Style

You thought all Breton stripes were the same? Think again

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The navy and white striped top is a timeless choice, but that doesn’t mean you can't mix things up in the t-shirt department

If (like us) you’re itching for some sunshine, facing the day in a Breton striped top is the next best thing to the clouds parting in the heavens.

Of course, the authentic Breton shirt is a sartorial classic; plain navy cotton with 21 white stripes. The story goes that a decree issued on March 27, 1858 introduced the Breton shirt as the official uniform of the French navy, made up of 2cm white and 1cm navy stripes. Apparently the pattern helped sailors lost overboard to be identified in the water, and each white stripe commemorated one Napoleon’s 21 victories at sea.

It’s since transcended uniform status, to become a cult casualwear icon, sported by the likes of James Dean, Marlon Brando and Coco Chanel. And while it’s nice to reference the original, there’s more to the world of summery striped t-shirts than blue and white. Here are four that do things a little differently and, as always, there are some tips on how to wear them, too.

Armor Lux Breton stripes t-shirt1. Long sleeve, thick jersey

I love this – in fact I love it so much I bought one last week. This is a long sleeved version of Armor Lux’s authentic ‘Mariniere’ Breton top, made in Brittany from satisfyingly heavy cotton jersey. Amor Lux has been around since 1938, and it’s specialised in striped jerseys like this since day one – always with thick stripes and a traditional rounded mariner crewneck. Rather than conventional navy and white, this design’s mottled chambray blue jersey is printed with cream stripes for a vintage feel, and looks sharp beneath olive overshirts or brown suede bombers. It also pairs a treat with dark raw indigo denim.

£55, shop now

green breton stripes, Jackal magazine

2. Go green

Breton stripes don’t have to be blue. This striped tee in apple green is a fun, sunny choice to wear on overcast days. Designed by Amsterdam-based brand Pop Trading Company, which draws influences from skater culture, it’s well suited to fashionable weekends filled with frothy coffees and cocktails. Pair with dark, tapered trousers and low top sneakers – this pair in cream picks out the colour of the stripe.

£75, shop now

Mr P. breton stripes, The Jackal3. Classic with a twist

We’ve already established that the humble navy and white Breton top is a seasonal classic, but this new, subtly textured number from Mr P. (Mr Porter’s own-label collection) is a smart choice because it rips up the rule book. Woven in a blend of off-white linen and cotton that feels distinctly retro, this design benefits from mottled bouclé stripes that add depth and a forward-thinking edge to the classic striped tee. Play up it’s old-school feel and wear with cropped trousers, contrasting socks and plimsols on warm days.

£75, shop now

Arpenteur Breton stripes, Jackal magazine4. In the pink

Another chic choice from across the channel, this pink triple-striped t-shirt is part of Arpenteur’s new season offering. Inspired by mid-century French workwear, the brand’s founder, Marc Asseily, designs all his staples to be as robust as can be, and this piece benefits from generous sleeves and a slightly oversized cut, sewn in rugged cotton jersey that’s been knitted in France. It’s simple, it’s satisfying to wear, and the summer colour looks a treat beneath a denim trucker or navy workwear jacket. Turns out the Breton tee doesn’t have to be blue and white, after all.

£90, shop now