South of France, but they are well known everywhere.
Back in the day, the style consisted of a long-sleeved thick cotton top with horizontal blue stripes and that’s pretty much it.
These days, you’ll find dark tops with white stripes, colored stripes, thick stripes, and a bunch of other variations. Short sleeves and sweaters are also popular.
Brands have updated the traditional heavy cotton style and created all kinds of fresh designs in soft cotton jersey that are inspired by the original French striped sailor shirt. Dresses, skirts, short sleeve, long sleeve, three-quarter sleeve, lighter cotton, and in all kinds of cuts… the sky is the limit.
French sailor shirts are anything but boring and look super classy and put together when styled nicely. Think Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot. You can dress them up or down, not to mention they look great with ballet flats.
Any way you slice it, the beloved Breton striped shirt is a timeless fashionable choice for people of all body types and sizes. The famous stripes are flattering for everyone.
No BS guide on how to dress in France (from someone who’s lived here a decade) >>
Best brand for a French navy Breton shirt
There are a couple main brands for the original classic Breton marinière shirt that come to mind including Armor Lux and Orcival. When I think of the best Breton shirt for women though, Saint James is at the top of the list. They are a leader in all things marinière shirt and it doesn’t get more authentic than that.
In business now for over 130 years, Saint James is THE French brand for an original Breton striped top. Their expertise and design are unmatched.
With their headquarters right next to le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy (a stone’s throw from the Brittany border), definitely stop in to do a factory tour if you’re ever in the area.
My favorite French sailor shirt
I’ve always loved the classic Breton stripes shirt style but when I’ve tried on tops from other brands, I’ve found them to be unflattering, bulky, and boxy. Until recently, I figured stripes just weren’t for me and have steered clear of all the French striped shirt brands.
But that changed when I realized Breton tops come in more flattering fits. Saint James sent me the shirt I’m wearing in the photos. It is the Minquidame (with light blue stripes), which features lighter weight cotton and a fitted waistline — not a straight up and down cut. Phew! Maybe there was still hope for me. ;-))
P.S. The Galathee is also a classic women’s fit (not boxy!) in light cotton but has 3/4 sleeves if that’s more your style. If you want a heavier cotton Breton top instead, check out the Meridame II.
AAAaaand I love it! I generally wear a medium in tops and jeans an 8 and found the Minquidame to be true to size. I’m wearing an 8. It’s a perfectly fitted, flattering style.
When you examine the quality, you’ll see right away that Saint James clothing is high quality. Your clothes will last for years to come. Everything is made in France and the prices reflect that.
Another great thing about the brand is that they have a U.S. website, so even if you’re not in France, those of you stateside can shop hassle free.
More Breton striped shirt options
Here are bunch of fun striped shirts and other clothing items inspired by the iconic stripes that are worth checking out:
Pin my marinière shirt post:
So do I Diane. I have them in.different colours and weights. Kameela
Tamara Gates says
Love the newsletter! Does the shirt come in black on black? I love Breton shirts. But, also love to wear black. Thank you!
You mean black with white stripes? If it was black with black stripes, I’m not sure I’m understanding. That would be a solid black shirt but yes Saint James has all different colors. Definitely worth a look! Thanks for reading. 🙂