Sailors + stripes = nautical style perfection

French Sailors in Breton Stripes

Sailors + stripes = nautical style perfection

The striped sailor shirt has an illustrious 160 year history. The original navy and white pattern was designed for French sailors – the pattern would help rescuers more easily spot a sailor who fell overboard. The 1858 “Act of France” made the shirt the official uniform for all French navy quartermasters and seamen. At the time, French navy was headquartered in Breton, so the style became known as la marinière or the Breton stripe. The original design had 21 stripes – one for each of Napoleon’s victories.The sailor stripe pattern is so closely linked with Brittany that their flag, designed in 1923, also contains the Breton stripe pattern.


Coco Chanel in sailor stripes

Coco Chanel in sailor stripes.

Coco Chanel introduced la marinière to the fashion world. During trips to the French coast, she took notice of the stripes on the naval uniforms. She was so inspired by the stripes that she incorporated them into her 1917 collection. Chanel’s designs introduced a new ease into women’s fashion, and a style revolution was launched.

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face wearing sailor stripes

Audrey Hepburn wearing sailor stripes in Funny Face, 1956.

Born as a luxury fashion item, the striped shirt became a favorite of everyone from Audrey Hepburn to James Dean to Ginger Rogers. Even Jackie Onassis and Pablo Picasso were known to be partial to the style.

Through the years, fashion designers have continued to return to sailor stripes as a muse for their couture collections. Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, and perhaps most famously Jean Paul Gaultier have used the stripe as a central motif. Today, sailor stripes are a fashion classic.

On the runway John Paul Gautier sailor stripes

Sailor stripes on the runway: Jean Paul Gaultier in 2011.

We love stripes as much as the next sailor, so of course we added sailor stripes to the 12° West collection. Say hello to the Saybrook Stripe Shirt. It’s our take on the traditional marinière: a versatile long-sleeve striped tee with pretty feminine details. Made of a super soft bamboo-cotton blend, the Saybrook Stripe feels amazing next to your skin. This fabric wicks moisture better than cotton, so you stay cool and comfortable. Pretty feminine touches like shirring at the bust and wrists and shaped seams put a contemporary feminine twist on the classic standby.

Sailing Shirt Saybrook Stripe Navy Red Front Long Sleeve Striped Tee

The Saybrook Stripe shirt – a modern take on the classic sailor stripe.

You don’t have to be French (or a sailor!) to carry off this look – it works on everyone. The Saybrook Stripe is currently available in navy with a red stripe, and cream with a light gray stripe. Plus, we’ll be adding other colorways on a seasonal basis. It’s the perfect spring-to-summer or summer-to-fall piece that will take you from the boat to the bar in comfort and style.

We’re pretty sure Coco would approve.